How place shapes us

I wrote a few days ago about how much of the time our actions – and our whole style of relating – are drawn out of us by what we’re around. The word I introduced to describe the things which draw us into action, “affordances, comes from the work of Martin Heidegger.

I pointed out then how physical environments and all the equipment that comes with them are affordances in this way. Being in the kitchen among the pots and pans and cutlery, or in an office with its desks and computers, in a nightclub with its lighting and bar and dance floor, or in a football stadium or on the side of a mountain each elicits from us a whole style of relating and interacting, as well as certain actions we take without having to think about them. We simply find ourselves acting in whatever way meets the situation before we’ve framed a conscious thought.

This is so important to see, because it can begin to show how much the places you spend your time in shape who you are as a person, and your ordinary, everyday, habitual comfortable reactions to everything. You’re constantly being drawn into ways of acting and relating by all of it, and over time this has a huge effect. 

What kind of person do you become, do you think, if you spend all of your time in the built environments of train, car, plane and office? Or if you spend all of your time outdoors? What kind of person is your home shaping you to be? Or the local shopping mall?

You and others really are not so separate from the places you’re in as you might have come to believe.

Photo Credit: cropped from an image by Bérenger ZYLA via Compfight cc

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