LONELINESS, ALIENATION and SPATIAL BEHAVIOUR

Post 591 by Gautam Shah (13 of 16 Behaviour in Spaces)

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A space arouses many types of emotions. Some of these caused by physiological and psychological conditions, and may disappear in the next visit or through continuing encounters. Somewhere external interventions are required to reset the sensorial perceptions and associated implications of the space. The other, an internal process redefines the space for spatial accommodation.

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Living Room of a club house in Rotterdam Netherlands > Wikipedia image by Cmglee

The sensorial perceptions relate to how a space ‘feels’ in nominal and extra ordinary environments and usage. The strangeness of the experience arises from associations one establishes and expectations evoked. Both are triggered by the past, and show up as human behaviour. There are many, happy, sad, strange, familiar, predictable, abhorrent and pleasant spatial experiences. Some inspire or force to change the space but other numb you to leave it.

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The lost place > Flickr image by Groman123

Loneliness is an anxious feeling about a lack connectedness. It is experienced in absence or presence of people, and in known as well as unknown surroundings. The causes of loneliness are many such as social, mental, emotional, physiological and spiritual.

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Loneliness > Flickr image by Antoine K

Causes for Loneliness are: Loss of a relationship due to breakup, travel, death of a person, dejection or withdrawal from a social circle, enforced isolation like jail or punishment like over stay at school or workplace, unfamiliar lifestyle, food and community leading to home sickness, a dysfunction of communication channels at places with low population densities, during periods of harsh climates, and fewer people to communicate with due to language, sex, social or other barriers.

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Loneliness and keeping busy Flickr image by vishwaant avk

Loneliness can be attributed to personal need, period, place and people. A person when isolated may feel lonely, but it is not always due to isolation. Solitude could be by choice, and so loneliness is a subjective experience. People can be lonely in a crowded or public place, because a person may be desiring more intensive social interaction than what is currently available, or the surroundings are not suitable for such opportunities. A person can be in the middle of a party and feel lonely due to inability to participate in it. Contrary to this one can be alone and yet not feel lonely, if there is no need or desire for social interaction.

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One may feel lonely in a crowded space / Shibuya crossing Tokyo Japan > Wikipedia image en:user:Willswe 

Loneliness tends to depress some but improves the cognition and improves capacity to concentration. Study rooms, prayer or meditation zones, contemplation areas, private consultation rooms, lovers’ corners in restaurants, back seats in assembly halls are designed to be less participatory. Such places of solitude or temporary loneliness lead to enhanced and creative expression. Solitude is also associated with spiritual and religious quests.

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Alone in rain Flickr image by Garry Knight

For solitude, other then isolation from the people, some control over cognition may be necessary. Complete absence of cognition or by totally filtering an aspect of it (such as sound, light, touch, smell, etc.) in a space may create an uncomfortable situation. In jails and study rooms some illumination, background noise, distant odours are desirable to maintain the mental health. Loneliness should be considered as an alert that it is time to seek social connections. Connections of this nature, may not occur with presence of people, but rather by necessary adaptation of the living space.

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Isolating self by cutting of perceptions > Flicker image > Oblivious to her observers > image by Andrew Stawarz

Single people keep themselves occupied through intensive work regimen, audio and video intervention, mobile or other means of communication, by seating near a street view window, keeping a pet as company, frequent relocation of amenities, irregular work cycles including physical workouts, dancing, and cooking.

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Astronauts and Cosmonauts are checked for their mutual compatibility for Long stay on International Space Station

Russian space psychologists analyze the body language and tone of voice to ensure compatibility of crew members. Members of a group must have a strategy of a good working relationship. One may not be very friendly with a companion, but a clear understanding as to how much you are ready to share and not share, creates a healthy relationship. The Shuttle-Mir missions of the 1990s Russian and American crew had problems of language and other communications, leading to isolation.

Loneliness is going to be a major issue for long duration space travel with few crew members. For some persons the problem will not be loneliness but too much of the same company. The privacy of space may not be feasible, but of few exclusive moments will be appreciated.

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Art by Nicolaes Maes (1634-1693) Wikipedia image

Loneliness is also an issue with elderly people, staying in Old-age homes, hospitals and alone. They need someone to talk and respond, visually see the company, and touch. A robot seal is designed to improve all such sensorial functions. Space travelers will perhaps have such robots..

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Strange Spaces / Infinity room of House on the rock Wisconsin USA > Wikipedia image by Richie Diesterheft Chicago IL USA

Alienation reflects the quality of association, one establishes with space and its occupants. It largely manifests from the expectations what a space should be. It includes spatial quality marks such as scale, size, shape, environment and control. One transcends from the familiar capacity to alter to the realization of inability to change a space.

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Inability to change the spatial character / Wadala slums Mumbai > Wikipedia image by Swaminathan Bangalore India 

The space is expected to offer segments that support the intra-personal encounters, but may fail to provide the required environment, amenities and sequential opportunities. Alienation does not set in as one frame, event or happening, but builds up pace by pace. But it may disappear very fast as soon as one establishes a link to the familiar. A light or trace of fresh air in dark space, a familiar face, or few words of known language change the space perspective.

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Alienated Housing of Fredrick Douglass Project Detroit > Wikipedia image by Albert duce

Alienation vanishes with slight change in the spatial quality marks but may be prevented by inculcating the individual capacity to alter the space. A highly defined and over detailed space configuration may retard the alterations. Buildings that have high imprint of their creators, (monumental edifices) have such issues. Alienation also arises when space scales and sequential approach system to it are not sufficiently stretched in time and space. Interim spatial occupation can go a long way in reducing the alienation.

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This post forms 13 th 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.

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