Building sense in the infosphere
University of Trento
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The physical space is populated with sense, which is gathered, manipulated and reinvented during its interpretation. Here is proposed a provisional list on how sense imbricates places and some possible ways of making use of it for design purposes can be argued. Memory, emotions, reflexivity, sociality, and bewildering therefore become qualities that can be explored in the physical space from HCI.
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Sense making, physical space, spatial reasoning, memory, emotions, reflexivity, sociality, bewildering.
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ACM Classification Keywords
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Design, Human Factors, Theory.
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Introduction People imbue with signs their environment. The external world is for the individual always rich of signs left by others. The humans have modified the environment in many ways. Cities are a crystallization of past cultures that remained until now  . Humans are semiotic animals, they are continuously making sense, and their environment, populated by signs is a way to convey culture . Space is now populated with computation, giving shape to a new layer of reasoning. We could think about this space as a
resource surrounding the earth: the infosphere. We can reconsider mobility and providing new relationships with cognition. It is possible to spread, dislocate, manipulate, share sense into the infosphere. As like as from architecture and urbanism, it is possible for everybody to operate interventions over the physical space, leave and collectively build traces. The infosphere is what designers can exploit when they ask themselves how can they provide constrains and opportunities that can activate creative stances through the users in motion through the space.
The sense making space Humans can’t avoid of making sense they continuously perform this activity. In trying to give a meaning to what they perceive they produce new sense. Interpreting/sense making can be made producing new signs. Art architecture, urbanism are just few examples of sense making. Posters on the walls are a simple and immediate way to communicate events going to have place in the surroundings. Even slogans, jokes, logos, stickers, populate the walls of our cities. Artifacts are crystallization of thought that incorporate possible activities, in these sense artifacts are a way to reverberate sense. Communication, dislocated over the geographical space can give birth to novel forms of relating, and therefore reasoning that will evolve through time. Spatial reasoning, architecture, urbanism, places , landmarks   and all the other theorizations over the space have a new value and can provide important sources for making design. Following the space in some of its different shades will be described in terms of design opportunities.
Memory and space The role of space for memory rises from its capacity to hold and store human cognition, experiences, emotions, dialogues. The use of space for recalling purposes was well known to the ancient Greeks. “Memory loci”  was a method for rehashing based on locating theoretical constructs into the details of a landscape. Also into the houses pictures, souvenirs, works of art, pieces of furniture can be part of autobiographical memory. Families have their own corner for remembering relatives that passed by and “memento mori”, objects representing the family and its identity . Memory is a meta-cognitive activity that takes chance of physicality in order to better function. Monuments, streets, but also public places can represent the collective memory of a community. Tales, legends and stories can in the same way be attached to the physical space in order to lever on this capacity.
Space and emotions People often make use of the places as a way to recollect emotions. Some cities, streets, neighborhoods, landscapes, houses, squares, walks, neighborhoods have a particular place in our feelings for the time we spent and the people with which we have been there . For example landmarks are places with notable or particular features that facilitate orienteering. Landmarks can be natural or crafted; often landmarks are subjective and built over time. Landmarks sign the landscape and increment the feeling of ownership to a place. Landmarks in time can trigger emotions. Everything can be a landmark, but it is the meaning by which it is invested by the individual, or the collectivity that makes it to become
important. People usually describe their city by listing and describing their favorite landmarks. Places are filled with emotions, and passing through them, or recalling them, inevitably brings always feelings.
The reflexive space Reflexivity is about thinking oneself while reasoning . It implies, among the others, reasoning over one’s cognitive processes, but also planning, verifying, matching goals and behaviors. Reflexivity is involved in work activities; the skilled professional  has a number of procedural skills that have been built over time and practice. He relies over the past experience and makes him to execute a correct, grounded, or even creative action, while interacting with the different and complex elements of the context, perceived and modeled through professional vision in order to tune, and perform skilled, context-based practice. Reflexivity has a lot of different shades. It can be also interpreted as trying to understand our higher objectives and to fragment our strategies into molecular actions. Reflexivity is at stake also all the time that one wants to improve him, being different, it can be considered a tool for self-improvement. The physical space, and its elements, populates tactics for the realization of strategies, and the interaction with the elements of the environment becomes a part of the reflective thinking. Planning situated reasoning, reflexivity and behavior change can benefit of spatial reasoning in order to support practices according to purposeful design intentions located over the physical space.
The social space The space is social for many reasons and at different levels. From the levels of architecture and urbanism it
represent the crystallization of past cultures. There are several signs disseminating the physical space, for example the road signs, the ads, windows. Third places  are casual or intended circumscribed spaces, planned or not, for sociality, relationships, and sharing time. On the street you can make music, giving flyers, make politics, demonstrating for a cause, or even sell your paintings. You can meet people you know by chance and share a conversation or take an appointment. There are graffiti, for letting people know one’s thought, one’s idea of art, or just to say something (love, hate, past presence etc.). It is possible to make lever on those described, and usual activities, from urban planning to informal art, from socialization to music, from arguing to spreading, over the already described infosphere.
The bewildering space The unknown space offers to the individual the openness of the mystery. The tourists often like to loose themselves in the places they visit in order to immerse him in the new environment. The difficulty to interpret, to master, to reduce what they perceive, forces them into a continuous fatigue. As long as sporadic patterns, regularities or harmonies provoke novel, sparkling experience of beauty. The paths of one’s wanderings start to become part of his personal story. The unknown physical space then triggers introspection, intuitions, new dialogues, aesthetic experiences, remembering from one’s past, readings, music, and people. It is a solely, intimate, bewildering way to live the physical space. Often people wish to take notes or sketching while they are in a new place. Biographies are rich of detailed descriptions on how writers, artists, or architects from key travelling experiences ended up with an original, meaningful and mature view affecting their
works. Wandering can make oneâ€™s feeling abandoned, loosing in points of reference. Tiredness, hot or cold, thirst or hunger are often felt as alarming. Every operation of other people from the past, every close, far, ancient crystallization, becomes wider and louder for the new arrived. Ruins, skyscrapers, monuments, walkabouts, neighborhoods can give the stranger sharp impressions on the mood of a place. Loosing themselves into the physical space can be a way to explore the inner feelings by being guided from them.
Acknowledgments The research leading to these results has received partially funding from the European Community's Seventh Framework Program (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement n. 600854 Smart Society: hybrid and diversity-aware collective adaptive systems: where people meet machines to build smarter societies http://www.smart-society-project.eu/.
Conclusions The space when lived by the humans can be rich of chances to be expanded, stretched, layered, shared, delivered and narrated. This communication can be either synchronic (in the same time) or diachronic (delayed in time). This listing on how the space can be lived and felt is meant to provide a toolkit for developing the infosphere, while creating ways for the people to relate each with the others not only with just media, but also by the spreading of them in the physical space. Landmarks can be represented physically, but also by means of digital sources. Sense making, memory, feelings, reflexivity, sociality or bewildering can be mapped in the physical space and designed in their frame, in order to be populated by contents to be shared from the collectivity. Those contents would be experienced, manipulated, again shared and new sense would grow from this. To facilitate putting together sense with physical spaces, and to allow the process of interpretation, reinterpretation, creation of new sense and the sharing of it could be a possible way for the infosphere to be actualized.
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