Friday, June 03, 2005

Third Places - Part 1 - Neutral Ground

Ray Oldenburg wrote The Great Good Place, a book detailing the dearth of and need for what he calls "Third Places". The first place is home (where you are most comfortable and spend the majority of your time), the second place is work (where you spend the next largest portion of your time), the third place is where you go when you aren't at home or work. Third places are almost non-existant in the suburbanized city. Zoning laws prevent any local communal gathering place. One must get in their car and travel to such a spot, and that very fact removes that spot from the community and prevents it from having 'regulars' who get to know one another.

The first charecteristic of a Third Place is that it is Neutral Ground. No one is in charge, no one is the host, no one is the guest. The most important aspect of neutral ground is that it affords friends a way to spend time together without becomming "uncomfortably tangled in one another's lives." Having a neutral ground allows friends to come together and leave each other with ease. You don't have to invite people over for dinner just to talk to them. Oldenburg says, "we need a good deal of immunity from those whose company we like best."

This makes a lot of sense to me. I was puzzled why my friendships seemed to dwindle after moving off of my college campus - now I know. On campus I could just see someone in the Student Center or the dorm loby and hanging out would ensue (I remember the nightly Simpsons viewing - always a different crew, always regulars). But moving off campus meant that friends now have to either come over (a commitment to being on my turf) or they have to invite me over (a commitment to be a host). The number of people who are willing to do that is much smaller than the number willing to engage in light conversation durring the comercials of a Simpsons episode or to play a game of pool while we wait for dinner.

Do you have a third place? Where? What's it like?
Do you want a third place? Why? Where would you go?

14 comments:

Tim Lewis said...

Mmm....Simpsons regulars...

Tim Lewis said...

On a more serious note, we have most of our planning meetings in coffee shops, to be interrupted by pre-Christians. I don't think that's what you're talking about though.

You are speaking about places where we can all get together and feel comfortable being ourselves (or at least more ourselves than we would in someone's home or in a church building). After our Summit coffee house we have regularly gone to a restaurant or coffee shop where we can sit and eat and talk and just hang out.

Perhaps the trick is to somehow change our living spaces into third places. I have no idea how that would work, but with a big screen tv, a coffee pot, and a barbecue it should be somewhat doable.

James Wood said...

The problem with trying to use our living space as a third place is that, at the end of the day, it is still ours. That means that anyone else who shows up is on our turf and ultimately has to answer to our rules. There is no neutrality in such a set-up.

Tim Lewis said...

Unless...you have no rules!

tabitha jane said...

for me it could be a coffee shop, restaraunt, stroll downtown, or in a park . . .
i am taking classes again, so my classmates and i are sort of in a "third place" if you don't count the presence of a teacher/authority figure.
good questions . . . good points . . . i'll have to think about it some more.

i like the woods' family!

tabitha jane said...

take the apostrophe off the end of woods if you will . . . i meant to say i like the woods! as in the plural of a singular wood. in reference to the both of you.

or if you will, y'all.

James Wood said...

Thanks for the correction - my fists were clenched in rage. Good thing I had a stress ball - that thing just saved your life.

Tim Lewis said...

Vision...blurring...rage...taking..over...

Breanna said...

blogs with purpose.
well done james (and i pronounced it "ha-may" because i heard that on tv once and thought it was politically correct.)

If i could create the ideal third place, it would be a spa. but a spa that is free, but still awesome. and, although Tabitha is well on her way to becoming the fabulousest masseus ever, she can't be employed there, because then it wouldn't be third for her.
but seriously, how awesome to have a third place where you can get a massage or a facial...mmm...

James (again, Ha-may) i appreciate you.

James Wood said...

Breanna (Bree-may), that would be a wicked awesome place to chill. When you want to relax after work you can really relax.

Tim, thanks for catching the reference.

tabitha jane said...

mostly i love that movie.


i am a ticking time bomb of fury.

Tim Lewis said...

There were several copies of the DVD in the $5.50 bin at Wal-mart here in Salem. I couldn't believe it.

tabitha jane said...

get me one! i'll pay you back!!!


please?

Tim Lewis said...

I'll go back tomorrow (thursday) and see if they have any left. You never know when you might come across someone who needs a copy! Then we'll just have to figure out how to get it to you.