Post 585 –by Gautam Shah (9 of 16 Behaviour in Spaces)
The space and environment provide the basic setting for the behaviour. And yet an individual’s behaviour projects different meanings to others. Behaviour of a person reflects the level of adjustments, adoption, comfort, need for change, nature of interpersonal relationships and degree of conditioning by the culture and geopolitical surroundings. This is a complex process where it is not possible to indicate the cause and effect. The behaviour is intended to perpetuate a space, or make it valid for a longer time. An individual personalizes the owned space to economize effort expended in frequent adjustments. For casual occupation, however, other adjustments are required.
● Shift in Space: One of the most perceived forms of behaviour is the shift in space. The shift in space is the change one causes in own-self, position or the surroundings. The shift in space is made to recast the relationship with the surroundings including other beings.
● Change of orientation: Primary shift occurs through change of orientation vis a vis an object, human being, object or a natural force (energy). The shift in orientation occurs by realigning the nodes of perception, such as turning nose towards or away from smell, view or ignore a sight, etc. It also occurs by being aware of a thing.
● Orientation of the body: Orientation of the body limb like head and of the sensorial nodes like eyes, ears, nose, etc. are both different and synchronous phenomena. One, may talk to other, but avoid an eye contact or square face to face confrontation.
Chiefs of nations seat side by side at approximately 150° angle which allows them to ignore as well as interact selectively. In a stage performance, actors often speak towards the audience for preaching dialogues, and to each other for sentimental deliveries. Boss wants a secretary, stenographer or colleague to sit on the side rather then on front sides.
● Change of place: One changes the position and orientation frequently to calibrate the relationship with people and objects. Shifts are subtle (gestural or postural) to more elaborate like a change of place (positional). From the moment and point of arrival to a space one starts a search for destination, a place to confront objects and other beings in the space and perhaps strategy for escape. The process reflects the attitude of a person through gait, speed, clarity of the purpose, bodily changes, etc. One can perceive and schematize the approach by promotive as well as hindering means.
● Anchoring to a place: In a space one needs to position to a place. So on entering a new space or when behaviour must be recast one first shifts the orientation, moves and searches for a place mainly to position and delays or accelerates the process by suitable interim engagements. Re-positioning helps to vitalize the relationships with objects and other beings. A strategy of behaviour is planned for objects and other beings that are already present or their presence is envisaged. One relies on spatial elements like a barrier, an edge, a differential in environment, a pattern, objects, amenities, facilities, nodes of services, other single human being or in groups to position. Other markings are metaphysical elements and metaphorical presences. A designer recognizes such entities, or implants or avoids them to make a space inhabitable or even hostile.
● Sequencing in space: Behaviour in space is one momentum where one continues to shift in a planned or unplanned manner. Shifts are sequences of actions timed to match other happenings or to last for a duration-cycle. The unplanned sequences are exploratory or reflect compulsions to remain present in spite of intense discomfort.
● Posturing: Postures reflect the human behaviour, and are means of controlling incursions by others, as much as it allows one to project participating or reserved personality.
Open body posture is one in which vulnerable parts of the body are exposed. Position of hands, fingers, feet and head, show an open versus closed body posture. Open posture is perceived as a friendly and positive attitude. People with open body posture are able to carry out multiple movements such as body movement while shifting the gaze.
A podium or a front desk is a very assuring platform for a speaker, but shields the expression through body language. A leader, on a higher platform, controls the assault from the audience, and thereby dominates. By standing against a wall one assures that intrusion from that side is blocked, but by occupying a corner one limits the escape routes. Sitting in an aisle seat (In comparison to a window seat) allows one the postural freedom, but makes one prone to disturbances. Front benchers have to be attentive. Occupying a geometrical centre or a spatial focus automatically enhances the interference.
A chair with arms rests, railings, bus or railway hang-straps encourage open posture. A moving object like a bus will not allow closed body posture. A deep seat that allows stretching of legs and excludes the crossing of legs, supports the open posture. A stool seat (without back) allows one to lean forward as an open posture.
● Closed body postures obscure the vulnerable parts of the body. The body parts like throat, chest, abdomen and genitals are covered with crossing of arms and legs or clasped palms. Similarly showing back of the hand, clenching hands into fists or withdrawing legs inwards represent closed postures. Hands clasped behind the back may also signal closed posture even though the front is exposed, because it can give the impression of hiding something or resistance to closer contact. Closed body postures give the impression of detachment, disinterest, unpleasant feelings and hostility. Clothing may also signal closed posture such as a buttoned suit, or a handbag or briefcase held in front of the person.
Sitting on the side of a fairly wide chair, leaning too much on one of the armrest, sitting upright (without touching the back) in an easy chair, sleeping very straight in a bed, keeping hands in pockets of the garment, are some of the signs of closed body postures.
A person with a higher (social) position nominally takes a more relaxed posture, like seating down to talk, and that seems less challenging; whereas, a person with a lower (social) position, often maintains balanced or formal posture by placing both hands on the lap or at the sides, standing with balanced body or prefer to remain standing (until asked to sit).
● Eye level and its focus are some of the most important means of behaviour exposition. Eye level and focus related physiological deficiencies can be corrected through appropriate postures. Postures can adjust the distance and help de-focus the ‘gaze’, by taking a side seat or stand or by seating behind a desk. Often the opponents are disadvantaged by offering an uncomfortable seat, a seat lower in height and placing them in a non-axial position. Opponents are discomforted by providing them a fixed position with little or no chance for sub-posturing, like very narrow space, unbalancing, scary or distracting position. One, as an opponent can correct such conditions: by sitting or standing upright, by aligning body and sensorial faculties in the same direction, by heavily gesticulating, and raising the voice.
● Inclination of the body: During conversation, a person unconsciously inclines or moves body or head, either close to or away from the opposite person. The action depends on the sex and age of the opposite person and the nature of the topic. An inclination towards the opposite person can be an expression of sympathy and acceptance, whereas moving or inclining away can show dislike, disapproval, or a desire to end the conversation.
An intense conversation with heavy gesticulation or posture changes can be subdued by adding to the distance between the parties. Deep seating or reclining elements and mirrors not only reduce gesticulation, postural changes but also intensity of the conversation. In waiting rooms seats are distanced and do not face the receptionist. A TV monitor that shows the class or office space disciplines the users.
● Synchronous or empathetic behaviour: During intense conversations participants have a tendency to imitate each others behaviour. They emulate postures and gestures. Such synchronous behaviour encourages deeper relationship, provided necessary support means are available, such as: correct distance, equalized ergonomic facilities, and nonspecific environmental conditions.
This post forms 9th of the Sixteen part of Lecture series on Behaviour in Space that I will be offering for the spring semester starting Jan 2016 (to mid April2016) at School of Interior Design, Faculty of Design, CEPT University, Ahmedabad, India.