Are we losing our Sense of Place?
Are we losing our Sense of Place?
A sense of place is often regarded as an ability to distinctively identify as well as appreciate the specific qualities of a place in which they belong in terms of its importance, history, social and cultural characteristics, and other special elements. More importantly, a sense of place is derived from the ability of a person to identify themselves with these characteristics. It is also the ability to appreciate people within this specific geographic area as part of the larger community characterized by the specific geographic location. People will be able to develop this sense of place through the ability to learn and experience living in these locations. Some of the environmental influences that help define a geographical area are the weather, specific plant and animal species, terrain, landmarks, social, economic and cultural activities, among many others. As such, a sense of place can have broad definitions depending on the specific dynamics of interest to a person. As such, a history of a geographical location can be passed down from one generation to the next, which helps younger people to develop a sense of place (Gustafson 11). Lack of a sense of place is often identified through ignorance, lack of interest concerning the geographical area, which means that these characteristics will not be valued by individuals. A sense of place allows people to be content because they are able to develop an important identity rooted to the place within which they reside. Young people today are slowly losing their sense of place due to a variety of factors, most of which is perpetrated by the modern globalized and commercialized culture.
Throughout history, globalization was characterized by movements from one region, country, or continent to another. These moves were often geared towards establishing a life elsewhere where there existed peace, food, work, or better living standards. This meant that the move was permanent, and that individuals would now develop a new sense of place in place of the old one. Today, many of the reasons of immigration are still the same as those in history. There are still a large proportion of people especially in the global south moving to the global north to achieve education, work, peace, or better standard of living. Often, such people will be focused on the need to survive rather than develop a sense of place that seeks to preserve the historic and cultural elements of their new environment.
In such cases of immigration, many people will often carry their sense of identity and place to the new regions. Thus, what will be experienced is appreciation for their original native homes rather than developing a sense of place in their new environment. A sense of nostalgia will be dominant in them, knowing that they have lost an aspect of themselves through leaving their homes. In addition to this, if people do not become accepted into the new place, they are more than likely to experience a disconnection with all aspects of their physical location. An important factor to consider is their first impression of the place, which may be negative or positive, and thus play a huge role in shaping an immigrant’s sense of place. The same sense of place or lack thereof for this generation is then passed down to their children. The children will thus become part of a generation that is indifferent to their geographical location in terms of their sense of connection to it. They will be torn between developing a connection to their parents’ homelands or the physical environment within which they have found themselves.
Another form of globalization that is slowly eroding a sense of place especially in the urban area is industrialization. Through this ever-evolving process, many modern and vastly similar buildings are being erected today. Therefore, this is likely to erode the authenticity of a particular area. These specific physical characteristics of a place are some of the key elements that provide the area with a history, which shapes the sense of place among the people living there (Lloyd 79). When these characteristics are made similar throughout both the developing and developed world, people will lose their sense of identity within the context of their geographical location. There is much dilemma surrounding the issue of a sense of place and commercialization. While it is important to improve the economy through the process of industrialization, the loss of a sense of self is the undesirable effect.
Often the loss of sense of place is gradual rather than drastic, and most people who experience this will not be able to articulate the problem. This is because a loss of sense of place is often associated with industrial development and enhancement of togetherness of people from different cultural backgrounds through sharing similar experiences (McIntyre, Williams, and McHugh 45). This will lead to the development of similar attributes of a place at the expense of what makes it unique. People living in such an area will thus lose their sense of place and thus become better able to identify themselves on a global scale.
The global culture developed creates the human need of sharing similar tings, not just in terms of experiences and commodities but also in terms of the locations. Kingsnorth maintains that “a global market requires a global identity; not just goods, but landscapes themselves must be branded and made safe for the universal act of consumption. A global market requires global tastes.” This, he suggests leads to the desire of people to develop similar tastes, which propel people of vastly different ethnic and cultural backgrounds to pursue the same things. The result of this will be the standardization of not only commodities but also aspects of a location that define its identity, such as buildings, landmarks, and cultural histories.
The main aim of commercialism is to transcend beyond the local markets. Often, limits of achieving this are characterized by social, cultural, and even geographical differences. Therefore, industries will try to penetrate new markets through making commodities and places similar. The value of globalization is then packaged as a positive attribute to possess as a progressive community, and this leads to acceptance of new social constructs that place less value on the authenticity of their location in place of a more global community (Reid). For instance, the erection of shopping malls is geared towards being able to conveniently sell commodities. Throughout the world, it is easy to identify shopping malls because of their specific aspects such as huge shops, glass doors, lifts and escalators, and huge parking spaces. The development of shopping malls has made the traditional and authentic market places almost obsolete within urban areas.
Gustafson, Per. Place Attachment and Mobility. N.p. N.d. Print.
Kingsnorth, Paul. “Neighbourless Hoods”. The Ecologist. N.p., 2006. Web. 19 Apr. 2016.
Lloyd, Robert. “Memphis And The Paradox Of Place: Globalization In The American South”. Contemporary Sociology: A Journal of Reviews 40.1 (2011): 79-80. Web. 19 Apr. 2016.
McIntyre, Norman, Daniel Williams, and Kevin McHugh. Multiple Dwelling and Tourism. Wallingford: CABI Pub., 2006. Print.
Reid, Dylan. “Losing A Sense Of “Place” – Spacing Toronto.” Spacing Toronto. N.p., 2009. Web. 19 Apr. 2016.
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