iSpace: principles for a phenomenology of space user in smart real estate

Publication Date20 November 2019
Date20 November 2019
AuthorPatrick Lecomte
SubjectProperty management & built environment,Real estate & property,Property valuation & finance
iSpace: principles for a
phenomenology of space
user in smart real estate
Patrick Lecomte
Henley Business School,
University of Reading Malaysia, Iskandar Puteri, Malaysia
Purpose As smart technologies become an integral part of real estate in smart cities, the purpose of this
paper is to explore the impact of ubiquitous computing on space users in smart real estate.
Design/methodology/approach The analysis builds on two fields of knowledge rarely referenced in real
estate studies: computer sciences and social sciences. The paper starts by analysing the idiosyncrasies of a
new type of space user in smart real estate, known as the Cyber-dasein in reference to Heideggers
phenomenology. The Cyber-dasein serves as an archetypical space user in smart environments.
Findings The paper introduces digital-time as a new realm of real estate, and discusses the use of
experienced utilityin hedonic pricing models of smart real estate. It concludes by advocating a
multidisciplinary collaborative approach for future research on real estate in smart environments.
Practical implications There is a need for the real estate sector to decide on a metric for the new digital
dimension of real estate owing to the implementation of smart technologies in the built environment.
Originality/value This is the first research paper on this important topic. It is totally original and new.
Keywords Phenomenology, Ubiquitous computing, Commercial real estate, Flow, Hedonic regression,
Experienced utility
Paper type Conceptual paper
Acùtely profèssionally piquéd, to ¼introdùce a notion of time [ùpon à plane (?) sùfàçee]by
punt!ingh oles (sic) in iSpace?!? (James Joyce, 1939)
1. Introduction
The dichotomy between bits and atoms has long been at the forefront of researchers
analysis of smart technologies applied in urban environments (Mitchell, 2003). While
initial interpretations of smart cities and smart buildings led to a deep questioning about
the true nature of a technology embedded physical world, recent analysis propounds a
merging of physical and digital spaces into a new type of sensitive and active space
known as smart space.
Since the early 2000s, the concept of smart space has been of great interest to computer
scientists specialized in smart environments (e.g. Cook and Das, 2005). Intelligent systems
and pervasive computing augment physical spaces into genuinely smart environments
designed to support human activities (Davies, 2012) and to deliver highly personalized
user-centric digital services for the market-of-one(Curry and Sheth, 2018). Surprisingly,
the concept of smart space has not reached the mainstream of real estate research yet,
Received 10 July 2019
Revised 13 September 2019
7 October 2019
Accepted 10 October 2019
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
The author thanks two anonymous reviewers as well as the editors for their valuable comments. All
errors and omissions are mine. This paper was presented at the American Real Estate and Urban
Economics Association (AREUEA) international conference held at Bocconi University, Milan (Italy)
on 2426 June 2019, and the European Real Estate Society (ERES) 26th annual conference held at
ESSEC Business School, Cergy-Pontoise (France) on 36 July 2019.
Principles for a
of space user
JournalofProperty Investment&
Vol.38 No. 4, 2020
despite its potential to revolutionize the way the built environment in smart cities interacts
with humans, i.e. space users.
The emergence of smart space questions real estates traditional approach to space
which is best described as geometric and akin to an inanimate entity. Such an interpretation
of space seems too restrictive for the radically new context of smart buildings in smart cities.
Space in smart environments is all but inanimate. Far from being a productive void
(Graaskamp, 1974a/1991), it is coded space (Dodge and Kitchin, 2005). Instrumental in smart
buildingsuser centricity, smart space is closely intertwined with space usersbehaviours
and practices. Indeed, the change brought upon space is so drastic that the analogy
sometimes drawn in the literature is that of electrification (McCullough, 2004). In the early
1900s, electricity totally reshaped urban space, contributing to a distinctively modern sense
of spacein the modern city (McQuire, 2005).
Similarly, the changing nature of space in smart urban environments will have drastic
effects for human lives and the role buildings play in them. This leads to a myriad of
questions researchers have to answer. In particular, what are the defining characteristics of
space users in smart environments? Do space users in smart buildings engage with space in
the same way as occupants of non-smart buildings? What is unique in smart environments
which might call for a new approach to the spatial components of real estate? How does
smart space impact real estate modelling?
To address these questions, this paper opts to centre its analysis on space users
experience of space in smart real estate. It explores humansmode of engagement with real
estate in smart environments. By building on a broad range of fields of knowledge
(computer sciences, architecture, philosophy, psychology and sociology), it lays out the
basic principles of a phenomenology of space user in smart real estate. In the process, it
focuses on the Cyber-dasein, a type of space user modelled after Heideggers
phenomenology (Lecomte, 2019a). The Cyber-dasein is the archetypal space user in our
conceptual framework of smart real estate.
The paper contains four sections. Section 2 analyses the emergence of smart space in
smart real estate, by focusing on smart environmentstechnical genesis, i.e. ubiquitous
computing. Section 3 focuses on phenomenology and the Cyber-dasein. It explores how this
new space users unique characteristics impact real estate in smart environments. Section 4
presents the basic principles for a phenomenology of space user in smart real estate and
defines digital as the third realm of real estate (after Graaskamp, 1977/1991). It then
discusses the relevance of the concept of experienced utilityintroduced by Nobel Prize
laureate Daniel Kahneman (1994), in the context of smart real estate. Section 5 concludes.
A glossary of the main philosophical concepts mentioned in the paper is reported
in Appendix (Table AI).
2. Emergence of smart space in smart real estate
2.1 Pervasive computing and smart environments
Smart cities and smart buildings have not appeared ex-nihilo. Their smartness relies on
ubiquitous computing (ubicomp), a major innovation in computer sciences. Ubicomp is the
brainchild of researchers at Xerox PARC whose Chief Technology Officer Mark Weiser
defined the concept in a seminal 1991 article (Weiser, 1991).
Weisers vision of pervasive computing supposes a physical world that is richly and
invisibly interwoven with sensors, actuators, and computational elements, embedded
seamlessly in the everyday objects of our lives and connected though a continuous
network(Shrobe, 2005). Weiser and Brown (1996) hailed ubicomp as the third era of
computing whose social impact should rival that of writing and electricity. Building
on connectedness and awareness, ubiquitous computing systems are expected to
become highly complex and large scale ensembles of digital artefacts, encompassing

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