Purpose - The purpose of this article is to explore preference for privacy among people with different demographic and cultural backgrounds. In particular the study aims to investigate the effect of age, gender, previous experience of space and cultural background on people's chosen spatial location for privacy in multi-bed wards. Design/methodology/approach - A group of 79 subjects were asked to complete a questionnaire on privacy and to select preferred and disliked locations on plans of hospital wards. Spatial data were provided by space syntax analysis (VGA). Possible subgroups in the data were investigated by tests of difference and latent class analysis applied to those spatial attributes which appeared to be relevant to people's preferences on locations for privacy. Findings - The results show that privacy regulation encompasses universal and specific aspects across cultures, age, gender and previous experience of space. Specifically, the results suggest a universal preference for spatial location of privacy across culture, age and gender and a specific significant difference for spatial location of privacy as a result of previous spatial experience. In addition, the VGA integration measure was found to be a highly significant discriminator between preferred and disliked locations for privacy. Research limitations/implications - There are two particular limitations requiring further study. First, the study investigated only one facet of privacy, i.e. spatial location. More investigation is required to explore the inter-relationships between spatial location and other facets of privacy, primarily that of intervisibility. Second, only two broader cultures (European and Arabic) were considered. Practical limitations - Ideally it would have been of benefit if a greater number of the people sampled had had direct experience of hospital wards. Originality/value - At a general level the study supports the notion that there are universal and specific aspects to privacy. At a specific level the research links physical aspects of spatial location (i.e. visibility graph analysis measures) into this discussion.
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