Friday, August 23, 2013


The concept of "place" is something that really interests me.  I've spent a lot of time poring over maps and programming GPS/GIS routines just for fun… that's how much I like the subject.  But it goes deeper than this.

When man first started to migrate away from wherever it is that we started off from in Africa, we lived a very nomadic existence.  It wasn't until we started agriculture some 10,000 years ago that we then finally stopped moving about quite so much….  and therefore we stayed in one place. 

The problem with staying in one place is you now have a whole new set of rules and etiquettes to have to contend with if you're all going to get along as a community, that you didn't have to deal with when you were all just a pack of people roaming about.  For the first time, you have territories, for instance.

The problem with staying in one place is that place then starts to define you.  If you're too far away from other places, you lose a transfer of knowledge from other communities.  Anything that's too far on a horse becomes out of reach from a practical sense.  When you think like this, you realise that even until the early 1800s, the "horse day" was still a major stumbling block for people.  In modern times, when people first meet, one of the first questions people ask is "Where are you from?"… This idea of place is still used to identify people.  

Consider now that the TAT-1 Trans-Atlantic Telephone cable was laid in 1956 (carried 36 calls at a time) and the TPC-1 (Trans-Pacific Cable) in 1964.  This is a little more recent than most people think of history.  The satellite Telstar didn't go up until 1962.  

Right now, some 5 billion people have phones and most don't actually care where you are when they want to phone you.  They just know that they can reach your phone within about 5 seconds if you're standing a mile away, or about 7 seconds if you're on the other side of the earth.  Now, if anyone can talk to anyone anywhere then communication increases.  Given the human nature of communication, we share a lot of information.  

Now ask yourself what that does to your sense of place?  Do you feel you need to protect it as part of your identity?  Do you feel it's irrelevant?

This is why it interests me so much.