Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Non-Place (Augé II)

Local and localized are merely a nineteenth century manifestation of what Marc Augé calls supermodernity: the perceived acceleration of time, the perceived shrinking of space, and the direct attention given to the consumers as individual has undermined understanding of place. Into the flux moves non-place:
spaces of circulation, distribution, and communication where neither identity, relation, or history may be apprehended.
Supermodernity causes a number of excesses. Time moves so quickly that it is difficult to get one’s bearings in history. Distance is so easily surmounted that one loses the sense that territoriality and space have any reality. And the individual becomes the point of reference for the distribution of information–what I want to hear, what my opinion is, what type of news satisfies my curiosity–and not that of culture or the group .

The individual loses solid symbols that helped him or her to belong to the community. Instead, there are references (allusions?) that are not specific to any community–in fact, they can be applied to all communities. Writing these thoughts in the early 1990s, Augé probably did not realize how quickly the conditions of supermodernity would spread. His ideal of supermodernity was the global city–clearly anywhere can experience the same malaise through the internet.
The paradox supermodernity culminates in non-places, where one is neither [at home] or [with the others.]

Non-place substitutes for place in our spatial perceptions. We are neither at home or completely alien.

Despite the loss of place, individuals strive to recreate feelings of community and interconnection. Furthermore, they must strive to invented a sense of place and community where it does not exist and believe in its permanence.
This is the price of survival ... they [the invented places] are minimal forms of localization–we might call it emergency localization ... we must keep in mind that, in this context more than elsewhere, what is temporary is lived as if it were definitive.

This is a bleak vision of nomad identities for a world that is still largely sedentary. However, I must bring this back to regionalism. The community–the local, as Augé calls it–was never the sole place from which we gained out spatial perceptions. Place is not where identity exists. While place is where our expectations of the world are formed, any place is also a meeting ground for conflicting identities. Furthermore, I sense of place is not limited to our horizon. Our perceptions always extend beyond the visible landscape in order to see spaces that are kind of like our own. Our regional perceptions are not affected by supermodernity in the same way as our sense of place.


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