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Orientation in Unencrusted Space

The second feature that contributed to uncertainty is what we call unencrustedness of the space. By unencrustedness we mean that the room did not retain traces of the production of our previous sessions, that it was free of vestiges that might orient later groups in defining their task and shaping their expectations about the outcome. Unencrustedness was not a feature of the space itself but rather reflected an interaction between a decision of the convener-researchers, the physical space, and the participants. We had considered the option of leaving the products of previous groups’ work in the room, of preserving changes they had made in the room’s design, and/or of actually incorporating their suggestions for how the room should be used. Adopting any of those possibilities would have meant that each new group entering the studio would have been faced with evidence of the knowledge that had emerged from the previous group’s engagement with the task. A group could have ignored this material or could have done something quite different, but it would still have been doing its work in the context of previous work and under its influence. Such an approach would have meant conceiving of the experiment as shaping the space through a cumulative, historical process in which each group, at least in part, interpreted and built on what earlier groups had done. We decided against this option because our guidelines called for leaving each group as much freedom as possible in determining how they would think and act in this space. Encrusting the space might have constrained the range of future possible ways of using the room. Of course, the space still had a history. Indeed, two of the participants remembered that the space had been an open stage, and its now closed structure saddened them.

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