Given a self-similar set E generated by a finite system Ψ of contracting similitudes of a complete metric space X we analyze a separation condition for Ψ , which is obtained if, in the open set condition, the open subset of X is replaced with an open set in the topology of E as a metric subspace of X. We prove that such a condition, which we call the restricted open set condition, is equivalent to the strong open set condition. Using the dynamical properties of the forward shift, we find a canonical construction for the largest open set V satisfying the restricted open set condition. We show that the boundary of V in E, which we call the dynamical boundary of E, is made up of exceptional points from a topological and measure-theoretic point of view, and it exhibits some other boundary-like properties. Using properties of subselfsimilar sets, we find a method which allows us to obtain the Hausdorff and packing dimensions of the dynamical boundary and the overlapping set in the case when X is the n-dimensional Euclidean space and Ψ satisfies the open set condition. We show that, in this case, the dimension of these sets is strictly less than the dimension of the set E.

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