Liminal Space

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The term liminality came from Sociologist Bruno Latour's studies of tribes.[1] The idea was that when young boys went away from the village for a while and emerged as men...there was this inbetween period when they were not yet men, but were not exactly boys either. He called this period of time "liminality", because it was the idea of one being "betwixt and between" "here and there", or one thing or another.

The concept can be applied to other aspects of life, such as the idea of a doorway. When you step inside a doorway, where are you?Part of you is in one room, and part of you is in the other. For that moment as you are passing through the doorway, you're neither here or there - you're in between.

This has greater concepts when applied to technology. Where do you suppose a person is when they're talking on a cell phone? When one is walking down the street on a phone, part of their perception is in one place, and part of it is in the other. Because that space exists for a limited moment in time, it is not a permanent space, but a temporary one. It is a point betwixt and between here and there. In the same way, one does not "live" in the inbetween space of a doorway. One tends to pass through. And one does not live on the phone. One calls, talks, and hangs up.

But what we're seeing with the influx of technology is that this inbetween space is becoming larger. It is attracting more gravity, and people are staying in it longer. A phone call is one thing, but now one is filling up moments between moments with inbetween space - a sort of fractal compression of space is going on.

In life, there are moments at the register - moments between conversations, moments of boredom - waiting for the bus and so on. In the past, people might have lit a cigaratte or casually chatted with the person behind them. Now they poke at their phones. Because their phones now contain a space - a virtual one - that is betwixt and between lived space. It can be anything - online there is an automatic production of space.


  1. Latour, Bruno. 'Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network Theory. Oxford, UK: Oxford UP, 2005.