3 Unifying the dimension

As we have already previously suggested, the categories that are being used here to distinguish between different scales where place meanings are created, must not be taken strictly. Firstly, there exists an array of place meanings that cannot be united under one dimension. An example can be given by pointing to meanings that are attached to places because of their physical attributes (Yuen, 2005). Such meanings can well extend over cultures, for instance, in the Western world skyscrapers usually symbolize power. However these meanings can well be very personal and depend more on person’s inner self. For example there has been a lot of discussion over the preferred landscapes (Tveit et al., 2006; Yang and Kaplan, 1990; Palmer, 1997) and it has been suggested by various authors that the evaluation of landscape is very personal process (Abu-Ghazzeh, 2000; Vorkinn and Riese, 2001). Another example of how meanings extend over the categories is the places that obtain meaning through events. These events may be of global scale (9/11), festivals etc. or be connected with individual or family occasions (celebrating some festivities) (Tuan, 1977*). Finally also the question of ownership extends over various categories. Place meanings are influenced by ownership relations. The ownership here can reflect the state’s ownership of city space where they decide who and when can move (Cresswell, 1996*) or also the individual ownership which connects people with places and creates a sense of proud (Hernández et al., 2007*).

The second reason why we need not separate these different categories is the fact that they are all interlaced. It should be noted that the factors that influence place meanings are different from those dimensions that place meanings can be divided to. Here we have discussed both factors. People, when asked, often miss the effect that wider context like politics and economics, has to their identity. For instance the research of Gustafson (2001*) demonstrates that when interviewing people his results show only a few meanings that are shaped by wider forces. This indicates that these effects should be noted by researchers themselves and added to analysis.

How are place meanings and created identity related to place attachment? Leith (2006*) has concluded that the most important contributors towards place attachment are functional, emotional and social meanings. So what is the difference between place identity and attachment? The basic difference is the fact that the latter is used in a positive context (Altman and Low, 1992*). Although various authors (Shamai, 1991; Leith, 2006) have suggested that place attachment is created by positive meanings only we still claim that this is misleading. Negative meanings can well influence place attachment by creating contrasts. Some places can gain positive value through comparison.

There is a lot of literature on how physical characteristics of neighborhood are connected with sense of community and thus also to place attachment. For instance Mannarini et al. (2006) and Kelly and Hosking (2008) both have argued that people’s perceptions of their socio-physical environment strongly influence people’s sense of community and thus their place attachment. This argument is debated by Brain (2005) who uses ghettos as an example to prove that socio-physical appearance may not be that important at all since residents of ghettos usually share a great sense of belonging. Tuan (1977) has also stressed on the subjective character of the perception of socio-physical environment. He gives an example of how one can have very emotional and personal relationship with his hometown although this can totally lack in architectural distinction and historical glamor. We also claim that place attachment must not be connected with quantitatively measurable characteristics. When understanding place attachment, the key is to analyze place meanings.

Another shortcoming that is currently noticeable in attachment studies is the fact that most of the literature in place attachment studies concentrates on individual attachment (Manzo and Perkins, 2006*). What is quite missing is the discussion of how place attachment is related to larger socio-political context. Various authors (Dixon and Durrheim, 2000; Devine-Wright and Lyons, 1997*) argue that writings about identity and attachment need to be viewed in the context of wider social, historical and political milieu. This very clearly points out the need to acknowledge that the process of attaching to place extends towards all the categories of place meaning. For instance Altman and Low (1992) have described six different processes that can symbolically link people and a place: genealogical linkage through history or family lineage; linkage through loss or destruction of land or community; economic linkage through ownership, inheritance or politics; cosmological linkage through spiritual relationships; linkage through religious or secular pilgrimages; narrative linkage through story-telling and naming the places. As can be seen, most of these factors mentioned here actually comprise wider scales than only individual place making and are common practices within the group of people.

The previous discussion clearly shows us why it is important to include various scales of place meanings into place attachment studies. Firstly, the process of attaching to places extends over various scales and cannot be understood as a very personal matter only. Secondly, places meanings are important part in attaching to place and place attachment can be better grasped when studying meanings than when researching quantitative factors. However it should be noted that there also exist conflicting views about the importance of place meanings in creating place attachment. Hernández et al. (2007) for instance, have suggested that place attachment must not always be connected with identity and meanings, referring to the situation when someone likes to live in a place and wants to remain there but does not feel that this place is a part of their identity. This case however has been named place dependence rather than attachment. Place dependence is used to refer to a situation when two places are compared with utilitarian perspectives in mind and having little emotional involvement (Smaldone et al., 2005).

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