Medium Post 3 — Framing

“One might thing that such a concept [place] would be relatively easy to define and describe. Yet ‘place’ could easily be one of the most contested terms in human geography,” writes Lynn A. Staeheli. By this, Staeheli means that the definition of “place” is endless. There’s no one denotation to describe what a place is.

Lynn Staeheli is a professor in the department of Geography at Durham university. She writes about the five main conceptualizations of place: place as a physical location or site, place as a cultural and/or social location, place as a context, places as constructed over time, and place as process.

Staeheli defines place as a physical location or site as “something one can point to on a map or take a walk through,” IE: space. If something takes up space, it qualifies as a “place” in the most basic sense. Therefore, Zoe’s Bagels at Western Washington University is a place, since one could point to it on a map of Western’s campus, and one could also walk through it between the hours of 7 AM and 11 PM (Monday through Fridays.) Compared to other coffee shops on Campus, it’s tucked away inside the library, as opposed to being up front and center directly when you walk into a building — like the Starbucks in the Arntznen building, or the Miller Café inside Miller hall. This means the physical state of it might not be as prominent as other places. Being inside the library might affect the way people act in there. The idea that libraries are typically a quiet place, might reinforce the general idea people have of it.

Staeheli describes place as a cultural and/or social location as something “often framed in metaphorical terms… From this perspective, people are located within webs of cultural, social, economic, and political relationships that shape their identities, or positionalities.” Zoe’s being a coffee shop at a college frames it as more of social place, rather than a place of political relationships. The general population of Zoe’s are 18 to 22-year-old college students, working their way through homework with bagels and endless cups of coffee. Even though that’s the majority of people, there’s still no certain type of person that “belongs” there. You can find people of any race, gender, or age sitting at one of the many tables. The space is designed specifically for that reason — so everyone who walks through the door knows that they can be comfortable there.