Space, Places, and Non-Places

Space, Places, and Non-Places


Contemporary life and the interconnectedness of people and cultures has led to changes in the way people view living. As a result, Marc Auge (1995) argues that the modern life is an endless procession through a transitioning space where place is getting replaced by non-place, a meaningless and empty environment where people pass in solitude. With modernism, globalization, and the interconnectedness afforded by technological advancements, people are now forced to spend a god portion of their time in empty spaces characterized by a lack of connection for example in impersonal places, soulless engagements, and automated processes. People spend a lot of time in airports, on their computes looking at the lives of strangers, in traffic on motorways, in their cars, on their phones, or watching fake reality shows on TV. According to Auge (1995), these non-places have invaded modern life, replacing the old connection and interactions between people and their spaces with the notable emptiness. Place and space are the pillars of social life, elements that have been replaced by uniformity of a bureaucratic manner without organic engagements with each other as argued by Auge (1995). Ultimately, the space between places determines social life and the creation of non-space through modernity has changed how people view life or even how they enjoy or spend it in a manner that may denote happiness.

Explanation of the Reading

In my perspective, Auge’s standpoint is valid to an extent that people no longer have value for meaningful space, including time spent doing tasks, conversations, interactions, and lifestyles (1995). A significant part of the modern person’s life is spent outside of the things that can be classified as personal. These elements are all labeled as non-space, meaning all of the things that alter the human awareness of their surroundings. Today, people see such empty engagements as normal. Individuals perceive spending all of their time in supermarkets or watching TV or interacting virtually via a computer and other actions or inactions as living. According to Auge, people should seek more meaningful interactions with other people and the environment, live in the moment, enjoy expressive engagements, and perceive such old-fashioned reasoning as the required normal for humans (1995). Instead, we are all nor living life in a partial and incoherent style, driven by the need to maintain a status quo and not to step out of societal expectations. Supermodernity has therefore destroyed space in an effort to expand it using time limits and more space. More space and more information has created a new realm of non-spaces.

The idea of space and place simply means that the distance between interactions and what we have is significantly reduced to facilitate a creative social life. Space, when reduced allows people to live and interact with others. At the same time, excess space creates non-places, where people are linked to a uniform system that discourages organic social life. Auge (1995) differs from other theories that discuss space and supermodernity in that he does not see the connection between new and old systems of life. For example, according to Davidson (2003), the new and the old are interwoven in a way that modernity flows from traditional structures of life. However, Auge’s argument is based on the premise that supermodernity displays a self-contained structure of living. Excess space has led to the creation of non-places where individuals are increasingly spending more time in solitude than in social groups. My take from Auge’s assertions is that people are now in a period of transition where profound shift from awareness is evident in the way people live, carry out day to day activities, and interact (or fail to) with others within their spaces.

Auge is convinced that the excess space that supermodernity has imposed on people is depressing and miserable (1995). There is a notable lack of relationship between place and history. Non-space defines spaces created in relations to societal ends and the relationship between people and the spaces. For example, the airport is made larger in order to enable transportation to other bigger spaces for commerce and business ends. The anthropological place is meant to create organic spaces, but supermodernity has led to the creation of non-places that have led to solitary contractuality (Auge, 1995). Traditional places generated historical and relational connection thus creating an identity. However, modern spaces do not provide the same benefits and are, therefore, non-spaces. Auge advances a hypothesis that supermodernity has led to the unintentional production of non-laces, to define spaces that are not anthropological and which fail to integrate earlier places.

Parallels between Theories of Space

Like Auge, Davidson (2003) argued that society has lost is identity. Place and supermodernity have removed the essence of identity in spaces and places, thus leading to the proliferation of non-places. The intimate sense of human interactions has been lost because of the presence of larger spaces between institutions, people, roles, expectations, and the role of technology in altering how people relate. Non-places are temporary transitory spaces that allow people to pass through without leaving traces of identity. There is zero evidence of social actions for people in spaces such as shopping malls, airports, or hospitals. The spaces do not accumulate any form of human practices because actions are wiped out with the presence of artificial surfaces. One is required to go through certain acceptable rituals such as identity checks, security checks, and other identification exercises. Yet, in all these, the spaces do not leave any room for identity creation and interaction beyond an individual with the systems. The result is that these places do not have any anthropological value in a sense that they do not support meaningful human interaction that can be identified years to come. Large spaces and the emergent transitory places have created a culture of impatience and a sense of timelessness. Overall, non-places become spaces that have no social role in creating relations, a deep historical presence, and connecting identities. Therefore, space and non-places have created distance in both the physical and the perspective.

In James Turrell’s Within Without (2010), the idea of space is explored. He portrays how space and light converge to create openness and places. How one confronts the space and fills it with vision is entirely up to how they perceive it in the first place. The use of light to show how space can be created affects an individual’s perception of space. Light intensifies sound and movement because of how it redefines space. Within Without shows the dramatic transition between day and night. The natural world is explored through the subtleties.

Discussion Questions

Has supermodernity stagnated identity creation in social life or is Auge exaggerating the position?

Supermodernity has indeed led to identity stagnation because it has pushed people to lead isolated life with a pretense that they are evolving. The expansion of spaces and the increase of places has created non-places that have further killed social life and any hopes of the modern person going back to being social and creating meaningful connections.

What is the link between the traditional and contemporary spaces and places?

The link between the traditional and contemporary spaces and places is the idea that people still yearn to have contact with others in an interactive way that is not simply guided by the system. For example, traditional spaces and places allowed people to connect with the soil, to create identities, and to remain fairly social. However, modern places have led to expanded spaces that have brought the opposite effect.

Assuming supermodernity has led to human isolation, does it mean that traditional societies did not have non-places?

Supermodernity has, indeed, led to human isolation, and this means that traditional societies had non-places but not frequent and expansive as what there is today. Even in the traditional life, transportation allowed people to remain in contact with the soil, to leave a mark, and to be connected.


Augé, M. (1995). Non-places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity. verso.

Davidson, R. A. (2003). Introduction: Spaces of Immigration” Prevention”: Interdiction and the

Nonplace. Diacritics, 33(3/4), 3-18.

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