by Chris Kulczycki
Tue Jan 24th, 2006 at 07:06:09 AM EST
I've long been fascinated by the concept and literature of place. Leafing through Ray Oldenberg's "The Great Good Place" I was struck by the notion of blogging communities as the new third places. The lack of third places is one of the causes of the decline of American community and the continuing growth of European civilization.
Third places are neither home nor workplace; they are those public spaces where we spend time and build community. They may be cafés, pubs, bookstores, boule courts, piazzas, biergartens, coffeehouses, or even hair salons. They are places that many Americans lack and Europeans have in abundance. But do they matter?
From the diaries ~ whataboutbob
I was invited to play chess at a neighbor's house the other night. Nothing unusual about this, if I think as an American, but as a European I wonder why our first social meeting was not at the café just a few blocks from our house where folks often meet to play chess. In fairness, that café down the street is unusual; most American towns have no such place.
For most suburb dwelling Americans the center of social life is their own living room or recreation room, or family room. It is that place where the television resides. And you can be sure that the "home theater system" sits front-and-center in the largest room. That's where the family spends the most time. It may share space with a pool table or a computer loaded with games. "Come on over; we can watch the game on the new 54-inch wide-screen plasma TV with Dolby sound. I've got a new wet bar in the rec-room."
Who'd want to go to the loud café and watch that little TV with all the neighbors (assuming there was such a place)? Socializing in America's suburbs involves visiting each other's homes, for dinner, for a party, or to watch TV. There are friends, but no community. The idealized home is the castle, the manor house in the country, the little house on the prairie; a place one rarely must leave. It is certainly not an apartment in a vibrant city, not even a grand old townhouse overlooking the park. This is a defining conservative Anglo-Saxon view.
Recently I wrote recently about George Monbiot's assertion that the isolation of automobile travel causes libertarianism and, perhaps, conservatism. Unlike cars, third places cause liberalism; they prevent isolation. And just as most red areas (conservative areas in the US) are those where car use is heaviest, the greatest concentrations of third places are in liberal cities and towns. Social connectivity breeds liberal politics?
But what of the new community we engage in, the blogging community? Is European Tribune a third place? Despite the sense of community we feel here, the intellectual stimulation, and the humor we enjoy, this is a gathering of like-minded individuals. We meet here, but we are not neighbors. The village plumber, who voted for LePen, is not on the next bar stool.
This evening, I think I'll do something I haven't done in weeks; I'll stroll down to the pub. And on tomorrow after school, Alec, our six-year-old, and I will go play a few games of chess at that nice café down the street.
What do you think? Do you frequent third places? Is ET a third place? Is ET your third place?