Changing Spaces, Making Places


Place Definition

Places are multi-faceted, shaped by shifting flow and connections which change over time.

Characteristics that contribute to place identity include:

  • Physical Geography - e.g. altitude, aspect and drainage.
  • Demography - the number of inhabitants, their age, gender and ethnicity.
  • Socio-Economic Factors - e.g. employment types, education.
  • Cultural Factors - e.g. religion, traditions.
  • Political Factors - e.g. government at the local, regional and national level.
  • Built Environment - e.g. age and style of buildings, building material.
  • History - e.g. landmarks, historical buildings.
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Problems with Defining Place

Place is a key term in geography. It can be seen as a location on a map or more broadly as a description of human and physical characteristics. There are three concepts of a place:

  • Location = where are place is, e.g. coordinates on a map. OBJECTIVE.
  • Locale = a place is shaped by the people, cultures and customs within it. OBJECTIVE.
  • Sense of Place = developed through experience, it reflects emotional and subjective attachment. SUBJECTIVE.

Why people percieve places in different ways:

  • Age - perceptions change as people move through their 'life cycle' and get older. Perceptions change when people revisit a place as the place may have changed significantly overtime.
  • Gender - people can be described as being male or female, which can reflect a society's view of male and female roles.
  • Sexuality - some places acquire a specific meaning because they are places where people of different sexual orientations cluster.
  • Religion - religious and spiritual meanings have been assigned to specific locations for many years. Locations have religious meaning through buildings.
  • Role - individuals perform a variety of different roles at different times. Our role at any one time can influence our perceptions of a place.
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Emotional Attachment and Place Perception

Memory is a very individual and personal thing. There are positive and negative, short and long-term memories. Emotional attachments to places can form through memory and feelings about a place for a variety of reasons: childhood, sporting achievements, milestones in a person's life cycle, national identity. This will in turn affect an individual's behaviour in a specific place.

Globalisation is the growing interdependence of countries through increasing global transactions of goods and services: increasing flows of information, labour and capital: and the widespread transfer of technology. The term 'global village' has been used to convey the compression. Many believe that this has given rise to a new geographical era of 'placelessness', where global capitalism has eroded local culture and localised identities. For example, the global spread of retail chains and TNCs, such as McDonalds and Costa Coffee means that city centres across the world have common elements.

Some people feel a sense of dislocation due to the impacts of time-space compression. This view has given rise to the idea of gloccalisation- a response to globalisation that centres on the promotion of local goods and services and the adaptation of global products to the specific locality in an effort to regain local cultures and identities.

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Informal and Formal Representations of a Place

  • Informal ways of representing place: TV, film, music, art, photography, literature, graffiti, blogs.
  • Formal ways of representing place: census data, statistics, geo-spatial data, maps.

Social Inequality:

Social inequality is when unequal opportunities or rewards exist for people of different social status or position. When social inequalities lead to substantial differences between groups of people the term deprivation is used. Multiple deprivation is the 'lagging behind' of members of society in a number of related aspects of life. It's a social situation that cyclical in nature and therefore very difficult to break out of.

  • Poverty (low wages or unemployment) > Poor living conditions (poor accomodation, overcrowding, run-down area) > Ill-health (stress and strain) > Poor education (old schools) > Poor skills (poor occupational skills) > Poverty...

The Index of Multiple Deprivation is used my the UK government to spatially assess levels of deprivation. It combines several factors: income, employment, health, education, crime, access to housing and services and living environment.

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Measures of Social Inequality

  • Income- purchasing power parity (PPP): the World Bank's definition of absolute poverty is £1.25/day PPP. The use of PPP allows global comparisons to be made between countries as costs vary considerably from one country to another.
  • Housing: housing tenure is an important indicator of social inequality. Figures are often based on different types of housing tenure. Tenure may be owner-occupied,usually through borrowing in the form of a mortgage; charities and housing associations provide housing; housing can be rented; squatter settlements refer to places where people have no legal right to the land they occupy.
  • Education: formal education through, for example, schools and colleges, and informal education through skill acquisition. Literacy levels is the most commonly used measure of inequality in education, particularly between countries.
  • Health Care: access to health care and levels of ill-health are closely associated with social inequality. Measures used for the comparison of health care include doctor-to-patient ratios. Within a country, measures such as 'the postcode lottery' can be used- this relates health care provision to where you live.
  • Employment: this has a direct impact on levels of income, SOL and QOL. Wages vary significantly across different forms of employment and informal employment is also an important consideration in LIDCs and EDCs. 
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Spatial Patterns and Social Inequality

  • Wealth - influences wellbeing and QOL; low incomes are linked to factors such as ill-health and poor access to services. Qualifications and skills enable an individual to raise their income level and improve their QOL. Disposable income is an important factor also.
  • Housing - income affects housing choices. In LIDCs and EDCs millions have no choice but to occupy in slum dwellings. Homelessness is a growing problem in ACs; an additional problem is when house prices rise at a faster rate than wages. This can lead to a shortage of affordable housing at the lower end of the market.
  • Health - there is a clear link between deprivation and ill-health. Contributing factors include poor diet, sub-standard housing and stress. Health care varies spatially and access to services can be a problem for certain groups in societies, e.g. the elderly, and in certain areas, e.g. remote rural areas.
  • Education - achieveing universal primary education was one of the Millenium Development Goals and many governments invest in education to boost employment and raise living standards. Access to education can be a problem in some areas, e.g. remote rural areas in LIDCs.
  • Access to Services - there are wide variation in access to services between countries at varying levels of economic development. Measures include number of doctors per 1000 people. At a national scale, there are also differences between regions, within regions and between urban and rural areas. All types of services should be considered, not just health services: for example, in the UK there is a 'digital divide', reflecting varying levels of access to the internet.
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Globalisation and Economic Change

Globalisation has led to an increased interconnectedness of the world. This has led to considerable economic change:

  • TNCs have a key role in driving economic change and impact the lives of billions of people.
  • The global shift refers to change in manufacturing areas from western Europe and North America to NICs (newly industrialised countries) in East Asia and Latin America.
  • ACs have been transformed into post-industrial societies in which there are high levels of employment in the tertiary and quaternary sectors.

Many ACs have undergone a process of deindustrialisation when they lost a competitive advantage in manfacturing sectors. In the 1970s, economies and societies were transformed by this process. It triggered a viscious circle of decay, leading to multiple deprivation in many urban areas.

Declining job opportunities> rising unemployment> decline in services> physical environment and infrastucture deteriorates> economically active ppl move away> declining tax base> increasing decay> loss of investment confidence> declining jobs>...

This circle of decay is also referred to as the downward multiplier effect. A reversal may take place with positive impacts of investment and job creation- the upward multiplier effect.

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Impacts of Economic Change


  • Positive Impacts = cheaper imports of all relatively labour-intensive products can keep cost of living down and lead to a buoyant retailing sector. Greater efficiency apparent in surviving outlets - this can release labour for higher  productivity sectors (this assumes low unemployment). Growth in LIDCs may lead to demand for exports from ACs. Promotion of labour market flexibility and efficiency, with greater worker mobility to areas with relative scarcities of labour, should be good for the country. Greater industrial efficiency should lead to development of new technologies and promotion of entrepreneurship, and should attract foreign investment. Loss of mining and manufacturing industries can lead to improved environmental quality.
  • Negative Impacts = rising job exports lead to inevitable job losses: competition-driven changes in technology add to this. Job losses often affect unskilled workers. Big gaps develop between skilled and unskilled workers who may experience extreme redeployment differences. Employment gains from new efficiencies will only occur if industrialised countries can keep their wage demands down. Job losses are invariably concentrated in certain areas and certain industries: this can lead to deindustrialisation and structural unemployment in certain regions. Branch plants are particularly vulnerable as in times of economic recession they are first to close, often with large numbers of job losses.
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Impacts of Economic Change

EDCs and LIDCs:

  • Positive Impacts - higher export-generated income promotes export-led growth - thus promoting investment in productive capacity, potentially leading to positive multiplier effect. Can trickle down to local areas with many highly paid jobs. Can reduce negative trade balances. Can lead to exposure to new technology, improvement of skills and labour productivity. Employment growth in relatively labour-intensive manufacturing spreads wealth, and does redress global injustice (development gap).
  • Negative Impacts - unlikely to decrease inequality as jobs tend to be concentrated in core regions of urban areas: may promote in-migration. Disruptive social impacts, e.g.  role of TNCs potentially exploitive and may lead to sweatshops; also, branch plants may move on in LIDCs too, leading to instability (e.g. in the Philippines). Can lead to overdependence on a narrow economic base. Can destabilise food supplies, as people give up agriculture. Environmental issues associated with over-rapid industrialisation. Health and safety issues because of tax legislation.

Cyclical Economic Change - Economies of places at any scale are dynamic and not static. Economic booms and recessions impact ppl and places in many different ways. During a recession, ppl's spending power is reduced, they make cutbacks and a range of services and retail activities will be impacted. Job losses can activate downward multiplier effect. In a time of economic boom, core regions will develop a positive multiplier effect.

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Roles of Players

Governments operate at both the national, regional and local scale within a country. In the UK there are national, county, city and parish councils. There are also trans-national levels of government, e.g. EU. Social inequality can be governed through the following:

  • Taxation, e.g. higher income tax for high earners.
  • Subsidies, e.g. free school meals.
  • Planning, e.g. upgrading of council housing.
  • Education, e.g. training programmes or health initiatives. 

Players (or stakeholders) are individuals, groups of people or formal organisations who can influence the process of change; some have more influence than others. Public players include government at the national and local scale, while private players include TNCs; there are also non-government organisations to be considered.

Placemaking - is an approach to the planning, design and management of public spaces. It is a creative and collaborative process that includes design, development, renewal and regeneration of places. The outcome should be sustainable, well-designed places which meet communities' needs and improve their QOL.

Placemaking is now an important part of government from national level to local. One example is attracting foreign direct investment (FDI). TNCs invest in ACs, e.g. operations of Barclays and Sony; however. increasingly, TNCs from LIDCs and EDCs are spreading their influence regionally and globally. Have a significant impact on the placemaking process.

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  • Architecture makes a significant impact on placemaking through the design of individual buildings. Local authorities in the UK develop a Local Plan which has a strategy for new building and developments under the guidance of the Royal Town Planning Institute.
  • Building design can create positive and/or negative feelings, e.g. negative attitudes towards residential tower blocks built in 1960s and positive attitudes towards low-density housing areas with green spaces.
  • Local communities have a considerable influence in shaping places through, for example, residents' associations with a concern for housing and the environment, or heritage associations which are active in placemaking that focuses on the protection of historical architecture. 

Rebranding - All places have an image that affects people's perception of that place. Many places compete for investment- if a place has a negative image or brand (its popular image) then it may need to rebrand in order to become successful. Key elements of rebranding:

  • Brand = The city (and/or an area within the city)
  • Brand Artefact = The physical environment; either create a new environment, reuse the existing environment or remove the old environment.
  • Brand Essence = People's experience of the brand; living in the city, working in the city, visiting the city or talking about the city.
  • Brandscape = Comparison with other competitor cities; local, regional, national and international.
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Management of Place Perception

  • Reimaging - disassociates a place from a bad pre-existing images in relation to poor housing, social deprivation, high levels of crime, environmental pollution and industrial dereliction. It can then attract new investment, retailing, tourists and residents.
  • Rebranding - is the way in which a place is redeveloped and marketed so that it gains a new identity. It can then attract new investment, retailing, tourists and residents. It may involve both reimaging and regeneration.
  • Regeneration - is a long-term process involving redevelopment and the use of social, economic and environmental action to reverse urban decline and create sustainable communities.

Types of strategy used to rebrand a place include:

  • Market-led: involving private investors seeking to make a profit.
  • Top-down: involves large-scale organisations, e.g. planning departments of local authorities and development agencies.
  • Flagship development: large-scale property projects which aim to act as a catalyst for further investment.
  • Legacy: following an international or high-profile sporting event that brought investment and regeneration to a place.
  • Events or themes: major events that often focus on cultural development.

Various distinctive elements are involved in the rebranding process. These include architecture, heritage, retail, art and sport.

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Players and Placemaking

Key players are often those involved in providing the funding for rebranding. These may include:

  • governments at various scales (local councils, national governments and regional government organisations such as the EU's European Regional Development Fund).
  • corporate bodies (banks, insurance companies and development companies).
  • non-profit-making organisations (the National Trust, local community groups).

Views on rebranding may include the following:

  • Negative views of local residents because of gentrification. Gentrification often leads to wealthier people moving into an area. As a result, not only does the socio-economic nature of the local population change but also the provision of services, such as corner shops being replaces by restaurants and wine bars. Local house prices will also increase, forcing some local residents out of the property market.
  • Resentment as one group is favoured by rebranding. Some retail developments suit a more affluent visitor rather than those living in close proximity where there is less affluence and a need for a different range of facilities, e.g. Liverpool One, a large retail centre in inner-city Liverpool.
  • Negative attitudes regarding the focus of spending. In times of economic recession, when financial resources are stretched, an expensive retail investment may not be seen as worthwhile at a time when people are cutting back on spending.
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