Wednesday, February 02, 2005

The Division Bell

One of the problems that I'm seeing in this lit and in our discussions of it is that we are lacking boundaries (ironic, perhaps, in a discussion about space and place). When we say "cities," do we mean all congregations of people over a certain number, or do we mean American urban centers? If the latter, how do we categorize them? New York is not Houston is not Lansing is not San Diego is not Atlanta, etc. While they may share some characteristics, and all participate in a level of national culture, it would be foolish to declare that a resident of Cambridge, MA, has the same relationship with space and place as someone in Waukesha. Before we try to figure out what cities are collectively, perhaps we should first figure out what they are not collectively but are selectively. (That's the kind of sentence you can only get away with on a blog, in an graduate discussion setting or both.)

Tuan begins dividing things up another way -- by differences in perception among different types of city-dwellers. I took a seminar on the American party system over the poli. sci. department last semester and spent most of it harping on the influence of perception (and of the media on perception) on the issues at hand. This is a critical issue here as well. How do different types of people learn about their relationships with space and place? How do perceptions of those relationships map onto reality? Are the characteristics (perceived or real) structural in nature? Are they imposed on an ad hoc basis by a force such as a state government?

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