Bookmarklets | MOVABLE TYPE When dealing with people and location, the fundamental use of space concerns human territoriality. It reflects the personalization of an area to communicate a group (or an individual) ownership. There is a wide range of research concerning human territoriality and its various dimensions. Each of these dimensions are related to a specific psychological functions.
First of all, territories support social roles among a community : specific contexts are related to specific roles (Prohansky et al., 1970). This means that the meaning of a particular place is endowed through its exclusive use. For each place thus corresponds a set of allowed behaviors. Territoriality could also be defined as a way to achieve and exert control over a segment of space (Prohansky et al., 1970) and then to maintain and achieve a desired level of privacy. As a matter of fact, individuals from a specific territory decides and knows what information about themselves should be communicated to others. According to Minami and Tanaka (1995), "Group space is a collectively inhabited and socioculturally controlled physical setting". The activity than becomes a group activity in terms of interactions with and within space as well as control to the degree of space maintaining.
The third dimensions of territoriality it that it also serves as a basis for the development of a sense of personal and group identity (Holahan, 1982:261). This sense of group identity emerges from common territorial habits, knowledge and experiences (e.g. eating in the same restaurants, shopping at the same stores). The ways a group of people appropriates a territory is very large, ranging from residing in the same neighborhood to extreme territorial markers like wall graffiti (Ley and Cybriwsky, 1974). The inter-relation between group identity (feeling that we belong to a larger human group) and spatial identity (based on our experience and knowledge about the environment) is of tremendous importance. One of the most striking feature is that the topic of territoriality in virtual space strangely received very little attention. Nonetheless, Jeffrey and Mark (1998) studied whether social norms like personal space, crowding or territoriality really exist in virtual space as in the physical world. They focused on virtual worlds like Active World or Online Traveler. They found that territoriality was an important feature in the context of virtual worlds. For example, building ones house in Active World is a way to provide a territorial marker and provide a feeling of ownership for the owner (Jeffrey and Mark,1998:30). Furthermore, it seems that people build their house in existing neighborhood rather than in uninhabited places.
This leads us to the fourth dimension of human territoriality which is trust. Studies concerning neighborhood and social networks showed that people may trust one another simply because they live in the same neighborhood (Edney, 1976). Unlike interaction in the physical world, trust is more difficult to maintain in remote interactions. Rocco (1998) compared trust emergence in team of strangers in both settings (face-to-face and collective e-mail communications). She found that trust (in this context, trust correspond to cooperative behavior in a 28 turns social dilemma game) emerges only with face-to-face communication. A pre-meeting enables trust emergence in electronic contexts. This conclusion is however doubtful since lots of users employ e-commerce sites like Amazon without any face-to-face contact. References .
Edney, J.J. (1976). Human Territoriality. In Prohansky, H.M., Ittelson, W.H., & Rivlin, L.G. (Eds). Environmental psychology: People and their physical settings. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.
Holahan, C.J. (1982). Environmental Psychology. New York: Random House.
Jeffrey, P.and Mark, G. (1998). Constructing Social Spaces in Virtual Environments: A Study of Navigation and Interaction. In: Höök, K.; Munro, A.; Benyon, D. (ed.): Workshop on Personalised and Social Navigation in Information Space, March 16-17, 1998, Stockholm (SICS Technical Report T98:02) 1998) , Stockholm: Swedish Institute of Computer Science (SICS), S. 24-38.
Ley, D., and Cybriwsky, R. (1974). Urban Graffiti as Territorial Markers. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 64(4): 491 505.
Minami, H. and Tanaka. K. (1995) Social and Environmental Psychology: Transaction Between Physical Space and Group-Dynamic Processes. Environment and Behavior 27(1), 43-55.
Prohansky, H.M., Ittelson, W.H. & Rivlin, L.G.(1970). Freedom of choice in a physical setting. In Prohansky, H.M., Ittelson, W.H., & Rivlin, L.G. (Eds). Environmental psychology: People and their physical settings. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.
Rocco, Elena (1998). Trust Breaks Down in Electronic Contexts but Can Be Repaired by Some Initial Face-to-Face Contact. Proceedings of CHI98, ACM.