Social Boundary Mechanisms

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In a restaurant, the psychology of space is layered. The first is the most private space - the space between the diner and the table, and any other person that are dining with that person, then the kitchen which has it's own socially defined boundary - there are often no real or locked doors between the kitchen at the dining room, but it is socially defined that the diners do not belong there.

In Social Boundary Mechanisms Charles Tilly writes that "Social boundaries separate us from them. Explaining the formation, transformation, activation, and suppression of social boundaries presents knotty problems. It helps to distinguish two sets of mechanisms: (1) those that precipitate boundary change and (2) those that constitute boundary change. Properly speaking, only the constitutive mechanisms produce the effects of boundary change as such. Precipitants of boundary change include encounter, imposition, borrowing, conversation, and incentive shift. Constitutive mechanisms include inscription–erasure, activation–deactivation, site transfer, and relocation. Effects of boundary change include attack–defense sequences. These mechanisms operate over a wide range of social phenomena" [1].

Electronic Boundary Mechanisms

Digital boundary mechanisms have arrived to recreate privacy in increasingly public, hyper-socialized situations. The iPod re-encases the user in a previously walled-in space akin to a former, private time.

We could make maps of ‘the psychology of space’ onto a shaped, gridded blob:

  • ”Social Zone”
  • ”Interchange Zone”
  • ”Quiet Zone”
  • ”Bed Capsule” (Elek, 72).

Before, these areas were well defined, but now they are like venn diagrams which continually overlap. Now that the private and the public are no longer separate – private data from within a house is sent outside of that house onto the public Internet.

Similarly, conversations on cell phones can be heard in public. What is there to do but accept the noise pollution? Either that, or eavesdrop. The early telephones operated on party lines, which allowed anyone on the block to pick up the phone and hear anyone else who happened to be on the line. Perhaps technology goes from public to private to public to private. A sine wave of open and closed communication patterns.

Let us examine these theories and how they play out in a new social economy. The new social economy I speak of is concerned with two things:

1. Experience. Donna Haraway envisions that in the new social order place/geography will be replaced by what she calls "zones of difference". In a world with compressed time/space geographies, zones of difference can be social. A different profile, or different database is a different geography. An experience is a "psychology of space", because in the digital sphere, the physical has been internalized into the mind.

2. Attention. Social attention, or focus. Reposting, re-blogging, word of mouth, praise or criticism of information, spread of idea or word, reproduction of idea.

People need positive social attention or else they become insecure. Without formal assignments of channels for created information, the impetus for posting or social action within a constructed digital space architecture is decreased. In other words, a digital architecture whose psychological space creates personal anxiety in the user is less likely to be used (without coercion) than a space which does not create personal anxiety. If the aim is for the user to voluntarily access the information or even pay for it, the psychology of the space (the experience), must be positive in comparison to real life.