A conceptualization is like looking in a kaleidoscope. You are looking at the same thing, but from varies angles. In Lynn A. Staeheli’s Place, she conceptualizes the word “place” in five different ways. She begins by looking at it as a “physical location or site”, then as a “cultural and/or social location”, next as a “context” and “constructed over time”, and lastly as “process”. By looking at a not only the word place, but a place itself, in the different conceptualizations Straeheli presents, you are able to better understand what a place represents.

When conceptualizing a place as a “context”, you are looking at the people within the place, but on a bigger scale. Take Starbucks on the Western Washington University campus for example. The people standing in line at this location are students, you recognize this fact almost immediately. You can go much further than that however: the people standing in this line are students at WWU, in Bellingham, in Washington, in the Pacific Northwest, in the United States. By looking at this bigger picture, you can understand the type of people in this line and why they might be in this place. The people of the Pacific Northwest is known for their love of coffee. Washington itself was where the first Starbucks originated. Looking in the town of Bellingham there are dozens of coffee shop, at least one to every corner. On campus we have at least four different locations you can get coffee. Recognizing this can lead you to the question: why Starbucks? Living in America we are exposed and drawn to big name brands like a moth to a light. With the lines just as long as the other coffee stops on campus and the physical location on the edge of south campus, which is less than convenient for many, this is likely the leading reason why those in line chose to buy from Starbucks rather than one of the other local brands offered on campus.

Looking at a place as a “cultural and social location” can allow you to better understand the people in the place on a smaller scale. In other words, you can look at who fits in, who doesn’t, and why. When again looking at the line of people at the Starbucks on the WWU campus, you can again understand more about the place itself, just by looking at the people in the place. Most of the people in line don’t even bother to look at the menu, likely because with Starbucks in virtually every town people are so familiarized with it that they often know exactly what they’re getting before they even get into line.

By looking at a place as a different conceptualization, you can better understand a place. By looking at the Starbucks on campus in just two of the different ways you can conceptualize it you are able to look closer at the fact that people only prefer it because we are brought up in a culture that worships big name brands and Starbucks is definitely a familiar one.

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