Space-time measurements and gravitational experiments are made by the mutual relations between objects, fields, particles etc... Any operationally meaningful assertion about spacetime is therefore intrinsic to the degrees of freedom of the matter (i.e. non-gravitational) fields and concepts such as ``locality'' and ``proximity'' should, at least in principle, be definible entirely within the dynamics of the matter fields. We propose to consider the regions of space just as general ``subsystems''. By writing the Hilbert space of the matter fields as a generic tensor product of subsystems we analyse the evolution of a state vector on an information theoretical basis and discuss general principles to recover a posteriori the usual space-time relations. We apply such principles to generic interacting second quantized models with a finite number of fermionic degrees of freedom. Finally, we discuss the possible role of gravity in this framework.