We have already established that a key idea in Changing Places is that of sense of place. Different people view places in different ways. Our level of EXPERIENCE of a place changes our perspective of it. The events that happen to us in a place could also influence our opinion of it, a good event will evoke happy memories, a bad experience could result in people not liking a place. Demographic factors could come into play;
- Will women view places in the same way as men?
- Do the elderly view places in the same way as the young?
- Do ethnic or religious groups view places in the same way?
- What of people of different sexual orientation?
Those factors will result in subtle and sometimes large differences in how people perceive places. This is known as positionality, the factors such as race, gender, age, politics, socio-economic status, religious views, that influence how people perceive places. What may be a happy place for one person could be a place of fear for someone else. Perspectives on place
The 2 main areas to focus upon are insider and outsider perspectives of place;
1. An Insider perspective – is a viewpoint from an individual within a place/who lives there and has an experience of the place.
Consider where you live now. You may have lived there a long time; the environment is familiar. It is easy to use transport to get around and you understand the customs and norms (or unspoken rules) of the people who live around you. You have lots of family connections and friends. You may not even notice the finer details of your environment they are that familiar to you (you take them for granted!). You have a lived experience of the pace and an insider perspective of it. You may identify as a “local” and feel safe and secure in the place. Insiders would also understand the local language and dialect.
For Relph,1 this lived intensity is identity with place, which he defines through the concept of insideness—the degree of attachment, involvement, and concern that a person or group has for a particular place. He suggests that the more profoundly inside a place a person feels, the stronger will be his or her identity with that place.
2. An outsider perspective – is a viewpoint of someone who is not from the certain place/doesn’t live there/has little or no experience of that place.
You will have been an outsider many times in your life. Perhaps going on holiday to a totally new place where you did not speak the language and had never tasted the food. Where the customs are alien to you? You may have emigrated to a new country, leaving behind emotional connections such as friends and family.
“Outsiders” may misunderstand social interactions and the norms or unspoken rules in the place. They may be a temporary visitor, hold a foreign passport or not be born into that place. Their understanding of language may not be fluent and they might not understand the local dialect or idioms. At times, being an outsider could mean feel homesick or alienated. The term “out of place” could apply here. Out of Place means to feel uncomfortable in a particular situation or place, or that you do not belong there.