Spatial Disconnect and Sense of Place

While working on my masters thesis I discovered the concept of ‘sense of place’ and that discovery was one of the reasons I became such a geography nerd. That and the fact that the concept was accredited to a geographer with a cool name – Yi Fu Tuan. Most simply the concept refers to the fact that we are shaped and influenced by the places in which we live.  One does not often realize how much they are affected by place until they travel.  That’s when people visiting California learn that we don’t all surf, and Californian’s learn that New York City is only one tiny piece of New York state, and that most of New York state is like most of California – rural and agricultural.

I started thinking about sense of place again while reading my California Geography text book in which the author introduces the concept of spatial disconnect. This concept refers to people being willing to work in a densely populated urban area but live in a suburb.  People escape the congested crowded neighborhoods of large urban areas via long commutes to take advantage of the open spaces, public parks and possibility of a private back yard in the suburbs.  This of course creates it’s own issues in the suburbs, eventually making them more urban; but that subject is for another time.

Since I am one of the many who live in a different place than I work (though I actually travel between two suburbs) and am therefore spatially disconnected, I began to wonder how that effects my sense of place.  In which place am I more vested? More rooted? Or, am I simply transient? This got me thinking about spatial disconnect at different scales.

Locally I live here:



Regionally I teach here:


have colleagues that live here





and here



Additionally I have good friends that live here



San Diego


and here.

Los Angeles

Nationally I have friends here



and here:



Globally I have friends here:


Though we keep in touch through this fancy thing called the interweb it brings the concept of spatial disconnect to a whole new level for me.  I mean it’s really tough to call up my friends and colleagues and say, “Hey let’s go for a beer”, or “C’mon over, let’s grill something” when there’s so much space between us.  On the other hand, it does provide excuses for travel!




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