A Seeing Place – Connecting Physical and Virtual Spaces

Abstract: In the experience and design of spaces today, we meet both reality and virtuality. But how is the relation between real and virtual construed? How can we as researchers and designers contribute to resolving the physical-virtual divide regarding spaces? This thesis explores the relations between the physical and the virtual and investigates ways of connecting physical and virtual space, both in theory and practice.   The basic concepts of the thesis are Space, Place, and Stage. The central idea is that the stage is a strong conceptual metaphor that has the capacity to work as a unifying concept relating physical and virtual spaces and forming a place for attention, agreements, and experience – A Seeing Place. The concept of seeing place comes from the Greek word theatre, meaning a “place for seeing”, both in the sense of looking at and understanding.   In certain situations, the relations between physical and virtual spaces become important for users’ experience and understanding of these situations. This thesis presents seven cases of physical-virtual spaces, in the field of architectural and exhibition design. The method of these studies is research by design. The discussion then focuses on how each setting works as a stage, and how conceptual metaphors can contribute to the connection between physical and virtual spaces.   Building upon the explorations and experiments in different domains, the thesis contains a collection of seven papers concerning the relations between physical and virtual space in different contexts outside the world of theatre. These papers range from more technical about Virtual Reality (design of networked collaborative spaces) to more conceptual about staging (methods in interaction design) and virtual space (using a transdisciplinary approach).   The results of those studies suggest that the Stage metaphor of a physical-virtual space can contribute to the elucidating of relations between physical and virtual spaces in number of ways. Conceptually, the stage metaphor links together the semiotic and the hermeneutic views of space and place. And, from a practice-based perspective, A Seeing Place view opens up the way to creating contemporary spaces and resolving the physical-virtual divide.