Making places, making learners: Place-based approaches to designing learning environments in the Age of the Infobahn

Paul John Wolff, University of Pennsylvania


The miniaturization of electronics, the commodification of information, and the growing domination of communications technology have created a culture characterized by a compressed sense of time and space. In this realm, technology allows immediate contact with people anywhere around the globe. Computers and smartphones collapse multiple geographies into one, with a touch of a button, by allowing real-time communication from any place. In this Age of the Infobahn, there are no physical buildings, landscapes, or bodies of water. Residents are likely to be avatars (digital representations of a people) whose sense of continuity and belonging is derived from being networked to the widely scattered people and places they care about. Functions that were once served by architecture, furniture, and fixed equipment are now shifting to portable devices. Places are constructed with bits (of information) and electronic glue. Although making places for human habitation long has been the domain of architects, landscape architects, and urban planners, the realm of cyberspace does not yet utilize the theories, experiences, and practices that have guided the design of physical spaces for centuries. Just as there is a need for public parks and squares to be pleasant and welcoming to a diverse population in order to function effectively, so must the interfaces and places in cyberspace be. Just as there are architecturally significant places in the physical world, there also must be significant places in the virtual world. Thus, architectural frameworks are important for facilitating functional, enduring, and aesthetically pleasing virtual places where real people may interact with each other and with the place. This dissertation explores the similarities and differences of physical and virtual placemaking, and the extent to which the approach may impact the learning experience for students and/or the shape of learning spaces in the future.

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Recommended Citation

Wolff, Paul John, "Making places, making learners: Place-based approaches to designing learning environments in the Age of the Infobahn" (2015). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3721080.