Dave Reid

The Great Good Place by Ray Oldenburg – Book Review

By - Dec 2nd, 2010 03:08 pm
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The Great Good Place

The Great Good Place

The Great Good Place, by Ray Oldenburg, discusses a part of community life that is fading in the U.S., the Third Place.  Your First Place is your home, a Second Place is your place of work, and a Third Place is where you will be found when you’re not at the other two places.  For many it might be a corner bar, the coffee shop, a community center, historically it could of been a soda fountain, or a corner store.  As Oldenburg says these are people’s “homes away from home”.  But most importantly it was a place where people got together for conversation, to make social connections, and interact across social lines.

Oldenburg argues that these places are important to a civil society and vital to community because of there ability to act as informal gathering places where conversation is the focus and gatherings aren’t scheduled.  This informality is vital as it facilitates the ability of these places to act as levelers, where status, class, and race are leveled and people are simply people.  He further contends that the decline of the Third Place has played a role in the loss of community and civility, and an increase in isolation and divisiveness in American society.

By itself this book is well worth the read, but additionally, as this is UrbanMilwaukee.com, we contend that urbanism is more than streets, public art, placemaking, walkability, and transit. It includes community.  So give this book a chance, and more importantly find a Third Place, become a regular, and get to know your community.

Categories: Book Reviews

4 thoughts on “The Great Good Place by Ray Oldenburg – Book Review”

  1. SS says:

    I’m curious, does Oldenburg argue that smoking bans are destroying the last of the Third Places? Nothing facilitates informal gatherings to shoot the breeze with strangers better than smoking. Also, the habit of smoking itself has always been a classic leveler. Of course now smoking has become so widely outlawed and despised that we treat smokers as less than human and segregate and isolate them.

  2. SS says:

    BTW, between facebook, email, texting, and blogs like yours that allow comments, I’d argue that informal and unscheduled gatherings and conversation are occurring today more than ever before in history. And totally blind to status, race, and class.

    Dave, which edition did you read? There is a copy available at the library, the 1st ed from 1989. The latest ed is 1999, which is painfully out of date given how drastically communication has changed in the last 11 years.

  3. Dave Reid says:

    @SS I hadn’t really thought about, nor had he, the smoking angle.

  4. Dave Reid says:

    @SS I have the 1999 version. And although I do see the value of the online world in this area. As far as facebook and the online world, I don’t see it working quite the same way. Certainly, there is a community here at UM, and the online world has a form of community, but it is not the same as face to face interactions.

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