Public Places and Private Spaces

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<ul><li><p>American Geographical Society</p><p>Public Places and Private Spaces by Albert MehrabianReview by: Bonnie LoydGeographical Review, Vol. 67, No. 4 (Oct., 1977), pp. 493-494Published by: American Geographical SocietyStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/213636 .Accessed: 08/05/2014 17:58</p><p>Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms &amp; Conditions of Use, available at .http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp</p><p> .JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range ofcontent in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org.</p><p> .</p><p>American Geographical Society is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access toGeographical Review.</p><p>http://www.jstor.org </p><p>This content downloaded from 169.229.32.137 on Thu, 8 May 2014 17:58:59 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions</p><p>http://www.jstor.org/action/showPublisher?publisherCode=agshttp://www.jstor.org/stable/213636?origin=JSTOR-pdfhttp://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsphttp://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp</p></li><li><p>GEOGRAPHICAL REVIEWS GEOGRAPHICAL REVIEWS </p><p>Fire Island National Seashore and the William Floyd Estate, Suffolk County, New York" Uack McCormick &amp; Associates, Inc., Devon, Pa.; Natl. Park Service, Denver, Colo.; 1975]). </p><p>Unfortunately, the recent Corps Draft Environmental Impact Statement on the beach erosion and hurricane protection project for both Fire Island and Westhampton Beach does little to advance our knowledge either of shore erosion in the region or of the intentions of the Corps ("Draft Environmental Statement for Fire Island Inlet to Montauk Point, New York, Beach Erosion Control and Hurricane Protection Project" [2 vols.; Tetra Tech, Inc., Pasadena, Calif.; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York District, 1976]). Heikoff does not discuss the past or the future role of federal flood insurance in his study region, a surprising omission for an analyst of institutional arrangements in the coastal zone. </p><p>Overall, "Politics of Shore Erosion" is attractively produced, but a paper cover would have made it less costly. Errors of spelling and punctuation are few, and there are brief lists of references at the end of each chapter. The regional map has been reduced beyond the point of legibility, and the dozen photographs are of uneven quality. The caption should have stated clearly that Figure i8 (also used on the dust jacket) shows a morainal headland on the northern shore of Long Island. Such landforms do not exist on the south shore outwash plain in the vicinity of Westhampton Beach. It is unfortunate that there was a delay of some eighteen months between completion of the report and its publication, for implementation of the Coastal Zone Management Act is proceeding rapidly, and this book should be an important contribu- tion to that undertaking nationwide.-JAMES A. SCHMID </p><p>PUBLIC PLACES AND PRIVATE SPACES. By ALBERT MEHRABIAN. xiii and 354 pp.; diagrs., bibliogr., index. Basic Books Inc., New York, 1976. $15.95. 9/2 x 61/4 inches. </p><p>Are places and spaces appropriate subjects for geographers? Perhaps. Albert Mehrabian stretches the meaning of environment farther than most geographers would; he writes as easily about homes and offices as about drugs and music. He states that environmental psychologists "describe environments as wholes," and his Magical Mystery Tour begins. The path wanders from apartments to theaters and from the image of doctors to interoffice communication. </p><p>Mehrabian never attempts to justify his ramble, but he does propose a few principles to tie it all together. The first is "load." The higher the information rate or level of stimuli offered by an environment, the higher its load. Then he presents a U-shaped curve for human response. A higher load makes a pleasant situation more pleasant and an unpleasant situation less pleasant. Turn up the volume on a Fleetwood Mac record; listeners will either enjoy it more or leave the room. The response theory is not original to Mehrabian, but he applies it more widely and with more popular flair than other psychologists. The simplicity of the idea and its ease of appli- cation are seductive but ultimately not satisfying. Mehrabian preaches a doctrine of stepping up environmental stimuli in prisons, hospitals, homes, and offices as a cure to contemporary ennui, but he neglects to help us define what makes an environment pleasant or unpleasant. </p><p>Another catchy concept is the classification of screeners and nonscreeners. Mehrabian claims that individual processing of stimuli is based on unknown, inherent characteristics. Nonscreeners tend to hear, see, smell, and sense more than screeners. Their attention to the environment tends to be more diffuse. They experience places as more complex and more loaded. In high-load situations, such as a competitive job, they are more aroused and stay aroused longer. In contrast, screeners are more selective about the stimuli to which they respond. By allocating less importance to parts of the environment they make it less complex and reduce its load. A dropped dish evokes less reaction from them, and they recover their equilibrium more quickly. </p><p>Mehrabian applies this concept to a vast array of situations, but he sacrifices depth for breadth. In an effort to appeal to a popular market he neglects a thoughtful examination. He simply dichotomizes humans into screeners and nonscreeners. He does little to suggest that these are poles of a continuum. He does even less to investigate or to speculate on the reasons </p><p>Fire Island National Seashore and the William Floyd Estate, Suffolk County, New York" Uack McCormick &amp; Associates, Inc., Devon, Pa.; Natl. Park Service, Denver, Colo.; 1975]). </p><p>Unfortunately, the recent Corps Draft Environmental Impact Statement on the beach erosion and hurricane protection project for both Fire Island and Westhampton Beach does little to advance our knowledge either of shore erosion in the region or of the intentions of the Corps ("Draft Environmental Statement for Fire Island Inlet to Montauk Point, New York, Beach Erosion Control and Hurricane Protection Project" [2 vols.; Tetra Tech, Inc., Pasadena, Calif.; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York District, 1976]). Heikoff does not discuss the past or the future role of federal flood insurance in his study region, a surprising omission for an analyst of institutional arrangements in the coastal zone. </p><p>Overall, "Politics of Shore Erosion" is attractively produced, but a paper cover would have made it less costly. Errors of spelling and punctuation are few, and there are brief lists of references at the end of each chapter. The regional map has been reduced beyond the point of legibility, and the dozen photographs are of uneven quality. The caption should have stated clearly that Figure i8 (also used on the dust jacket) shows a morainal headland on the northern shore of Long Island. Such landforms do not exist on the south shore outwash plain in the vicinity of Westhampton Beach. It is unfortunate that there was a delay of some eighteen months between completion of the report and its publication, for implementation of the Coastal Zone Management Act is proceeding rapidly, and this book should be an important contribu- tion to that undertaking nationwide.-JAMES A. SCHMID </p><p>PUBLIC PLACES AND PRIVATE SPACES. By ALBERT MEHRABIAN. xiii and 354 pp.; diagrs., bibliogr., index. Basic Books Inc., New York, 1976. $15.95. 9/2 x 61/4 inches. </p><p>Are places and spaces appropriate subjects for geographers? Perhaps. Albert Mehrabian stretches the meaning of environment farther than most geographers would; he writes as easily about homes and offices as about drugs and music. He states that environmental psychologists "describe environments as wholes," and his Magical Mystery Tour begins. The path wanders from apartments to theaters and from the image of doctors to interoffice communication. </p><p>Mehrabian never attempts to justify his ramble, but he does propose a few principles to tie it all together. The first is "load." The higher the information rate or level of stimuli offered by an environment, the higher its load. Then he presents a U-shaped curve for human response. A higher load makes a pleasant situation more pleasant and an unpleasant situation less pleasant. Turn up the volume on a Fleetwood Mac record; listeners will either enjoy it more or leave the room. The response theory is not original to Mehrabian, but he applies it more widely and with more popular flair than other psychologists. The simplicity of the idea and its ease of appli- cation are seductive but ultimately not satisfying. Mehrabian preaches a doctrine of stepping up environmental stimuli in prisons, hospitals, homes, and offices as a cure to contemporary ennui, but he neglects to help us define what makes an environment pleasant or unpleasant. </p><p>Another catchy concept is the classification of screeners and nonscreeners. Mehrabian claims that individual processing of stimuli is based on unknown, inherent characteristics. Nonscreeners tend to hear, see, smell, and sense more than screeners. Their attention to the environment tends to be more diffuse. They experience places as more complex and more loaded. In high-load situations, such as a competitive job, they are more aroused and stay aroused longer. In contrast, screeners are more selective about the stimuli to which they respond. By allocating less importance to parts of the environment they make it less complex and reduce its load. A dropped dish evokes less reaction from them, and they recover their equilibrium more quickly. </p><p>Mehrabian applies this concept to a vast array of situations, but he sacrifices depth for breadth. In an effort to appeal to a popular market he neglects a thoughtful examination. He simply dichotomizes humans into screeners and nonscreeners. He does little to suggest that these are poles of a continuum. He does even less to investigate or to speculate on the reasons </p><p>493 493 </p><p>This content downloaded from 169.229.32.137 on Thu, 8 May 2014 17:58:59 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions</p><p>http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp</p></li><li><p>THE GEOGRAPHICAL REVIEW THE GEOGRAPHICAL REVIEW </p><p>for the phenomenon. Testing based on personal experience shows that the tendency for </p><p>screening varies considerably with mood, age, education, and physical condition. The section on "Intimate Environments" may cause geographers to wonder whether they </p><p>have stumbled into the wrong book. The chapter on alcohol and drugs, in particular, has only the most tenuous connection to environment. What is worse, Mehrabian bores us by belabor- </p><p>ing his points. But after his initial musing he steps into more familiar geographical territory- houses, factories, schools, stores, dormitories, and suburbs. All are measured by Mehrabian's own peculiar rule of environmental load. Even when the text is not intellectually polished, it is </p><p>provocative and fun. He is describing places and situations that we all know. I found myself wondering if I am a screener or a nonscreener and if my office is high load or low load. </p><p>The advice on design is also oversimplified, but it does contain some useful ideas. Mehra- bian points out that any novelty in the environment is assimilated quickly. A bright mural in a classroom rapidly becomes routine. Schools, hospitals, and prisons need variety and change to </p><p>keep people from becoming bored and using disturbances to create their own stimuli. Mehra- bian emphasizes that residential environments must be more flexible to adapt to our moods and needs. Sliding walls, movable furniture, sound systems, and adjustable lighting are some of his </p><p>suggestions. Mehrabian proffers ideas every bit as captivating as "personal space" or "defensible space." </p><p>Geographers who investigate environment and behavior cannot afford to miss them. They no doubt will engage the imagination of social scientists and probably even spawn some respect- able research. But Mehrabian's loose handling of the term "environment" and his attempt to reduce our surroundings to three or four principles is unsettling and misleading.-BONNIE LOYD </p><p>FOLK HOUSING IN MIDDLE VIRGINIA: A Structural Analysis of Historic Artifacts. By HENRY GLASSIE. xiv and 231 pp.; maps, diagrs., ills., bibliogr., index. University of Ten- nessee Press, Knoxville, 1975. $12.50. io/4 x 8 inches. </p><p>From a cursory glance at the title or jacket of this handsome volume one might assume it to be another of the "coffee table" genre of books devoted to period houses. Attention to the subtitle and the contents will quickly dispel the undeserved association. Glassie has compiled a serious </p><p>yet delightful study of the vernacular architecture in a two-county area "east of the Piedmont and west of the Chesapeake in Virginia, and north of Albemarle Sound in North Carolina." The volume contains everything one has come to expect from the author, a recognized authority on material folk culture-intellectual vigor, thorough documentation, exhaustive field investigation, and copious illustrations. </p><p>The tenor of this work is quite different from other recent studies of vernacular architecture. Glassie, himself, views it as an evolutionary extension of an earlier article on barns published in "Man and Cultural Heritage" (edited by H. J. Walker and W. G. Haag, Geoscience and Man, Vol. 5, Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge, 1974), a festschrift for Fred Kniffen, to whom the present book is also dedicated. Throughout his chapters the author intertwines elements of cultural geography, architectural history, and folk culture with recent innovations in anthropology and linguistics. He draws inspiration from such diverse sources as Noam </p><p>Chomsky (transformational grammar) and Claude Levi-Strauss (structural anthropology). After a rather brief overview of the study area, the bulk of the volume is devoted to an explanation of structuralism as it relates to studies of folk housing. A final chapter reviews the </p><p>changing social, economic, political and religious conditions in Middle Virginia as they are reflected in the evolution of houses between 1720 and 1925. </p><p>The most controversial and rewarding portions are found in the chapters entitled "The Architectural Competence," "Counting Houses," "The Mechanics of Structural Innovation," and "Reason in Architecture." In the first three of these chapters, Glassie applies the ideas of Chomsky in an attempt to "create a systematic model that accounts for the design ability of an </p><p>for the phenomenon. Testing based on personal experience shows that the tendency for </p><p>screening varies considerably with mood, age, education, and physical condition. The section on "Intimate Environments" may cause geographers to wonder...</p></li></ul>