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Title:Space sharing, territoriality, and situational environments in Shanghai's high-rise gated developments
Author(s):Xu, Fang
Director of Research:Dearborn, Lynne M.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Dearborn, Lynne M.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Stallmeyer, John C.; Anthony, Kathryn H.; Sweet, Elizabeth L.
Department / Program:Architecture
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):High-Rise Gated Developments
Environmental Cognition
Shared Spaces
Situativity Theory
Person-Environment Situations
Situational Environment
Qualitative Research
Abstract:The exponential growth of gated developments in many major Chinese cities has spawned a profound and far-reaching transformation of China’s urban spaces. Incorporating real physical barriers, defensive technologies, and security personnel, these residential compounds often contain various interior and exterior shared spaces that mediate the private homes and the public urban space. In Shanghai, with the fast spread of high-rise gated residential developments, shared spaces secured behind walls and gates are intensely proliferating. This dissertation examines the everyday use and environmental meanings of shared space found in the high-rise gated developments in Shanghai, focusing on a set of territoriality-related environmental meanings such as spatial control, spatial rights, imagination of home, and senses of responsibility and care-taking. Particular attention is paid to how people derive territorial senses and attitudes and how physical space contributes to these particular environmental understandings about shared spaces. Inspired by the situativity theory of environmental cognition, this dissertation ventures qualitative case studies centered on sixty one residents from three representative high-rise gated developments located in the central city of Shanghai. It unveils an exotic landscape of territorial and quasi-territorial understandings concerning shared spaces, demonstrating that subjective territorially-charged meanings are framed through multi-modal, systematic socio-psychological processes that involve various interconnected factors. These processes essentially reflect alternate patterns of holistic person-environment situations (PES) where different groups of residents as “situated persons” are spatially and socially bonded with different contingent sets of environmental elements, or “situational environments”, through varied modes of everyday person-environment interactions (PEI) taking place within these secured neighborhoods. This study uncovers and illustrates the differing roles of physical space with reference to different person-environment situations (PES). The research settings, methods, data, and findings are presented in nine chapters. The beginning chapter of this dissertation sets the stage of investigation and identifies the research subject. It illustrates the basic spatial characteristics of shared spaces in Shanghai’s high-rise gated developments. It also highlights their distinctive characteristics in historical, social, and political dimensions. This chapter concludes by discussing the possible research perspectives regarding shared spaces and proposing the employment of environmental cognition and territoriality as the theoretical lenses of this study. Chapter Two continues to introduce theoretical and methodological considerations. It justifies the adoption of grounded theory and case studies as methodological strategies. In this chapter, an overarching conceptual framework is established by synthesizing existing knowledge on territoriality and environmental cognition. In the light of this framework, I identify three fundamental research questions: (1) What are the perceived territorial and quasi-territorial meanings about shared spaces? (2) How do individual residents derive and generate these environmental meanings? (3) What is the role of the physical space in the generation of territorial and quasi-territorial meanings? Chapter Three describes the data collection scheme and introduces its deployment in the field research from January to July of 2010. It explains the conceptual “cases” and “settings” to bundle different sets of empirical indicators. It reveals the inherent associations between predefined concepts, perspectives of data measurement, types of empirical data, and specific data gathering techniques. It also introduces the sampling of research sites and the recruitment of research participants. This chapter concludes with an overview of the raw data collected within and beyond the research sites and their categorization in “cases” and “settings”. Chapter Four presents my data analysis scheme and preliminary data analysis outcomes. It first maps out general data utilization strategies to solve the different research questions that entail descriptive and explanatory accounts. The strategy of “case-oriented analysis” is introduced and justified. It then illuminates the qualitative data analysis processes of this study in detail, introducing preliminary data treatment, coding procedures, and the beginning list of codes. The second half of this chapter presents the early steps of analysis where the data were grouped in cases and settings and basic graphic and verbal codes were generated. Chapter Five and Chapter Six respond to the first research question by displaying and summarizing the relevant data analysis findings. In general, the research participants reported complex patterns of territorial and quasi-territorial meanings with regard to shared spaces. Chapter Five describes patterns of territorial meanings in terms of “perceived spatial control” of shared spaces and “perceived spatial rights” about shared spaces. Residents reported that they experienced partial and unbalanced territorial control over the shared spaces in their neighborhoods. As to the understandings of non-residents’ spatial rights to shared spaces, residents accepted some spatial behaviors by certain groups of non-residents while rejecting other attempts to gain access to and utilize shared spaces. Chapter Six presents two major quasi-territorial meanings, “imagined home ranges” and “care-taking attitudes”. Through “geo-psychological mapping” that synthesizes verbal and spatial data, I display the analysis outcomes by organizing these socio-psychological meanings with reference to a spatial framework. It shows that some residents did attach “home-like” meanings to the shared spaces beyond their privately owned housing units. In varied patterns, residents also maintained attitudes of caring and responsibility toward certain interior and exterior shared spaces. As the keystone of this dissertation, Chapter Seven addresses the second research question and proposes a multi-modal emergent theory explaining residents’ territorial and quasi-territorial understandings of shared spaces. In this chapter, I practice case-oriented analysis to identify three case families manifesting different patterns of links between territoriality-related meanings and their contributing factors. These case families not only suggested different “trails” or “models” whereby territorial and quasi-territorial meanings were generated, but they also manifested categorically distinct person-environment situations (PES). These different person-environment situations feature distinct modes of social and spatial person-environment interactions (PEI), different social and spatial composition of the situational environment, and diverse personal conditions of the situated person. The formation of territorially-charged environmental meanings is essentially a multi-modal process regulated by these person-environment situations (PES). Spatial and social person-environment interactions (PEI) play a central role in articulating multiple spatial, social, and personal factors that account for residents’ territorial and quasi-territorial interpretations about shared spaces. Yet, the effect of person-environment transactions was not absolute and it always came with necessary qualifications. Chapter Eight continues to explore the relevance of the physical space to territorial and quasi-territorial meanings of shared spaces. It first clarifies the concept of “physical space” and explains its conceptual relationship with “situational environment”. Then it discusses the role of physical space in terms of their embeddedness in various person-environment situations. In general, the relevance of physical space for territorial meanings was quite weak. The significance of physical space was detectable for those engaged in moderate behavioral associations with their housing developments’ recreational facilities. But for the residents who were either rarely engaged or constantly utilized neighborhood amenities, different spatial settings did not predict any substantial variation in quasi-territorial understandings. The final chapter summarizes the major research findings. Qualitative data analysis suggests that a multitude of factors and conditions may influence residents’ territorial and quasi-territorial understandings of shared spaces. Recognizing ecological person-environment situations (PES) through a situativity perspective is effective to render a holistic picture to understand how territoriality-related environmental meanings are spun out of such an intricate network of contributing factors. In this chapter, I also identify the major strengths and limitations of this study and propose future research directions such as using “reciprocal person-environment scenarios (R-PES)” as the subject matter when studying humans’ environmental understandings. In the epilogue of this dissertation, I call upon an anti-fragmental worldview and a non-compartmentalized thinking in research and design. Environmental researchers need to upgrade the guiding meta-theoretical and philosophical frameworks of their research to embrace person-environment relationality. Design practitioners, architects in particular, need to recognize the potential of interactive person-environment systems, comprehend the significance of human agency and intentionality in creating meaningful places, and appreciate the value of regular users’ spatial nominal systems and spatial categorization strategies to design thinking.
Issue Date:2013-05-24
Rights Information:Copyright 2013 Fang Xu
Date Available in IDEALS:2013-05-24
Date Deposited:2013-05

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