Thesis Info

Thesis Title
3D Information Place: Architecture for Virtual Place-Making and Information Navigation
Pei-Hsien Hsu
2nd Author
3rd Author
Number of Pages
Cambridge University
Thesis Supervisor
Francois Penz
Supervisor e-mail
Other Supervisor(s)
Language(s) of Thesis
Department / Discipline
Languages Familiar to Author
English, Chinese
URL where full thesis can be found
architecture, virtuality, place, information, navigation
Abstract: 200-500 words
Performing activities together in online information environments, such as most websites, is not unusual nowadays. It is functionally possible for shared information environments to become ‘virtual places’ in which social activities take place. Such environments, however, are traditionally designed based on the concept of digital documents accessed remotely from the outside, rather than on the concept of places. This thesis argues that shared information environments can be designed to allow multi-user navigation to take place inside the space, and suggests that they should be designed as places, supporting and reflecting social interactions. Following this argument, a concept called 3D information place is proposed. A 3D information place is a 3D navigable virtual environment which provides a socio-spatial organisation of information. Its structures and formal attributes have an impact on users’ information-seeking activities, and they adapt to reflect patterns of such activities. Such a concept is firmly based on the concept of place and the context of digital information environments, and it leads to a theoretical framework consisting of four major elements: space, information, social factors and digital mediation. It is a fundamental hypothesis of this thesis that combining the four elements into a coherent system, a 3D information place, can lead to positive effects not only on users’ navigation experience and social interaction, but also on the performance of information environments for the purpose of information-seeking. In order to develop the four-element theoretical framework, this thesis investigates fields including architecture, information visualisation, virtual environments, and theories of place. It also involves three practical research projects, designed to test the research hypothesis and the concept of socio-spatial organisation of information. The framework is developed in a few steps. Firstly, fundamental relations between information and space are investigated. Secondly, the concept of place is investigated and re-examined based on the context of 3D information environments, leading to the concept of 3D information place. Thirdly, principles of designing a 3D information place are developed based on an anatomical analysis of 3D virtual environments. The development of this theoretical basis is followed by a detailed description of the major practical research project, TimePlace, and the description includes the design of the virtual environment, evaluation, and data analyses. The conclusion looks at advantages and limitations of the socio-spatial organisational model, and suggests possible future developments.