Framing: Viking Commons

In her writing “Place”, Lynn Staeheli uses six methods of conceptualization to define place in very specific terms. This definition consists of place being physical, cultural/social, contextual, constructed, and process based. Each section of this definition feeds off one another to complete a full and specific definition for the idea of place, but a place can also be defined by using each of these six concepts individually.

Take for example the idea of cultural and social location. “From this perspective,” Staeheli explains, “People are located within webs of cultural, social, economic, and political relationships that shape their identities, or positionalities.” By saying this, Staeheli is pointing out that place is often times thought of as ones position in society. These positions are not always bounded by physical or political boundaries as a place in society could by very local or even global if broad enough. Bringing this idea around to something that one could put into context, it would behoove us to examine a single location. The example I have picked for this discussion is the Viking Commons at WWU as it relates most closely to what many people must experience in college. At the Viking commons, one can observe many “social places” in one physical place. One of the most obvious social places in the Viking Commons is the fact that almost everyone attending the Commons are students. Here physical and social place line up almost perfectly as one would expect people of the social group of students to be in the physical place of the dining hall. However, within the group of students there exists even more diversity in place in society. Take the observation that many of the Japanese exchange students try to stick together while at the dining hall. There is nothing physical to keep them from integrating with the rest of the students, but instead they, like everyone on this planet, find comfort in people who speak their language. Staeheli would consider this a social place because, as she said above, social place can be cultural in origin. These are just a few of the many social places that one could see if they visited the dining hall.

Another prime example of these ideas forming the concept of place is the idea of place being a social process. Staeheli states in this concept that “The idea of place as an outcome emphasizes a place as a process, as always ‘becoming’ (Pred, 1984).” By saying this, Staeheli is implying that time plays a role in place and that as time goes on a place will change. As a matter of fact, by this definition, a place is going to be ever changing and depending on what time one is there is a specific place, a place in time. This seems pretty obvious in the example of the dining hall for a number of reasons. One example is things like stains on the floor. There are a number of rather unseemly stains on the floor of the Viking Commons, and, seeing as it is a dining hall, I assume it was not built with these stains in it already. In other words, the stains represent a time which has passed and I presume there will be more in the future. Thus, what the dining hall is now is a process of what has happened in the past and eventually what will come to be. This is just one of many examples of a place as a process, thus Staeheli has found yet another key concept about place.

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