|Go into a Protestant church in a Swiss village, a mosque
in Damascus, the cathedral at Reims, a Buddhist temple in Bangkok, and though
in every case you are visiting a place of worship with a common aura of piety,
you know from one pious site to the next that you are in a distinctive
The site of a multiplex movie theater -- or a spectator
sports arena, or a mall ,or a modern hotel , or fast-food establishment in
city around the world -- and try to figure out where you are. You
nowhere. You are chasing pixels on a Nintendo: the world surrounding
you vanishes. You are in front of or in or on MTV: universal images assault
the eyes and global dissonances assault the ears in a heart-pounding tumult
that tells you everything except which country you are in. Where are you?
You are in McWorld. [Source: Benjamin Barber, Jihad vs.
McWorld. Random House, 1995. pp. 98-99.]
|So far in this course we have been talking about
divergence -- how cultural landscapes are
different from one another. Now, we start to talk about
convergence - how cultural landscapes are
similar regardless of where they are found; indeed, new landscapes are often
considered better than "authentic" places. In many ways, placeless places
are the landscapes that all the diverse people of the USA share in common:
the Amish shop at Menard's; Norwegians go to the movies; Black teenagers
hang around in Mall of America; etc. From the various diverse and distinctive
cultures and places, people come together in the placeless landscapes of
the suburbs, malls, highways, and amusement parks.
Although the above quote deals with countries, the quote
is relevant to places within the United States as well.
way to say placelessness. When cultural landscapes
begin to look
alike, geographers use
placelessness, flatscapes, thin places,
Components of placelessness are mass communication and consumption
impersonal large societies
standardization of products and land use codes
homogeneous economic systems
personal preferences influenced by mass culture
other-directedness in places,
uniformity and standardization in places, and
Can you cite examples of each?
See your notes from
Ada Louise Huxtable's The Unreal America
(New Press, 1998) critiques "invented environments," which
include fancy theme-parks, fake-old new towns, and even
Explanations of placelessness
Can you cite examples of each? See your notes from class.
placelessness vary, as they do in other situations as well: 1) fantasy, 2) flight, 3) withdrawal, and 4)
How might these responses to placelessness express themselves in human behavior?
Let's look at various forms of
placelessness in North America:
Just for the fun of it you might want to
exercise on placelessness (machine space), developed by geographers
the University of Texas at Austin.