Thomas C. Greene
Sarah Johnson Redlich '82 Professor in the Sciences, Psychology Department Chair
St. Lawrence University
Ask each of the participants to write down brief (1 sentence) descriptions of: 1) Two existing spaces that seem to be behavioral nodes- that is, places that attract people for informal conversations (these do not have to be in the sciences); 2) Two existing spaces that seem to facilitate quiet informal discussions involving small groups or dyads; and 3) a place or two that doesn't seem like it should work but does (or at least a successful space that wasn't designed for the function it serves).
To move the conversation forward, I'd ask them to complete the Affective Quality of Place Scale (Russel & Lanius; attached) for just the first existing space. The purpose is to point out that the AQPS scale is a factor analytically derived scale that characterizes spaces in the two dimensions of pleasantness and arousal. For example, a really active plaza might be both highly arousing and very pleasant, whereas a garden might be just as pleasant, but moderate or low on the arousal scale. Thus, although we'd want all of the spaces to be at least moderately pleasant, we might want to provide a spectrum of stimulation. Then I'd ask what other dimensions are important ... I'd hope some might suggest proximity to major travel corridors, ongoing activity that generates traffic (food court, library entrance, traveling exhibits), and opportunity for non-science students to see science happening, and places for special programs (poster exhibits, etc.)
In the past many of these spaces might have been categorized as "mere amenities," I'd want the group to consider the role of these as informal learning spaces in addition to places to socialize, and then to discuss the challenges of maintaining these community spaces in the face of budget constraints when community spaces seem to compete with labs, libraries and latrines.