Friday, September 16, 2005

Nicolas Nova (2003) summary and thoughts

A big thanks to Nicolas Nova for commenting on the blog below that some of the references are missing in the downloadable copy I posted earlier.

"Socio-cognitive functions of space in collaborative settings: a literature review about Space, Cognition, and Collaboration" Nicolas Nova, Sep 2003.

Embodiment, and the situation of a bodied person in its environment, is one of the biggest things I've been stumbling on, trying to find a theoretical framework to help me hurdle it. My readings on embodiment last semester didn't really give me any quick answers, so I got very excited when I read this: "Spatiality and our physical embodiment in the world is the most fundamental part of our everyday experience: we are spatially-located beings" (p.4).

Relation 1: person/person focuses mostly on spatial behaviors of individuals in groups, in a social psychological context, than on addressing the role of a particular places to individuals and social groups. To relate it to our work with handheld Augmented Reality Games would be to focus on the social-spatial relationships of the players -- proximity when they crowd around each other's handheld, move together, act together, etc. in order to better understand their relationships.

Relation 2: person/artifact focuses on referencing artifacts to others, and arranging artifacts. I'm not sure what I wanted it to focus on, but it's more of person/artifact/person as written. This was disclaimed at the beginning of the paper in the Aim of the Report, where Nova points out that his focus is on "the role of spatiality in collective situations," not so much on the individual (p.3).

In Relation 3: person/place, Nova addresses what I believe we are interested in (at this point): the role that the physical (and virtual) game space. Questions like, for me, how important is the landscape surrounding Flying Moose Lodge to the Mystery Trip, in terms of its history, social and personal memories that affect identity (Holahan, 1982:261), etc. are spoken to in territoriality, place attachment (Low & Altman, 1992), landmarks Sorrows & Hirtle, 1999; and Halbwachs, 1950).

The question of what role the augmentation (game) can have in adding to the meaning of the place is obliquely addressed in Relation 4: space, place and activity. Here, we're warned that electronic media can be a cause of losing a sense of place (Meyrowitz, 1985), but conversely that "place affords a kind of activity" (Harrison & Dourish, 1996). What's not mentioned, that I'd hoped would be, is that activity is the thing that converts space to place (this is where I feel that the activities afforded by the electronic technologies and games we are designing can help create a sense of place, rather than detract from it).

In Relation 5: space and artifacts, Nova writes, "Physical and virtual spaces are not empty. Objects and things occupy our places and hence do have a certain state and location that may be modified" (p. 25). Here, I'd argue that artifacts occupy space, but become a part of place. When space becomes place, its artifacts become part of it. For example, the space where the house I grew up in sits is a place. The land surrounding it is being carved and reshaped into a golf course and housing development. For me, the artifacts that occupy that space (the house, the oak trees in the yard, etc.) make the space a place. When they get carved up, when my parents leave, will the place be changed, or will it become, for me, a space again. I suppose it's fuzzy. Because my memories are tied to the geographical location, I might always be able to look at whatever is there, and remember it as a place -- on the other hand, what made the space a place will be gone.

I think this is a very worthwhile review to the larger community studying gaming and Internet communication, and to those who may be interested in studying the communication and proximity in handheld gaming (a candidate for the next leg of our research?). I'll certainly keep it handy.

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