Monday, August 6, 2012

The 'Place' Meme

When does 'place' become 'space'?  At what scale of analysis, visualization or conceptualization do a set of places form a region?

I would argue that a too rigid adherence to 'place' as nested in scalar or conceptual hierarchies contribute to reification of the idea of 'place.'  To regard 'place' as a taken-for-granted category, as materially given, without considering place-based ideologies and imaginaries is to contribute to a negative form of what I call the 'place' meme.

Jeremy Crampton (in his paper on race in the edited volume Rethinking Maps) and Edward Casey discuss how Greek philosophers, including especially Plato, set in motion a modern concept of place as a sort of predicate of existence.  In other words an object may not exist without a place in which to exist.

A very similar notion pops up in the writing of Martin Heidegger, who was of course very interested in Greek philosophy, time and notions of place in the form of 'clearings' in which horizons for being become thinkable.

Contemporary manifestations of the 'place' meme show up in geographical theory.  Mobilities, rhizomes, 'routed' places, movement and other terms are applied in increasingly sophisticated ways to demonstrate how the idea of place is evolving.

A current emphasis on 'mobilities' lends itself well to the idea that routes and pathways for the propagation of 'place' memes happen at two levels: a 'meta' (and more academic) level and a 'lower' level as practiced and replicated in everyday life 'on the ground.'

Of course such a hierarchy and strict division is problematic.  In reality academics experience everyday places 'on the ground' every day; publics and individuals in all walks of life have diverse senses of place at rest and in motion.

As I gear up for some exploration of places and locales in London and surrounding areas, I hope to complicate and interrogate easy or taken for granted categories of spatial thought.  I want to examine how place memes and scalar fixes are linked (if at all); I want to experience the 'everydayness' of life in London and other cities and towns; I want to see the countryside for myself with my own eyes whether walking, on a bicycle or in a motor vehicle.

Only in this way will I be able to make of my own mind about all the questions and ideas raised above.

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