Space and coordination of actions

Some elements to be added to my blogpost serie about space and cognitive interactions (which startd here and end there): The term “space” does not only refer to the topological and geometrical constraints of the environment, nor to the elements that constitute a place. Spatial features like distance between people or the repartition of objects in the environment are affordances to structure actions and interactions between partners of a team. They indeed act as visual markers of possible interactions with a person or an artifact, cues to draw inferences or information to rely on to make a decision.

This has led researchers and designers to insist on the importance of taking space into account in CSCW (Spinelli et al., 2005). Coordination of action is indeed shaped by the environment in a various ways: - environmental constraints (such as corridors and doors) leading to ‘channelling’ and harmonisation of activity; - conversely, the complexity of the environment (enclosure, lack of a clear view, physical obstacles and dead-ends) providing impediments to regular and coordinated action (such as moving in a straight line); - familiarity with the environment and its configuration providing cues to coordination (e.g. well-known landmarks); - ability to display aspects the environment through external representations such as maps and routes, providing an essential background to a location-awareness tool (a map for annotation) and aids to group coordination.