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Constructing Spaces Conducive to Newness

Our research leads us to suggest that the experience of undifferentiated and unencrusted space offers a potential source of newness—if the participants use the opportunity. This view of the relationship between physical and social space is more accurate than a claim that undifferentiated and unencrusted spaces are spaces of possibility. We hypothesize that such space provides a context conducive to experiencing not knowing as an opening for creating new knowledge (Berthoin Antal, 2013). However, not knowing generates a sense of uncertainty that people (other than artists) tend to experience as uncomfortable. As a consequence, this experience of spaces confronts people with a choice in seeking to generate new knowledge: Do they impose a familiar set of rules onto the social and physical space, or do they engage the newness of the space to experiment with unfamiliar modes of being, thinking, and interacting with each other, the space, and objects in the space?

The qualified advantages of spaces of possibility and the phenomena of the Meeting Mode illustrate how space is constructed by people through interaction with the physical space, with objects, and among themselves. This fundamental point is often obscured in the literature when authors write about physical space as though it acted, almost with a will of its own, upon the people who interact with it, independently of their perception and choices. For example, Kornberger and Clegg (2004) asserted that “space is both the medium and outcome of the actions it recursively organizes” (p. 1106) and that “such spaces are capable of transforming themselves while being (ab)used and occupied by different people only temporarily” (p. 1106). These statements tend to anthropomorphize space, attributing to it an ability to “organize” or even “transform itself” and thereby opening the door to deterministic thinking. The findings of our experiment remind us that a space becomes generative or is transformed only through the agency of people who interact with the physical space and among themselves. Our analysis of the video recordings of the action experiments we conducted in the Studio for Social Creativity illustrates how physical space comes into human perception and is then acted upon and shaped by people, becoming a part of social space.

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