, Volume 17, Issue 2-3, pp 169-193
Date: 27 Sep 2007

Communication Spaces

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Abstract

Concepts of space are fundamental to our understanding of human action and interaction. The common sense concept of uniform, metric, physical space is inadequate for design. It fails to capture features of social norms and practices that can be critical to the success of a technology. The concept of ‘place’ addresses these limitations by taking account of the different ways a space may be understood and used. This paper argues for the importance of a third concept: communication space. Motivated by Heidegger’s discussion of ‘being-with’ this concept addresses differences in interpersonal ‘closeness’ or mutual-involvement that are a constitutive feature of human interaction. We apply the concepts of space, place and communication space to the analysis of a corpus of interactions from an online community, ‘Walford’, which has a rich communicative ecology. A novel measure of sequential integration of conversational turns is proposed as an index of mutal-involvement. We demonstrate systematic differences in mutual-involvement that cannot be accounted for in terms of space or place and conclude that a concept of communication space is needed to address the organisation of human encounters in this community.