Graduation Year

2016

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Degree Granting Department

Sociology

Major Professor

Margarethe Kusenbach, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Donileen Loseke, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Elizabeth Strom, Ph.D.

Keywords

built environment, emotion, meaning, place, social construction

Abstract

Place is a setting for everyday life. Through processes of meaning making that are rooted in experience and interaction, places become meaningful and structure much of everyday life. Place is simultaneously a physical construction that gives it material form. Place is an object that is envisioned, designed, organized, redesigned, and reorganized. Often, the (re)creation of places is entrusted to professional placemakers, a population with decision making power over processes of physical construction. This research broadly identifies professional placemakers as a population whose professional work can affect change onto the built environment. The literature of place attachment provides strong testimony to the meaningful relationships that people have to built environments and physical forms. For example, the meanings and emotions that residents and stakeholders attach to their homes, neighborhoods, cities, and communities. Professional placemakers hold a degree of power over the built environment and can drastically transform the attachments that people have to place. This research explores the interaction of the social and physical construction of place by considering how placemakers socially construct places in their professional work of physically constructing sites. I ask: how do professional placemakers form emotional bonds to the places they work to (re)create? And, what do those places mean to them? Primary data analysis of eight in-depth interviews with professional placemakers reveal that placemakers socially construct places they work to (re)create in different ways. The data revealed two interacting themes – ‘for the people’ and pride. Further analysis concluded that some professional placemakers see place as a social territory that is unique with history, people, and problems; while others see place as a piece of the built environment that is the successful product of their professional work. While this research underscores the saliency of place attachment across populations by addressing a gap in the literature, these findings have implications for the professional field of placemaking in general. If placemakers are varied in the ways they socially construct the places they are charged to (re)create, what are the consequences for the places on which they work and the people who will live, work, or play in those places?

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Sociology Commons

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