We start our discussion with phenomenology and humanistic geography. Entrikin (1991*) has illustrated quite well the idea grounded in the humanistic discipline by dividing place into objective and subjective. The subjective dimension embraces individualistic meanings attached to place basically in the representational level whereas the objective denotes to the ’naturalistic qualities of place’. What Entrikin (1991) calls the betweenness of places is the meeting point for the subjective and objective space, place where meanings and objective reality encounter.
However, this approach has been criticized for various reasons. Firstly, authors following the non-representational approach have been debating the understanding of subjective character only on the mental level, leaving aside sensual and physical performances in place (Thrift, 2000). Secondly, Merrifield (1993) argued that Entrikin flaws in his basic assumption when assuming that the observer and the observed are somehow detached. The phenomenological approach, according to him, rather seeks ways to understand how the two polar opposites can be brought together rather than to comprehend that place is a unity containing within itself different aspects. However, in our opinion this binary approach in humanistic discipline is mainly used to lead attention to meanings which had been neglected prior to this approach. Still, the way meanings are brought to the analysis needs further attention.
Lefebvre (1991) challenged the binary notion by introducing the third term. Lefebvre, and later also Soja (1996), argue that space is understood as physical and social landscape which is imbued with meaning in everyday place-bound social practices and emerges through processes that operate over varying spatial and temporal scales. Three different scales are distinguished. Firstly, perceived space, which includes both the emotional and behavioral bubbles which invisibly surround people’s bodies as well as complex spatial organization of practices that shape action spaces in households, buildings, neighborhoods, villages, cities, regions, nations, the world economy and global geopolitics. Secondly, conceived space refers to our knowledge of spaces which is primarily produced by discourses of power and ideology constructed by professionals such as planners, engineers, researchers etc. Eventually, thirdspace is the space where all the spaces are and where the subjectivity and objectivity, the abstract and the concrete etc. meet. This encompasses at the same time the space of users in everyday life, the mental space, the space influenced by wider social, economic and political processes etc.
However, although the division has different logic from those of humanists, in our opinion the final idea of thirdspace is somewhat similar to that of Entrikins betweenness of places – they both aim to bring together something that cannot be separated. It must, however, be acknowledged that the structuralist approach stressed on uniting space and claimed that processes happening in space are actually inseparable.
The postmodern approach has even more emphasized the inseparable character of place. For instance, Jessop et al. (2008*) stressed the need for interdisciplinary research. Despite their focus being on socio-spatial relations in their TPNS (territory, place, network, scale) model, the model presents how place has also been approached in different times. Although the presence of place in the framework may be misguiding, in this context it actually denotes more the specific location. In their article, Jessop et al. claim that different approaches should be used simultaneously when investigating place – place should be viewed as specific location, as a wider territory, as consisting of networks and finally extending over different scales. Jauhiainen (2005) has similarly divided studies of urban space into four broad categories: space as materiality – space exists as a product of economic activity; space as distinctive character – space is seen as consisting of borders, the speciality of location is stressed; space as activity – the focus is given to socio-spatial relation in space; and space as contextuality – space exists only after it has been given a meaning through human consciousness as well as by the means of material resources. Now after very shortly having reviewed the concept of place in some of the researches and stressed upon the need for interdisciplinary research on place studies we continue with explaining how we approach to place.
When defining place, we use the definition that has been applied by several authors (Massey, 1994*; Agnew, 1987; Martin, 2003*). Place for us is socially constructed and operating, including interaction between people and groups, institutionalized land uses, political and economic decisions, and the language of representation. This definition already stresses that place should be looked at interdisciplinary, however, authors claim that there are some shortages in the current research. Firstly, the literature of place making mainly deals with wider scales and especially authors investigating global influences on places rarely engage with the topics of place meaning nor identity [see for example Massey (2003)]. Global processes are viewed only as having material influences on places and not having to do anything with ever changing place meanings.
Those authors who aim to study place meanings, however, are constrained with quite narrow scales ending usually with nation frames, although mainly the literature investigates personal place meanings and identities. When researching meanings in personal scale influences of global economy changes, national politics etc. are entirely left aside.
By this, authors would like to stress that physical changes in place and meanings are thoroughly related and influenced by various scales. Auburn and Barnes (2006) have suggested dividing the meaning-making process into four categories: personal, local, national and supranational. To clarify the following the article authors have used this categorization, although we suggest that these categories are more constructed than natural. All these different scales finally mix through individual consciousness. The meanings which a person attaches to places are similarly influenced by personal experiences and global politics. We give an example of how different dimensions are intermingled when constructing meanings. The meaning of McDonald’s may be influenced by a person’s eating habits, his participation in some organizations – for example animal protection unit, the state’s policy towards globalization, the position it has in the city space etc.
Finally, the connection between the place meanings and identity also needs to be reviewed. Place identity, when using the simplest clarification, characterizes people as meaning characterizes places. People’s identities are created through defining themselves in relation to places (Jorgensen and Stedman, 2001). As meaning-making, also this process takes place in a complex pattern of conscious and unconscious ideas, beliefs, preferences, memories, ideas, feelings, values, goals and behavioral tendencies and skills relevant to this environment (Vorkinn and Riese, 2001*) As place meanings can exist in different levels so do identities. Paasi (2001*) has differentiated identities in three levels – regional, collective and individual. Still authors suggest that there also exists supranational identity for people, only one example could be given by the means of states who identify themselves through belonging to the EU.
Next we will give an overview of place meanings and making in different scales. It must be stressed, however, that this article concentrates more on not criticizing various disciplines, but rather tries to put their ideas together by showing the wholeness of place.
Manzo (2003*) brings an example of how ideologies are used in supranational place-making strategies. Different ideologies not only influence the concrete space by producing different kind of buildings and city patterns but their actual influence lies far deeper. Firstly, ideologies influence people’s practices. For example, the economy of shortage during socialism made people hoard products (Kornai, 2000). With this practice various storages were needed to store the products, for example garages were used for this purpose during the Soviet time. Argenbright (1999) has given an example of how meaning making process in post-socialist city differs from those of capitalist cities since people less give meanings to public spaces that are still being connected with state power. Ideologies also influence economical and political circumstances and social relations of people (Scott, 1998*). All this is represented through dissimilar place meanings.
Recently a lot of literature focuses on globalization and the global scale of places. Very many have claimed that due to globalization time is becoming more important than space (Jessop et al., 2008; Kirsch, 1995, etc.) and humanistic geographers have viewed the placelessness as emerging monolithic landscape that spreads over spaces (Relph, 1976*). Terkenli (2001) has suggested that with a process of deworldment a new collective sense of place at the global level has emerged. However, Sheppard (2002*) has debated this view and argues that place in globalizing context still matters a lot using the importance of territorial economies and governance structures on business decisions as an example. Globalization, according to him, may well have eliminated space but not place, which means that no longer locational advantage is important but instead place based characters, in determining the relative attractiveness of place for capital. He even goes as far as stating that actually global economy creates more inequalities and differences between places, by preferring some and neglecting other places. Also, Massey (1994*) has brought out that globalization develops porosity of place – communication with other places, that is vital for the survival of regions and communities.
Globalization influences the meanings of states. For instance, the so-called Third World states have become the depository, container or low-cost production sites in Western paradigm, some places have acquired the meaning of demand nodes etc. Globalization changes the meanings of places on the individual level as well, for example, people’s evaluation of global businesses depends on how they (state, region) see the globalization, whether as destructive force to regionality, or as force which gives prosperity to everyone etc.
One example of supranational place making is also the discourse of researchers and planners (Lefebvre called this conceived space). Probably the most obvious example is high-modernism and Le Corbusier’s ideas about city planning which influenced the destiny of various cities. Not only did the discourse intend to change the physical form of cities but also the practices that were preformed by individuals by introducing zoning policies (Scott, 1998). Today those discourses continue to influence the meanings attached to places in various scales also through the regimes of so called ideal landscapes. Researchers are starting to more and more intervene in planning policies and there exist a wide literature on place making which is used by community making throughout the world (see for example http://www.pps.org/).
Places are also changed by various technologies (Sheppard, 2002*). The introducing of Fordist production model transformed the world. Sheppard (2002*) also when viewing different factors that city character is influenced by, brings out hard factors such as access to labor, raw materials and markets and soft factors, cultural and social capital. Molotch (2002) has lead attention to the transforming effect of migration. Migration takes place for various reasons being sometimes carried by previous meanings of cities/countries and reproducing/reinforcing these. He has shown how such reproduction of meanings takes place in U.S. cities.
Supranational place making also comprises the meanings that unite different groups based on age, gender, religion (Molotch et al., 2000*). For example home has been throughout the history associated with women (Butler, 1990). These meanings can differ between various regions as well, catholic church has totally different meanings in Warsaw or in Israel but also in Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland.
Finally, the contribution of Relph (1976*) should also be reviewed as he has introduced the term mass-identity which according to him refers to the meanings created by opinion-makers and provided ready made through media. Mass identities are not only based on symbols and significances, but also on stereotypes. Alexander (2002) has discussed the meaning of holocaust and of the spaces connected to it in various memorials. He finds that historical event is used for far wider context and spaces created in honor to that usually denote not just to the destiny of one nation but more to the understandings of bad and good as also to universal suffering etc. Historical events can create various meanings to places.
Friedmann (2007*) has very thoroughly discussed how place making appears in the level of state. State creates the images of places by constraining everyday life by deciding what activities are allowed at certain times of the day or night, who may or may not be seen on the street, what forms of public behavior are permitted and which are not, what kind of traffic may circulate, what sort of structures may be built and for what purposes. The influence of state is even wider and starts when raising children and introducing them to general norms, for example people do not throw rubbish out of the window because state has forbidden it. State is empowered to regulate everyday life in the public spaces of the city but, not only, the state also regulates our private life by punishing us for playing loud music at night etc. State’s presence is at the same time visible and invisible through various institutions like the police, social workers, surveillance cameras, systems of licensing and permits, standards for constructions etc. (Friedmann, 2007*).
Another example of the national scale of place making has already been discussed under the planning activities. Different plans create spaces endowed with meaning by stating what their purpose is and how they should be used. It also brings out the conflict between the state and the individual, although the state has somehow regulated the use of its spaces the actual activity of individuals does not always stay in these borders and places often have alternative uses. State planning policies can also act in more hidden ways. Davis (1990*) gives examples of how the government in Los Angeles decided to exchange the seats in bus stops to ones impossible to sit on. This strategy actually was meant to eliminate homeless people from the city picture.
The state policy also influences national and other scales of place making. For instance if the state has been following neo-liberal policies the communities are been assumed to take care of the local facilities (Martin, 2003*). This kind of policy also creates more segregation which influences the spatial character of the cities. As a result different districts obtain various meanings.
When talking about the national scale of place meanings, those describing various states, cannot be left aside. States fight in global means to attract investments and try to present their country in certain ways (Molotch et al., 2000*). The production of meanings is also present in international policies where states try to identify themselves and create various beneficial images. An example can be given when viewing the national policy of Estonia. Estonia very strongly tries to identify itself through belonging to Europe or among Northern countries. This policy is the answer to the Soviet period and denotes to the try of cutting itself loose from Russia. The fact that about 30% of Estonia’s population is still Russian-speaking is usually not presented. Sometimes such national identities are also created by narratives.
State also gives meanings to places when (re)naming them (Bird, 2002). For instance most of the post-Soviet countries have renamed their streets after independence (see, for instance Light, 2004; Czepczyński, 2008). Naming of course is not only the means state uses to attach meanings. People and groups both actively use this method as well.
We already previously discussed a bit over the changing role that locality has in place making. Various authors (Massey, 1994; Molotch et al., 2000*, etc.) agree on the fact that locality still matters. Molotch et al. (2000) has reasoned that locality still matters since similar outside forces can have very different consequences depending on the local context. One difference lies on how various communities deal with comparable outside forces. Paasi (2001*) notes that ideology, history and social transformation all come together in different ways in particular place. This all has lead to the conclusion that locality still matters.
Paasi (2001*) has seen local identity as counterforce to globalization and has claimed that it refers to people’s attempt to mark boundaries. Regional identity is created in distinctive manner, regions try to distinguish themselves by natural, cultural elements and inhabitants. In some way as Sheppard (2002) has noted, global economy is reinforcing distinction because it now more than ever values distinctive characters of place instead of position. These distinctions are also used in discourses of science, politics, cultural activism. However such narratives are not only used for economic etc. purposes but it also lets people create the sense of self by acknowledging who and what they are and sometimes adopting ready-made identities.
These ready-made identities are often created through historical association Leith (2006*). Usually common history has not been directly experienced and is thus carried on by stories and creating narratives themselves (These narratives can also act in the state level). Narratives are reinforced through traditional activities. Devine-Wright and Lyons (1997*) have claimed that the more actively an individual is involved in traditional activities the stronger is the bond between the individual and places. Another bounding character that influences people’s identity is common culture. Culture involves common socialization process which takes place through sharing similar experiences, signs and symbols. The altering effect of culture has especially been researched by landscape anthropologists such as Low (1994); Hirsch and O’Hanlon (1995).
Community making has complicated the relationship with place meanings. On one hand those sharing similar experiences and having common purposes unite under citizen movements, on the other hand this activity transforms previous meanings. Neighborhood organizations use various narratives such as previously discussed historical and cultural but also physical natural and experimental. Martin (2003*) has called such narratives place frames. Place frames are constantly in transition and are remade by creating common ground for collective action and shaping people’s ideas about places. New meanings are being created by bringing out common experiences, interests and values. Often however what is more stressed upon are the characters that distinguish people from others. Davis (1990*) has thoroughly discussed organizations that in their activity rely on common interests. He brings out the role of NIMBY (not in my backyard) attitude as one reason for activism. According to Martin (2003) place frames are what have the first effect when connecting people’s personal meanings with broader scale.
Paasi (2001*) has further noted the related character of personal and collective meanings by stating that people today have more diversified regional backgrounds and the personal histories that process of regional identification is becoming mixed. People use their previous identities formed in different localities in order to attach meanings to new places.
A lot of attention has been given to the meanings people attach to places in individual level and how it contributes to their identity. One of the reasons, in fact, why people give meanings to places is the need to discover and evolve their identity. Through some place people can experience reflection, introspection, self-understanding etc. Individual’s identity may form in contribution to many places and their meanings (Manzo, 2005*).
Sometimes places act as important markers in people’s lives. Places can acquire meaning through significant experiences (trauma, loss) and through the experiences of change and transition (moving). Places related to these experiences can become meaningful regardless of being negative or positive. (Manzo, 2005) People can however also consciously decide to give positive meanings to some places connected to change. Friedmann (2007*) has given an example of how people when moving to new place try to establish relationship with places by for instance chatting with locals, learning street names etc. Sometimes meanings precede moving, people may decide to move to places that are more concurrent with their sense of self (Twigger-Ross and Uzzell, 1996). People choose living areas to express who they are so the relationship between meanings and change is two folded, change can lead to meaning making or positive meanings can lead to change.
Places can become meaningful to people because of the relations they have had with other people for instance people living there – friends, acquaintances, relatives (Gustafson, 2001*). We have already previously discussed how the sense of community helps in place making. Relph (1976) has noted the importance that people bring to places by stating that in the absence of right people places are quickly drained of meaning. Relationships with other people are a part of collective self defining as also individual place making through special relationships with only one or few persons. The connection, however, is two folded – places can become meaningful through social relationships but special places help to create meaningful relationships as well.
Places have a great role in reminding us of our past. The connection to history that places form extends as already mentioned over all the categories of place making. On the individual level they act for us as connections with special times or occasions in our life (Shamsuddin and Ujang, 2008). A place can remind us of a certain occasion or can be like a path mark of the point we were back then. Places can also remind us of some particular periods in our life through nostalgia (Hay, 1998*; Gustafson, 2001*), usually childhood memories are an important example of how places became meaningful (Derr, 2002*) This meaning can become especially strong when the places as they were are not there anymore or are rarely used by the person relating it immediately to the particular time (Smaldone et al., 2005*). Places can also act contrary and reflect continuity in our lives (Smaldone et al., 2005*). But in other circumstances places are valued for some decisions and changes that are connected to these and for interrupting continuity.
Places are also used for awaking certain feelings like comfort, security, belonging, being anchored, self-expression, and freedom to be oneself (Smaldone et al., 2005*). All these meanings can sometimes also be seen as unifying certain groups, for instance, gays gathering to one district because it provides them with the feeling of safety. Feelings awaken by some place can play a role in forming and maintaining place connections and place-identity (Smaldone et al., 2005*).
Some places may acquire meaning through certain activities (Tuan, 1977*). Derr (2002) has given an example of how children make places meaningful by climbing trees, paying games, making forts etc. For grownups similar activities exist which are sometimes part of their everyday routines like visiting a cafe.