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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Interactional Space and Learnibility

            Say It Out Loud Assignment-Presented February 11th, 2011

            What can I talk about, what can I give you in 5 minutes that is valuable worthwhile and enduring?  What can I say that won’t forget by next week, next day, next class?  Because I know I will.  If the information isn’t presented as an image or in a personally meaningful way apparently that information won’t stick in my mind.  At least that is what I am told.
            So in 5 minutes what is meaningful?  An awareness of space!  Of all the things I can talk about I choose space.  Not space in general, outer space, inner space, space in relation to time, but specific spaces.
            My research project will be on learning environments and I’d like to talk about where this idea came from. I’m 32 and I spent 6 years in retail.  As a result I am an excellent building materials salesperson, an excellent inventory manager, and a very good retail department manager-specifically retail building materials.
            The key to excellence in this field is an understanding of space and the effects it has on the people in it.  The next time you put yourself in a store look around.  You aren’t just in a store.  You are in a shopping environment that is intentionally and specifically designed to operate in such a way so as to maximize the results of precisely two social phenomena, buying and selling.  These phenomena are socially complementary.  One does not occur in the absence of the other.  And there are many other examples of socially complementary phenomena, one of which is teaching and learning.
            Now, the idea that informs the design and construction of all successful shopping environments is this: shoppability.  As it has been described to me, and as I have experienced it, this may be understood to be the job of everyone working towards the common goal of maximized profit.  To define it, to maximize it, a salesperson needs to remove all possible barriers that exist between a customer-any person with money or credit to spend-and the products or services they need or want.  A perfectly shoppable space then is one that is perfectly barrier free to customers, allowing and causing shopping to occur, thus relatively barrier free to customers’ money entering the store’s bank account.
            Barriers can be physical-locked doors, no product, unavailable product, poor store location…
            Social-the store isn’t cool, staff is unfriendly, untrained, or unavailable, there is a religious or legal prohibition against what you sell.
            Psychological-the customer doesn’t like to spend money, no encouragement or enticement to buy, no demand for the products and services that you do sell.
            This is not an exhaustive list and truthfully the boundaries between these barrier categories can be quite permeable but essentially the ideal shopping environment occurs at the intersect of a barrier free physical environment, a barrier free social environment, and a barrier free psychological environment.
            Something else happens in this intersecting space as well; the “space between” the physical, social, and psychological environments we all inhabit.  Interaction.  This interactional space is where we experience reality, in relation to everything and everyone also experiencing reality.
            But let us pull back for a moment.  Interactional space doesn’t just happen.  It can be created with intent to bring about and maximize the results of specific complementary interactional phenomena.  The shoppability of a shopping environment; buying and selling. 
            The ultimate outcome of a shopping environment is maximum profit.  This is brought about by maximizing shoppability.
            So could we not also say the ultimate outcome of a teaching and learning environment is maximum learning brought about through optimized learning conditions characterized by the removal of physical, social, and psychological barriers to learning.  Learnibility.
            In a nutshell what was continually reinforced in my retail career and will inform my next research project is this; we make reality, success is brought about by reducing, removing, and thereby overcoming barriers to success, and we are all empowered, if you need it I give you permission, to do this.

                           Physical Environment--------------------------Social Environment
                                                     \                                                 /
                                                       \         Interactional Space        /
                                                         \                                          /
                                                           \                                      /
                                                           Psychological Environment

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