their local place. Yet they may shape a place-based sense of identity none-theless—for example, the idea that one’s community is part of a political district charged with making meaningful decisions about resource allocation and distribution or that it is part of a bioregion and its watershed.
Simultaneous Occupancy of Places at Different Scales. People simultaneously inhabit a variety of places at different scales. One can be resident of a neighborhood, a city, a region—all are places in which the resident interacts with others and with the natural environment.
Time-Geography and Place-Scale Definition. A useful way to visualize the hierarchy of places is to consider individual activity spaces or time-space prisms. For most people, there exists a limited number of everyday interactions with other people or features of the natural environment that occur in specific settings or nodes. Several sorts of constraints—coupling (travel destination and time of day), capacity (velocity and flexibility of transport), and capability (ability to navigate through the place)—typically delimit the spatial distribution of these nodes, thereby constituting the outer envelope of an individual’s place-based community. Most people, however, have less frequent but more distant nodes in their social networks, and these may define their larger-scale places (such as region or state).
Sense of Place. Over time, places develop a “sense of place” for residents (as well as visitors) that stems from history, geography, and contemporary place in the larger world. This sense of place shapes residents’ personal identities and degree of “rootedness” in that particular place.
Reading and Using Places. People use the physical features of a place to “read” or understand its design and to navigate the place effectively. Basic physical features include nodes, paths, edges, districts, and landmarks. Such elements can be features of the natural environment (e.g., a hill as a landmark) or the built environment (e.g., a shopping mall as a node). Often such features acquire their role in place legibility slowly over time and as a function of utilization patterns.
Place and Community. Place is not the same as community, since a community (of interest, of shared identity) can exist without propinquity, or nearness, among its members. A modern example might be a group of researchers or enthusiasts who communicate via the Internet. Commu