Bodies and Structures


Place has multiple aspects. Yi-Fu Tuan (1979) describes them as “scene,” “status,” and “sense.” John Agnew uses “locale,” “location,” and “essence.” In both cases, the components reflect distinct meanings. As “scene/locale,” place refers to the material setting where lives are lived and social relations are constituted. “Location/status” refers to a place’s situation within a system of production/reproduction ("a spatially extensive division of labor") and a political order; location is thus "the effects upon locales of social and economic processes operating at wider scales"  (Agnew 1993, 262-263). Places can be located along production, supply, or migration chains; as units within legal and bureaucratic systems; as capitals or frontiers of nation-states or cores/peripheries of empires or regions; as “civilized” or “savage”; and so on. “Sense/essence,” meanwhile, speaks to the perceived, lived, and affective dimensions of place: where meaning is made. These meanings emerge from the interplay of subjectivity and structure. Place is ordered through power relations -- “normative landscapes” that prescribe “right behavior” for a place and ascribe to any person/thing a quality of being “in place” or “out of place” (Cresswell 1996) -- and contestations of those power relations (e.g., efforts by women, minorities, the disabled, colonial subjects, queer subjects, or others to achieve “visibility,” “get a place at the table,” or assert radically heterogeneous meanings of place).

Places are events (instantiations of space and time); they gather people, things, ideas, memories, etc. (Casey 1996Ethington 2007). Though place emerges from and entails the making of boundaries and has often been associated with fixedness in contrast to the mobility of space, it is constituted through both internal movements and movements that cross it (Cresswell 2014). As an evolving articulation of multiple flows and trajectories in space-time, it is hardly limited to the exclusionary, essentializing forms of identity that its “defenders” frequently champion (Massey 1994, 2005). At the same time, such ideological claims, often written into the physical landscape, continue to constitute important elements within deep/thick maps of places.

These varied definitions make clear that place can be both subjective and objective -- it is “between,” as J. Nicholas Entrikin (1991) puts it. Bodies and Structures uses place in all of these senses. It is not merely a point on a map (though it is also that). It can also be an affect, a relationship, and a site on a variety of scales. Users can explore place through its different components. We mark specific locales through geotagging (latitude and longitude) and specifying particular sites (e.g. Mitsukoshi Department Store in Tokyo's Nihonbashi neighborhood; "Osaka" -- though these are as much loci of meaning as neutral toponyms); page titles and/or URLs, etc.). Relative location appears in different ways for different modules, for example with pages that describe points within a given spatiality (e.g., as one point within a network of knowledge circulation or an itinerary of travel). Relative location also appears in the context of the Scalar architecture itself, as in the case of the place of a page within a given pathway or within a given tag (e.g., "Page 1 in XX Pathway"; a subtag of "Boundaries"). (Moreover, each page in Scalar becomes its own place, gathering things into new configurations of meaning and connection.) Individual modules also address essence or senses of place as historical representations of the authentic or essential character of places, which can then be compared across multiple historical contexts.

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