Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology

Volume 5, Issue 2, Winter 2000

Andy Crabtree, John A. Hughes, Jon O’Brien, Tom Rodden
Pages 56-72

On the Social Organization of Space and the Design of Electronic Landscapes.

This paper reports on-going work in the eSCAPE Project (Esprit Long Term Research Project 25377) directed to the research and development of electronic landscapes for public use. Our concern here is to elucidate a sociologically informed approach towards the design of electronic landscapes or virtual worlds. We suggest — and demonstrate through ethnographic studies of virtual technologies at a multimedia art museum and information technology trade show — that members sense of space is produced through social practices tied to the accomplishment of activities occurring within the locations their actions are situated. Space, in other words, is socially constructed and shaped through members’ practices for accomplishing situated activities. We explicate, by practical examples, an approach to discovering social practices in and through which a sense of space is constructed and outline how such understandings may be used to formulate requirements for the design of electronic landscapes. In explicating our ethnographically informed approach, we outline how future technologies may be developed through the situated evaluation of experimental prototypes in public use.