(un)common ground

a commonplace book





I’m showing this video in my Metropolis course tomorrow to help talk about place and placelessness. It’s pretty cool.

Oooh! After you do I wanna know what you discussed. If that’s not weird and creepy? I’m really interested in these kinds of discussions. 😀

Hi Mike,

I just wanted to let you know that we had a blast talking about the whole “placelessness” concept in my class last Friday, and the hotels video was the perfect example to build that discussion around.

In short, it’s the beginning of the term and we’ve spent the first few classes talking about “space” and “place” as scholarly terms, using writings by Yi-Fu Tuan and Tim Creswell to understand the differences between space and place, talk about how one makes a space into a place (and how one might want to make a place into a space, in certain situations), and what human geographers mean when they say “sense of place.” The general class consensus was that places are good (I’m simplifying), and the process of transforming a space to a place can be a meaningful, identity-building experience, and, at the end, you might even end up with something you’d be comfortable calling a “home.” But, one student mentioned during last Wednesday’s class that there are potential advantages to having places that aren’t unique, like having access to what is essentially the same McDonald’s or Walmart no matter what state or country you’re in. Discussional chaos ensued, and I knew I had to show this video in the next class.

I paired it with this short reading, and then we spent most of the rest of the time talking about why hotels and airports are so weird. One thing I found really interesting was that most of the class said that they leave the “Do Not Disturb” sign up when they leave their rooms, because they find it discomfiting to return to a room where the signs of their sort-of “place” have been reset to hotel-default in their absence. This was neat, because I do that, and always sort of thought it made me some kind of weird deviant. Interestingly, the students who don’t leave the sign up said they don’t because typically the room is such a mess because of all of their disorganized travel paraphernalia and they prefer to have a clean slate when they come back to it later. Basically, it seemed like those people who didn’t put up the sign never attempted to make the place feel like their place in the first place, so they lost nothing when the room was reset. In short, they dodged your “Where is a hotel room?” question by never attempting to make it anywhere (their words, not mine).

We also got off on a semi-related tangent regarding the degree to which you can take “home” with you, and if somewhere becoming a “home” is time-dependent, with many students having experiences where they’d lived, say, five years in a place without ever feeling like it was home, but found other places “homey” after a few months. They seemed to come collectively to the conclusion that “home” or even “sense of place” is symbiotic: there needs to be something about the person that finds a particular space appealing, but there also needs to be something about that particular space that allows for…umm…place-ing by that person. If that makes any sense.

Also, nobody had ever heard the term “liminal space” before, but as soon as I explained it to them in the context of cross-country travel, they all knew exactly what I was talking about. There’s another entire class discussion or paper or something there in how quickly everyone bonded over the crappiness of liminal spaces, but that’s for another day.

Personally, I like liminal spaces while traveling because I sort of feel like the donuts and/or pizza I eat while I’m at the airport don’t really count.

This is amazing! Lots to respond to here but to pick the one thing I had the strongest reaction to: I love liminal spaces! Generally I love being in transit and I love, especially, making things while in transit; when Amtrak announced they were doing a writer’s residency for their East Coast Corridor train it made perfect sense to me. There’s something about those in-between places that makes it easier to experiment, easier to step outside of yourself. Sort of in the way you say liminal donuts don’t count, it’s almost like liminal creativity doesn’t count either… until you come back to it later in a more grounded space and decide whether it’s worth something or not. 

But then again, I also have a very particular relationship to boredom (I love it). And I think thats a big part of liminal spaces, too: sitting with your inactivity, confronting it and figuring out how to use it. The kind of boredom we experience during travel, especially, is a very particular kind and so my feeling is always that I should use it in a particular way.

I’d have to say the hotel episode is probably my favorite. The idea of liminality is intensely fascinating and so appropriate, technologically and socially.

This is gonna sound weird, but I just wrote an essay on boredom and airports during a recent trip overseas. I’d love to hear what you guys have to say on the subject! 



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This entry was posted on October 13, 2015 by and tagged , , .
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