Paper recap : Thomas Erickson about Space and Social Interactions
Thomas Erickson's paper From Interface to Interplace: The Spatial Environment as a Medium for Interaction published in the Proceedings of Conference on Spatial Information Theory in 1993 should be considered a seminal step to show to what extent spatial feature is a medium for social interaction and joint activity. He began by presenting an example of joint activity (30 authors met and jointly created an organization for the book from scratch by spread each chapter on the floor) in which he exposed several points :
- it seemed important that the process was carried out in a bounded space, dedicated to the task
- the participants had assigned meanings to parts of the space
- actions in that space were meaningful
- physical constraints shaped the way in which people could participate in the
organizational process. - properties of space can usefully structure and facilitate interactions.
He then explained how MUD space tailored to particular kinds of interactions were constructed (that is, the participants understood the meanings of the spaces).
From MUD experiments as well as rhetoric argumentation, he presents the properties of space that affect interaction :
- Objects can Generate and Catalyze Interactions ("evocative objects") : capture people's attention, and encourage interaction. Objects can also catalyze direct interactions between people. - Spatial Constraints can Generate Activity (example : As pedestrians wait for the light to change, they study the headlines and perhaps decide to buy a paper. When the traffic is moving, people wait and tend to buy papers; when the light turns red and traffic stops, pedestrians hurry across the street, and are less likely to buy papers. In a real sense, the traffic light is helping to sell papers by making people pause.) - Spatial Elements may be used to Structure Activity : Marine  observed that people waiting to use an automated teller station typically left a gap between the head of the line and the person using the machine. This in itself isn't surprising: entering a secret code to withdraw cash is regarded as private activity. - Place is Space with Meaning : people understand a lot about particular types of space--they see meaning in space (people understand that particular types of places have very generic functions). - Places often reflect their history - Ritual and Place: Places can Suggest Types of Interaction (losely associated with the fact that places have meanings, is that places often have activities associated with them. One way of capturing this is through the concept of ritual).
In 1993, he set the framework for the last ten years concerning the use of space as a metaphor to foster interaction in virtual environment.