Blue Ridge, Georgia, Taken by Monty
So what is a place? Is it a particular position in space? Why are some places more popular than others? What draws people to a single place versus other places? In What is a Sense of Place by Jennifer Cross, she goes over some characteristics between people and places. She states there are "six types of relationships: biographical, spiritual, ideological, narrative, commodified, and dependent." I tend to agree that I can identify easily with places in these categories.
Here's a breakdown of those relationships in her report:
Image Source: Table 1.1, What is a Sense of Place? By Jennifer Cross
The table's a little dry, but stick with me here. Location, location, location. It defines how we're brought up, who we meet, where we go and even what we are taught. You're much more likely to have quite a bit of emphasis on your own country's history because that's the most relevant to your interest. Even with personal relationships with people, removing the convenience of similar location also tends to skew our relation - friends often grow farther apart as their distance between interaction increases for example.
Talking more about the sense of place, it's more than just the location. It's really the intimacy of connection that transforms a physical landmark from immaterial into something meaningful.
How do we use places together? A lot of times, a place has an understood behavioral societal norm. Starbucks, for example, people come and go for coffee but stay for the productive atmosphere. Blast some music or cause some commotion and disturb others would violate the norms of the place. People give these spaces rules that may not always exist but can be understood or taught.
In his article, Seeking Reality: a classification of approaches used to study place, Edward Relph says that you can interpret places "as primarily a way of being attached to or connecting with the world and with others" is a basic interpretation that the world allows us to communicate and establish connections. When you start mixing the idea that communicators can take advantage of places, then you can start communicating more persuasively. But, to really to understand that, you need to understand the stake of people's senses of place.
For an example of this, a professor may have a classroom with enough room for 30 students, yet only 10 people may be registered. The 10 students are scattered and further back from the professor. Would it be a more engaging lesson for the professor to have the students sit closer and more to the front? Of course. The sense of place in the classroom becomes more intimate and a place of engagement rather than just absorption of material.
Here's a good look into senses of place:
Sense of Place By manicmads
Some places that I've grown attached to are pretty self-explanatory: School, Home, Workplaces, and My Parent's apartment. But there's so much to those alone. School involves a classroom, a parking deck to sift through (which alone involves regret, frustration and relief). At home I'm secluded in my room with no care in the world (yeah, a bit introverted). One of my workplaces involves a casual professionalism - it's a web development company but involves casual wear and very flexible hours. Another workplace involves a set uniform, a lot of running and driving very expensive cars for valet. And of course my parents' place, as you can imagine, is a good mix of good feelings and some not-so-great.
Identifying some connection I've associated with the above places:
Frustration (Parking Deck)
Urgency and Politeness (Valet)
Productivity (Library, Starbucks)
Professionalism (Conference Room at Work)
Relaxation (Break Room)
Casual (Internship Desk)
Peace (Living Room)
In her book, Personal Geographies and Other Maps of the Imagination, Katherine Harmon says that people have an urge to map - it creates a portal into the mind of the creator. For a fun activity regarding places, I decided to make a map of my own. This is about the third or fourth draft of making one - I had quite a bit to think about what to show and what to map and how to show it. Like Harmon says, the reader has to consider a particular terrain of imagination overlaid with those unique contour lines of experience.
Perhaps you can relate to these places, for one reason or another:
Map of Atlanta - Source: Monty with a map image from maps.stamen.com
I'd love to see what you think of my map. Please comment below!