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Vis 2009 - Built Environments Constructed Societies

Vis 2009 - Built Environments Constructed Societies

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Published by Sidestone Press
This book addresses these issues through a perspective on the spatial analysis of the built environment. As one of the principal properties of our dataset, as well as being the first materialisation of sociality, such spatialities are suggested to be a fundamental key for enabling an understanding of the developing social identity of places, regions and areas.
This book addresses these issues through a perspective on the spatial analysis of the built environment. As one of the principal properties of our dataset, as well as being the first materialisation of sociality, such spatialities are suggested to be a fundamental key for enabling an understanding of the developing social identity of places, regions and areas.

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Categories:Types, Research, History
Published by: Sidestone Press on Oct 17, 2012
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved


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At the basis Pred theorises an interwoven relationship between the individual and

society which leans heavily on the embrace of structuration in the social sciences. It

fundamentally concerns the uninterrupted dialectic reproduction and transformation or

modifcation of features like agency and structure, through the operation of (historical)

structuration processes. In structuration, Pred holds, structure usually exists only as

structural properties which express themselves through the operation of routine and

non-routine daily practices, simultaneously generating, reproducing and transforming

those structural properties of the social system (Pred 1986, cf. Giddens 1984). In order

to clearly state his perspective on this, Pred provides us with his own defnition of social

structure. He stresses that social structure is comprised of generative rules and power

relations which are already built into a specifc historical and human geographical

situation or social system. Rules and power do not only constrain and enable, but

also emerge out of human agency and practice. Rules are learned and humanly

produced, so contexts determine activity and behaviour in particular. Depending on

their temporal and spatial extents, structuration processes may simultaneously occur

Built Environments, Constructed Societies


on multiple (spatial) levels (Pred 1986).

Pred’s defnition of social structure already reveals his specifc concern with the

becoming of structure and the historic geographical situations it is contained in. He

includes concepts of transformation and change, caused by agency and practice that

generate such structures. Existing social and geographical situations are intrinsical-

ly connected to formative processes. This repeats a geographical or spatial link to

the social that already rudimentarily had been made by the study of anthropological

proxemics and the setting of territories (E. T. Hall 1959, 1968, 2006). Proxemics did

not typically focus on the processive relations that generate territoriality, but similarly

sought an explanation departing from the individual in a social context. While anthro-

pology observed real time (micro level) actions with proxemics, Pred’s structuration

directly connects those to their enabling and restricting conditions, putting such activ-

ity in a temporally stretched historical situation in which they have become practices

(macro level). The historic geographical situations containing structures tie the real

(social) time to enlarged temporalities of abstract time. Both actions as events and ex-

isting social or geographical situations are indivisible parts of generative processes (cf.

Ingold 1986, 2000 on taskscapes and temporalities, and the Annales School).

Pred recognises that the relational elements operating in structuration processes

are posing a diffculty to social scientists because they are theorised in a conceptual

manner that cannot be tested following the generally empiricist methodology

of western science. These processive relational elements are neither visible nor

measurable. However, most structurationists do appreciate that social activities and

practices become concrete as time-space interactions. Thus the structuration of social

systems occurs in time-space. Through recognising the time-space relational character

of human interaction, some of the processive relations may become apparent by

analysis on a socially totalising level. Structurationists arguing for this realisation of

structuration processes in time-space specifc practices are often criticised for not

being able to identify exactly how these practices are simultaneously rooted in the

past and a potential basis for future time-space situations. They do not demonstrate

how the functioning and reproduction of social systems is connected to the time-

space specifc actions and biographies of individuals, nor to the time-space fow of

structuration processes. As suggested, these problems can be placed in the context of

dealings with social and subjective time as discussed in the frst chapter. Pred contends

that time-geography incorporates fundamentals that may overcome these problems

of structuration theory (cf. Giddens 1984), especially by integrating his own adapted

concepts of path and project that were originally introduced by Hägerstrand (Pred


In time-geography the concept of path is defned as the consecutive actions and

events making up an individual’s existence in time and space. Therefore the biography

Processes of Becoming


of an individual can be conceptualised as a continuous life-path through time-space

over any duration scale, subject to various constraints. Natural phenomena, artefacts

and other living creatures can be similarly conceptualised. The concept of project is

defned as the series of tasks necessary to intentionally reach a goal. Each of these tasks

is equal to a coupling of paths of two or more people or of one or more persons, and

one or more resources or tangible inputs in time and space. Projects can be individual

or institutional, the latter involving more people participating to achieve an end. The

practice of time-geography has produced various types of time-space diagrams which

depict the operation of paths and projects (idem). Pred’s conceptualisation of par-

ticipatory subjects can be connected to the phenomenological bi-implication (man is

temporal and spatial). Ingold also employed a refned idea of participation in which he

saw learning and acculturation as a participatory process. This implies that both the

subject and the process (here the project he participates in) are mutually affected by

participation (Ingold 2000).

• Spatial and social division
of labour (production and
• Sedimentation of other
cultural and social forms

• Language acquisition
• Personality development
• Development of


Become one another



Become one another

Occur simultaneously

Table 1, reproduced after Pred 1986: 11

In order to enable the integration of paths and projects into structuration theory, Pred

regards the assumption that each constitutive institution of society does not exist apart

from the long or short term projects it generates as indispensable. Thus, because in-

stitutions are project bound, and projects require human participation, “the detailed

situations and material continuity of interpenetrating structuration processes are per-

petually spelled out by the intersection of particular individual paths with particular in-

Built Environments, Constructed Societies


stitutional projects occurring at specifc temporal and spatial locations. […] Then place

as historically contingent process is inseparable from the everyday unfolding and in-

terpenetration of structuration processes in place. Place is therefore synonymous with

structuration […] processes whereby the reproduction of social and cultural forms,

the formation of biographies and the transformation of nature ceaselessly become

one another. Simultaneously, place is synonymous with structuring processes whereby

time-space specifc activities and power relations ceaselessly become one another.”

(Pred 1986: 10-11) This complex theoretical foundation is summarised in Pred’s com-

prehensive schema (table 1, note the use of genres de vie here), which in itself is a

valuable contribution to both time-geography and structuration theory.

The visualisation has the effect that all simultaneous relationships of perpetual be-

coming are clearly visible at once, whereas descriptions would struggle to capture its

full complexity. The (variable) components and (according) processes of the theo-

retical schema are largely universal for any settled place, but their interconnectedness

differs according to their (unique) historical situations. The processes and properties

involved are derived from structuration, while the paths and (institutional) projects

originated in time-geography and are comprised of consecutive time-space specifc

activities and practices. The locally present time-space resources are constraining and

enabling possible activities. He strongly stresses that these fundaments of the theory

should not be seen as particularist or empiricist, but rather inform research questions

for inquiries into real situations in actual settled places and regions (cf. Weber’s ap-

proach contrasting ideal types against actual situations) (idem). Pred’s assertions are

an aprioristic way of scientifc reasoning, much like von Mises’ Human Action.

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