Placeness and Place: A Brief Introduction to the Website


An artist’s house in Ellensburg, Washington

I understand placeness to mean everything that has to do with places and the concept of place. Various online sources define it as “the quality of being a place” and I have seen it used to mean something like “the quality of coming from a place.” The 1989 Oxford English Dictionary claims that “placeness” is rare, and defines it briefly as the quality of having or occupying a place. My view is that the suffix ‘ness’ means ‘a state or condition,’ so for me placeness is a conveniently broad term that allows me to consider everything to do with the diverse qualities, interpretations, uses and experiences of place, from place cells in the hippocampus to a global sense of place.

This website is meant to be a sort of mini-encyclopedia about place as a concept that relates to being somewhere, to here, there, elsewhere, home, roots and rootlessness, disembedding, placemaking, placelessness, branding, and dwelling. I am not interested in place as the word is used for place values in mathematics, nor the idea of someone’s place in the social order, nor in placing bets.

Navigation around Placeness
The menu at the right of the page lists my most recent posts. The menu at the top of the page shows the fixed and mostly unchanging items. It is mostly background except for the Table of Contents that I update as I add posts. This also has a list of topics I intend to cover. If something isn’t in the list of recent posts check the Table of Contents or the search window.

The Numerous and Difficult to Arrange Meanings of Place
The 1989 Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary prefaces the entry for place with a comment that its “…senses are very numerous and difficult to arrange,” and then provides 69 entries arranged in 29 categories. These 69 entries fail to capture almost all of the ideas involved in the discussions about place that have occurred since the 1970s in, to my certain knowledge, the following academic disciplines: • geography • anthropology • sociology • architecture • landscape architecture • urban design • ecology • neuroscience • planning • business • marketing • English literature • nursing • history • psychiatry • political science • art and art criticism • archaeology • media studies • feminist studies • GIS • cultural theory • theology • psychology • and philosophy.

In 1976, when few discussions about place had been published,  I wrote in Place and Placelessness (p.141) that: “Our relationships with places are as necessary, varied, and sometimes perhaps just as unpleasant as our relationships with other people.” In this website I want to summarize what has since been written and established about these relationships. I will aim for breadth rather than depth, and I hope to expand on those 69 entries in the OED by paying attention to discussions about place in as many disciplines as I can. I will try to keep most of the entries brief, a thousand words or so plus a few pictures, not least because I expect there could be a hundred or more of them. I’ll try to add one every couple of weeks or so until I run out of steam.


I’ve seen versions of this in various places. This one was in a bakery years ago in Victoria BC. I liked the calligraphy.

I have developed a habit of taking photographs or screen captures whenever I come upon a sign, headline, logo, or advertisement where the word place is used (like the one above of a house in Ellensburg, and the poster which was in a bakery in British Columbia about 1980 on the left). I will use these images wherever I think they are appropriate and because website without images can be tedious. I identify the source if the image is not mine.

I describe my qualifications for writing about placeness and place, including the places where I have lived, in the entry A Place-Related Autobiography and My Publications.


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