AbstractThe Oxford Dictionary of Sociology defines a heuristic device ‘as a form of preliminary analysis’ (Marshall, 1998: 274). Such devices have proved especially useful in studies of social change by defining benchmarks around which variation and differences can then be situated. In this context a heuristic device is usually employed for analytical clarity, although it can also have explanatory value as a model. This paper is a preliminary analysis of the concept (and associated concepts) of the vā. The examination is an attempt at a definition of the concept of vā and focuses on the differentiation between the vā fealoaloa’i (social space) and vā tapua’i (worship space) as developed in the Samoan village. The vā is also applied to the New Zealand social environment and tertiary education.