Working from home today whilst I stay with the HRH, who was tossing her royal cookies all night, and is continuing the tossage into today.
Which has got me thinking about a concept I picked up watching the special features for You’ve Got Mail: “the third place.” According to wikipedia, The Third Place is a term used in the concept of community building to refer to social surroundings separate from the two usual social environments of home and the workplace. In his influential book The Great, Good Place, Ray Oldenburg argues that third places are important for civil society, democracy, civic engagement, and establishing feelings of a sense of place. Michael Krassa argues along similar lines, looking at neighborhood design, social network formation, and civic involvement.
In the special features of You’ve Got Mail, Nora Ephron talks about how Starbucks is a Third Place (in fact, upon further research, that’s actually part of Starbuck’s marketing plan). The Central Perk in the television show Friends is another good example of a third place.
In October of last year, USA Today presented an article on telecommuting saying that most people who telecommute do so, not from home, but from a “third place” because working from home is too lonely. This is similar to what J.K. Rowling has said on her website about preferring to write in coffeeshops. (It’s fairly well-known among fans that most of the Harry Potter books have been written longhand in Edinburgh cafes.)
I have a couple of different third places, myself. (Question: does that make them fourth and fifth places?) I like the Hob Knobb, although it’s a bit out of my way nowadays. I’m also very partial to Bean Street Cafe, which IS very convenient (plus the chairs are very comfortable and I always manage to snag the one right next to the electrical outlet and the fireplace–my laptop battery is fried.) While attending Sojourn, I’ve heard good things about Sunergos, and one of these days I swear we’re going to leave the house early enough on Sunday morning to hit Ermin’s bakery.
And while it’s not as highbrow as the others, I like hanging out at Waffle House. They don’t hassle you for just being there for a while. And since I write longhand a lot too, the fact that they don’t usually have electrical outlets and wi-fi isn’t as big a deal to me. The smell of waffles and hashbrowns more than makes up for a lack of connectivity for me.
So what’s your third place? Do you have one? Do you want one? Do you think the urban sociologists are right, and that third places are important in building a sense of community? What place, if any, does the church have in being/promoting third places?