Date of this Version

Spring 4-19-2013


Cannon, Molly Boeka, 2013. Exploring the Nature of Space for Human Behavior in Ordinary Structured Environments. PhD Dissertation, University of Nebraska.


A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: Geography, Under the Supervision of Professor Douglas Amedeo. Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 2013

Copyright (c) 2013 Molly Boeka Cannon


What is the nature of the built environment? Built environments are the settings within which people carry out activities and emerge from the specific combining of spatial conditions with specific social content for the setting. The social content and the spatial conditions form a core-defining relationship that serves to distinguish one structured setting from another. A core-defining relationship such as this refers to the essence of the built environment. What are the implications for human behavior that emerge from conceptualizing built environments in this manner? I argue that space, through its essential relationship with the contexts of daily living (i.e. social content), qualifies, or transforms how environmental information of those conditions appear. In order to interpret and recognize inherent meaning within those spatial conditions, people rely on a shared set of cultural norms and expectations concerning the built environment. Should the relationship between the social content of a setting and the spatial conditions that structure a setting be disrupted or misunderstood, users of the setting will have difficulty interpreting and carrying out their intended activities. To test this assumption, the case study assessed participants’ evaluations of images of ordinary settings in two presentations, first where the spatial conditions remained unaltered and second where the spatial conditions were disrupted in a random non-meaningful manner. A content analysis was employed to generalize participant narratives and provide necessary data to perform a two-factor analysis that assessed the potential for groupings among participants’ evaluation of the images. Results of the study suggest that people rely on spatial conditions for interpreting built environments in their consideration for the potential to carryout activities and social engagements. When spatial conditions are lacking or meaningless, participants express frustration and confusion and are unable to articulate how they might engage in social activity within the image. Further, the study illustrates that the social-spatial core relationship is a necessary component in the environmental knowing process for built environments.

Adviser: Douglas Amedeo