Representational Space, otherwise known as place, is space phenomenologically realized, actualized, and interpreted. Can Xue’s novel Five Spice Street delivers a grating portrayal of gossip ridden communal life on an otherwise nondescript small street in an unnamed country (1). The circuit of derision and eventual praise demonstrates how that setting, the houses, shops, doorways, rooms, windows, and mirrors refract, distort and exhaust the inhabitants’ ability to speculate about a newcomer named Madam X, whose potential as a refractive index for the biases and fears of a guarded community is pushed to its limits.
Processes of identification and categorization can therefore be seen as indicators of the space's potentiality of becoming a place. While space is considered the immaterial medium of practice, place is the relationships formed by the active conceptualization of this notion of space itself- the park, the bar, the bathhouse, the neighbourhood.
Online spaces that possess the potential to become places are those that support consensual, critical yet democratic contribution, unrestricted access to information, and foster open source experimentation with and subversion of technology (2). Beyond social media apps, community forums, group chats, programming and wiki resources are excellent examples of internet places, as they foster communal and individual situations. The most hospitable of these places actively fight against hostility by supporting enjoyment of rights and encouraging pleasure and play, and actively seek to dismantle oppressive forms of control. Even online, space is turned into place through processes of identification, categorization, deliberate transformation through collaboration and contestation, and semiosis (3).
1 Xue, Can. Five Spice Street. Yale University Press, 2009.
2 APC. Feminist Principles of The Internet. APC WRP, 2016.
3 Lefebvre, Henri. The Production of Space. Oxford, UK : Blackwell Publishing, 1991.