chapter  1
30 Pages

Crime and space

Human lives are decisively shaped by the spatio-temporal medium in which they move and express themselves culturally. The implications of this have been increasingly emphasised by a number of contemporary social theorists who have drawn upon the seminal work of writers such as Simmel (1997), Inis (1962), McLuhan (1964), Harvey (1989), Lefebvre (1991), Virilio (1977) and others to develop our understanding of the ways in which these influences might operate. Simmel’s examinations of the sociology of space attempted to sketch an outline of what he called a ‘social geometry’ which utilised variables such as distance, proximity, boundary, movement and clustering in order to theoretically ground social interaction. His argument that ‘the sensory proximity or distance between people who stand in some relationship to one another’ will affect the ‘liveliness of sociological interactions’ (Simmel, 1997, p. 151) provides a simple example of the way social interaction appears to be necessarily bounded by certain basic spatial constraints. Communication with someone requires their ears or eyes to be within a fixed auditory or visual range; touching someone requires that their bodies be within a 2-3-foot radius; perceiving objects requires that they be presented in space as having a certain shape, a certain degree of tactile resistance, a certain degree of optical transparency and so on. Likewise, to act or do anything at all requires that act to have a duration – the length of time required to complete it. Whilst the role of spatial constraints such as proximity in experiencing phenomena like ‘neighbourliness’ or ‘foreignness’ is, as Simmel (1997, p. 138) reminds us, strongly related to ‘psychological contents’, there are many interactions ‘realised in such a way that the spatial form in which this happens justifies special emphasis’.