The process of an individual selecting a work setting for a specific Activity is part of a larger field of study that considers the likely social effects of space design. This work was pioneered in late 1970’s and early 1980’s at University College London (Hillier & Hanson, 1984) and is now referred to as ‘space syntax’.
One of the more recent areas of development of space syntax is the combination with transport engineering models, and the use of visibility graphs (Turner, Doxa, O’Sullivan, & Penn, 2001). Visibility graphs describe the set of points that are visible (can be connected with an uninterrupted straight line) from a given point.
In the context of an office environment, visibility graphs can be thought of a describing the Spaces that are visible without moving from a given Space. This may be important because people seem to exhibit a preference for Spaces they can see when selecting a work setting. This approach to choosing a space we shall call Visual Selection:
The process of a user selecting a work setting based on their ability to see the chosen work setting from their location at the time of selection, and to be able to establish the work setting’s Apparent Availability.
Although there is little evidence yet of the degree to which Visual Selection affects perception, it does seem likely to play an important role. The layout of offices already takes this into account, and increasingly digital signage and sensors are being deployed to enhance the ability to establish the Apparent Availability of a Space even if the line-of-sight to that Space is oblique. Not all Spaces are equal in these graphs because work setting selection does not occur uniformly across all space types: for example, users are likely to make work setting selections from their desks and certain communal areas more often than from formal meeting rooms.
Inevitably, not every Space can be visible from every other Space in anything other than trivial arrangements, and therefore attempts are being made to establish a Space availability without a line of sight using technology:
VIRTUAL VISUAL SELECTION
The process of a user selecting a work setting based on their ability to understand the nature of the work setting and its Implied Availability using technology to a similar degree of understanding as would be possible if the user were physically able to inspect the work setting. This includes the ability to search for a Space using a computer system that can provide adequate information about the work setting (for example size, photographs, facilities) and real time information about its use (both in terms of people physically present in the Space and any reservations that the Space may be subject to).
Individual behaviour is driven by values and beliefs, both of which are subjective. A more formal way of representing this (taken from “Dissecting the Social, by Peter Hedstrom) is to say that decisions are the outcome of Desire, Belief and Opportunity (DBO).
If people desire a favoured outcome (D), and if they believe that a particular action will lead toward that outcome (B), and if they have the opportunity of taking the action (O), then they act; otherwise they do not act.
This applies even when the beliefs are mistaken. For
example, if an employee desires a workstation to work on a report, but believes
that there is a high risk of not finding an available workstation in an office
with shared workstations, then the employee decides against working at the
office – even though there may in fact be many available workstations.
Beliefs rely on experience and evidence. Sometimes undue weight is given to individual experience. For example, if an employee found a shortage of available workstations on a particular Tuesday, it might lead to the belief that all Tuesdays are busy and the subsequent avoidance of Tuesdays. This means that the employee never discovers whether the particular Tuesday was typical or exceptional.
Decisions based on mistaken beliefs are likely to result in suboptimal outcomes, so the dissemination of reliable information should improve decision-making and outcomes; for example, real-time information about availability of Space and resources in an office.