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Community and Place-Making in the 21st Century

Posted By Mallika Bose, Ph.D., Monday, October 17, 2016

Person-environment interactions/transactions in the context of daily life is at the core of Environment-Behavior Studies. So it is not surprising that place-making and community feature prominently in the work of our members. In the past three decades we have witnessed rapid shifts in technology that has profoundly changed the way we structure our daily lives. These changes prompted some to lament the demise of the importance of place. However experience and research illustrates that space and place continue to matter! It is perhaps the way in which place matters has/is changing, morphing and transforming.

We are increasingly living in hybrid and polyfuctional environments with overlapping and shifting home/work/recreation environments. Nowadays it is natural to bring work home (comingling of home and work environments), to fire up the laptop in a coffee shop (blurring of social/recreational and work environments), to buy tickets to an event online while at office (engaging in private activities in the workplace), or chat with friends hundreds or even thousands of miles away on our Smartphone while waiting in a grocery store checkout line (leading to blurring or compression of distance). 

Moreover, as a result of technological changes we are bombarded by information incessantly, prompted to multi-task and lead increasingly fractured lives. Technological innovations like the World Wide Web, video and online games, e-mail, social media, and virtual worlds are isolating some on one hand, while facilitating connectedness between others on the other. We are spending more time interacting with a screen/digital interface rather than engaging in physical activity and face-to-face social interaction with others. How are these innovations changing our sense of community and the process of place-making? What are the relationships between people and their environments, both real and virtual, in the 21st century? How can we assess the impact of the fluid, shifting boundaries of communities of interest on people’s lives? What are the appropriate tools to examine and understand the impact of these changes? These are important questions that will provide insight into the problems of the 21st century. These are also questions at the heart of Environment-Behavior Studies, underscoring the importance of our field to understand current concerns.  

As Environment-Behavior practitioners and researchers, we are uniquely positioned to explore and extend our understanding of these issues. I look forward to the exciting work of our members on these issues, and invite those who are interested in these issues but not yet EDRA members to join our organization or attend our annual conference in Providence, Rhode Island, this May.

Tags:  Ph.D. 

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