No Sense of Place: The Impact of Electronic Media on Social Behavior

By Joshua Meyrowitz | Go to book overview

3

Media, Situations, and Behavior

Beyond Place: Situations as Information-Systems

Situations are usually defined in terms of behaviors in physical locations. Goffman, for example, describes a behavioral region as "any place that is bounded to some degree by barriers to perception." 1 Roger Barker sees "behavior settings" as "bounded, physical-temporal locales." 2 Lawrence Pervin defines a situation as "a specific place, in most cases involving specific people, a specific time and specific activities." 3*

It is not surprising that most of those who have studied the effects of situations on behavior have focused on encounters that occur in given places. Until recently, place-bound, face-to-face interaction was the only means of gaining "direct" access to the sights and sounds of each other's behaviors. The physical barriers and boundaries marked by walls and fences as well as the passageways provided by doors and corridors directed the flow of people and determined, to a large degree, the number, type, and size of face-to-face interactions.

Further, such physical settings continue to be very special. A given place, such as a room, takes on particular social significance because its walls and doors and location tend to include and exclude participants in a particular way. The walls of a room simultaneously permit focused interaction among some people while isolating the participants from other

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*
Of course, situationists also consider many other characteristics of situations, including: tasks, goals, rules, roles, traditions, temporal factors (season, month, day, time, and length of encounter), the characteristics of the people present (number of people, their age, sex, status, nationality, race, religion, degree of intimacy with each other), and the subjective perceptions of participants. But place often figures as an implicit or explicit part of the definition of situations, perhaps because situationists realize that so many of the other factors would be affected by a major change in the physical setting or its boundaries.

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