Author: Carey Jewitt
Space, place and time serve as a theme for MODE and I have been working to explore it across our research. This is challenging as multimodality is clearly about the design of space, but space is too abstract – we can only see and experience places in time. I started by trying to think about space across a wide range of activities and technologies and to focus on space to better understand how it features across different digital platforms. But while space is a feature across many of the digital environments we are working with, it is so differently articulated that it raises the question of when the terms space and place can be used: can we talk about the screen as a place? Is it possible or useful to talk of space in relation to the representational organisational structures of a website on the one hand (i.e. layout as space) and the physical arrangements of people interacting with digital media on the other?
My endeavour has been further complicated by the necessity to think about the body in all of this, as space is always located in relation to the body and vice versa. The body is differently articulated in different social and physical spaces: indeed that is one way to distinguish spaces, that is, by observing and exploring how our body enters them. In physical -digital environments, online spaces and immersive spaces the body is often differently orientated in space and time. When playing tennis using a Wii, for example, the face to face interaction of players is shifted, the players cannot use their bodies as clues about what is to come next – the screen mediates their gaze, and limits their cues by the shift in spatial relations.
So now I am moving away from this abstract notion of space to think more empirically about place and time and how digital technologies remediate these and the kinds of methodological issues raised.