Concept of Place and Space

Place gives people a sense of belonging, gives them meaning and shapes their identity, whereas space is a more abstract, general term for an area. Place can refer to a definite location or the physical description of the human and physical characteristics of somewhere. Places have more significant meaning to people, so space becomes place as people get to know it better.

Place is important because due to it giving belonging, meaning and shaping identities, it has a great impact on groups and individuals so is very influential in how society develops. As opposed to being a container of action, place/space is a medium of action, influencing social occurrences. Places are also produced as a result of human actions.

Place definition: Location with meaning. Can be meaningful to individuals in personal or subjective ways. Can also be meaningful at a social or cultural level and the meanings may be shared by different groups of people.

Alternatively, place can be defined by a distinctive locality at a geographical scale somewhere between a street and a city.

Characteristics of a place:

  • Physical features: the site of land, resources, elevation – how these things have affected the place’s development – Hampstead is on high elevation because the aim was to provide wealthy Victorians with clean air and safe water
  • Economic functions: how it provides services and work
  • Cultural landscape: everything you can see in a place – nature, architecture, sports, music

Places can change due to internal (endogenous) factors, like deindustrialisation, affection the physical features, economic functions or cultural landscape of a place, or due to external (exogenous) factors, like globalisation, perhaps due to its connections with other places. An example is how China’s economic development has greatly affected many places around the world, like it’s investment in the stocks in London.

Geographically, there are three aspects of place – location, locale and sense of place:

Location: ‘Where’ a place is, like to co-ordinates on a map, distance from other places etc

Locale: Place where something happens or is set, or that has particular events associated with it. Shaped by people, cultures and customs within it.

Sense of place: Refers to subjective and emotional attachment people have to a place. People develop a ‘sense of place’ through experience and knowledge of a certain area.

Perception of place is also an important aspect. This is the way in which place is viewed or regarded by people and can be influenced by media representation or personal experience, although it is usually the former.