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I’ve been doing some research on how public space becomes public place at public libraries, in both physical architectures and virtual architectures.

I just submitted an abstract as a proposal to present a full paper on this topic at a conference. Fingers crossed. I hope to be writing a lot more about this topic in the future. In the meantime, I wanted to share with my readers a graphic that sort of explains my train of thought. Click on the thumbnail to be directed to a larger image.




  1. I find this interesting. I guess I’m curious as to what actions turn a space in to a place. In this example, is it the the searching for and reading of books? Also what does the different architectures mean socially, eg. interaction with a computer screen and mouse vs. interaction with a person.

  2. My opinion:

    A “space” becomes a “place” when the participants in the architectural program either re-enforce the program or re-appropriate it in a different way. A library example: you build a beautiful new library with a teen space in it. But for some reason all the teens prefer another corner of the building, where they congregate by a vending machine and keep on pulling chairs together. That is the re-appropriation of space. That is when a public “space” is transformed into a public “place”. It is a user-driven activity.

    On the social web the rules are VERY different. Thats where we make mistakes when we try to create community building tools on MySpace and Facebook and whatnot. Web space isn’t really space at all, it is a simulation of space, and while the rules of engagement are derivative of those in physical space, they are actually unique and are embedded in the medium. How do you re-appropriate social web space?

  3. I’ll take your difference between physical space and social web space one step further. We’ve are hard-wired to communicate. That ability–to communicate and cooperate–has evolved as our greatest natural defense. It’s better than teeth and claws. It’s how we’ve survived in the face of creatures stronger and faster than we. But the social web takes an inherently communicative act and places it in a physically isolated context: one person, alone in his room, posting on the web to another person, alone in her room. There’s no single “place” in that scenario; just two people in two places conducting disembodied communication across a wire.

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