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Hybrid space - an emerging norm for perception and action in the city
Blending the virtual and real worlds
Within last years, with the explosion of Web 2.0 and the increasing availability of
mobile Internet and wifi areas in town, our social life has extensively moved into the
virtual dimensions of the web, giving birth to the hybrid space. During the day we
keep awareness of our friends’ doings, impressions and locations using social
networking (e.g. Facebook, Orkut, Vkontakte) or mikroblogging sites (e.g. Brightkite,
Zannel, Twitter). By tagging (annotating with keywords) our world experiences on
the digital maps (e.g. Flickr, Google maps) we leave virtual traces of the things we
consider meaningful around us, and share these tagged dimensions with the other
people we may not even know.
The most easily understandable aspect of hybrid space is that it blends the actual
World and the Web World. The virtual realm is not only the representation of the
actual World but has its own possibilities of interaction that are not available in
another. Secondly, various conceptual dimensions (derived from emotions and
actions) and geographical and web coordinates allow localizing some artifact or
person in the hybrid space. As a consequence, socially sharing, automatically pulling,
combining and mashing artifacts into various configurations, depending of each
person’s preferences, becomes possible.
Figure 1. Playful interaction in hybrid space moves between actual and virtual worlds:
Cat graffiti located in Tallinn Old Town, was captured one evening. It was shared in
Brightkite and stored on Flickr map using the “anger” tag. At the same night the
“anger” emotion was monitored and picked up by other people. They acted the
shadowboxing scene to express their emotions. The new image was uploaded to the
hybrid space for sharing.
Ecology concepts are useful for describing the hybrid space
Let us look first at the level of individuals. Using social software enables each person
to have his own personal environment to explore the world. Web 2.0 tools may be
used in PCs, laptops or mobile phones allowing personal networking with people we
know, but also enabling indirect sharing, interacting and co-creating with people we
will never have direct contacts with. How is it possible?
We can explain at our interaction with the world using the eco-cognitive framework.
This suggests that at any moment of interaction we will determine certain affordance
dimensions of the world, which allow us effectively to feel or do what we want to do.
For example, there are places that may afford love, and others that afford drinking or
learning. In one hand such affordances would be determined by persons’ cognition,
emotions and experiences, on the other hand they would be determined by cultural
memory and belonging.
Figure 2. Drinking affordance in Tallinn
We may say that we are hybrid beings because of extending ourselves to the world.
We are blending our minds and bodies with the world in order to be effective in what
we do. New virtual tools enlarge our ability to make such extensions more permanent.
These affordance dimensions what we perceive can now be accumulated to the hybrid
space. Together with the artifacts that we often create and store in the web, the useful
affordances may be tagged to make them best reusable for our further actions. But if
we do so, we make it possible that other individuals might use these affordances as
well. Each individual contributes to the hybrid space and may use what is stored in
the space to be more effective in perception and action.
Figure 3. Embedding positive thinking to Tallinn and Tartu allows extending the
happiness dimension beyond other dimensions
Hybrid space is always dynamically changing due to its inhabitants.
How do cultures appear in this hybrid space? Certain individuals appear to be
similarly minded and may like to do same things or feel similarly. However, in the
modern city they do not know or meet easily with each other. The interaction of such
individuals would become possible in hybrid space. Every accumulated affordance in
hybrid space maps determines a dimensionality of the space. All together such
dimensions would describe a multi-dimensional area in hybrid space – a niche for
similarly minded people. Such niches are determined not only by the geographical and
web localizations. The abstract dimensions of emotions and actions, determined by
certain cultures, make niches useful.
It is important to keep the city ecosystem more rich allowing a variety of niches. In
the same hybrid space people from more than one culture can exist simultaneously.
People can then align their daily activities to be situated in certain niches. They can
even find people to interact with based on shared cultural belonging. If we could
identify, which cultures and niches are associated with our geographical
neighborhood, various cross-cultural events may be planned.
Emerging new properties of the hybrid space
People are making merely initial explorations how such hybrid space could be used.
Individuals in hybrid space act largely autonomously – they have their own
preferences, perceptions, motives and goals. Using social software and mobile tools
lets this autonomy to flourish and enrich the city with new dimensions.
I. We can now truly act as storytellers, narrating ourselves into the world, and letting
the impressions of other people influence what we perceive of the world.
II. We can easily self-brand our ideas in the hybrid space – accommodate the space
for the needs of our own perception and action, and thus, dynamically change the
space to reflect who we are and what we intend.
III. Relying on autonomous actors, we can constantly create spatial connection points
in hybrid space (such as niches or self-brands) that allow co-creation and interaction.
Such connection points in space appear without predetermined central coordination.
They accumulate and dissipate in time enabling creative behaviors based on
distributed intelligence to appear.