Where's Home?

Your Places

  1. Draw your map of Orlando/your home place. What's the first thing you think of including?

  2. Describe this place (the place you are currently in), using at least 10 "angles" (e.g., historical, cultural, material, etc.) Make sure to be clear about the angle you are using in each description.

  3. Describe this place from the point of view of people from different backgrounds or groups (e.g., white/non-white; wealthy/non-wealthy; young/old; consumer or marketer, disabled, etc.). What overlaps, and what does not?

  4. What does it take to make a place into home for you?

  5. Can you identify ways in which place has changed for you? For example, is your home town "not the same" anymore, and if that is the case, why? What has changed about it?

Good Places & Bad Places

  1. What is your favourite place? Why is it your favourite? How do you feel when you are there? How does the place contribute to your sense of well-being?

  2. What is the best place you can imagine? What makes it so good?

  3. If you could construct the good place, who would you include in it? Why these people, in particular?

  4. What is a bad or scary place to you? What "marks" it as such?

Boundaries & Centres

  1. Where is the boundary between "home" and "not home" -- in your house, in your town?

  2. Where is the boundary between "safe" and "unsafe"?

  3. Is there a difference between "border" towns and other places? What kind of places are they?

  4. What does it mean for a place to be at "the centre"? Are there places like this? Can you think of examples?

  5. If there are centres, there are peripheries -- what would be a periphery?

Directions and Place

  1. What is "the West"? What kind of place does "West" designate?

  2. What kind of place does "European" designate? What kind of place does "African" designate? Or, more to the point, where is Europe, and where is Africa?

  3. Where is the "North"? What does "north" connote?

Urban & Rural Places

  1. What is an "urban" place? What is a "rural" place? Where is the boundary?

  2. How is a city "coded" for progress? For being "run-down"? For being "old"? For being "European"?

  3. What is a "suburb"? What kind of life (dwelling) happens in suburbs?

  4. How are urban places organized? Is there a change in their organization over time? How does this change the place that they are (or is there a loss of place)?

Foreign Places

  1. What features of place signal to you that you are "not in Kansas anymore, Toto", that is, that you are in a foreign place?

  2. Have you ever felt at home in a place you hadn't been before? What was it that made the place feel that way?

Public & Private Places

  1. Which places do you consider "public"? What makes them public? What happens there?

  2. Which places are private?

  3. Which places seem to fall between public and private?

  4. Are there places which "shift" from one to another? That is, are public places privatized, or private places public-ized? How does this happen?

Place and Social Order

  1. In what ways do architecture, design and planning affect or influence your behaviour? Can you think of examples?

  2. How do places code the past? The future? Tradition? Innovation? The natural? The artificial?

  3. (How) Does the media code its presentation of place for the above issues? Does it code place for poverty? crime? Affluence? Desirability?

  4. How are places coded for inclusion or exclusion? That is, how does the design of a place make clear who is supposed to be there and who is not, and what is supposed to happen and what is not?

Mythical and Imaginary Place

  1. Compare the places represented in one of the Harry Potter movies to the places in Lord of the Rings. How do they differ? What do the places tell you about the kinds of things that happen there?

  2. Compare the places in Bladerunner to the projected image of a contemporary city such as New York.

  3. What kind of a place is Disneyland? What is it telling you about the world?

  4. What kind of places does Thomas Kinkade depict?

Non-Place & Loss of Place

  1. How can a place be emptied of place-ness? Can you think of examples of places that have become non-places?

  2. Is globalization the absence of place?

  3. Are virtual places (e.g., web-based communities, chat rooms, MUD-MOOs) actually places, or are they no-place?


The Point of All These Questions

Many of these questions are of great interest in the social sciences, such as planning, sociology, geography. But they can also be asked as phenomenological questions. What's phenomenology?


Phenomenology literally concerns itself with "what presents itself", or experience itself. The key to phenomenological research is to recognize two things:

1. We are not asking questions about some objective "thing" out there, unrelated to us. We're really asking about our experience of the world. This experience is not just subjective, in the sense of private, but since it is meaningful experience it is shared and understood by others. So, if you imagine that the traditional account of knowledge is like this:

Knower -- Known

Self -- World

then what we are doing is recognizing a middle term:

Knower -- experience -- Known

Self -- experience -- World

In this case, then, we are asking about "home" or "dwelling". We are not asking about my "self", apart from my experience of the world, and we are not asking about a world, apart from my experience of it, because we never have either of those. We always know the self through ourself doing something, knowing something, acting in some way. And we always know the world as experienced, not "in itself", or apart from human experience. So, the point is to face up to the only thing we have available to us, which is our experience.


2. We "get at" this middle term of experience by
putting aside our assumptions about the two terms at the poles. We assume that we know something about ourselves - but how do we know that? Through our experience of ourselves. We assume we know our world - but we wouldn't, unless we had experience of it. We end up making assumptions about the nature of the self and the world, giving them qualities, when in fact we don't really know if they have them or not. You think the world out there really exists? Watch the Matrix - it is at least possible that it is just impulses in your brain. You think you know yourself? Haven't you "discovered" things you didn't know about yourself? Haven't you been wrong about yourself? How well do you really know yourself?