what is a third place?

so there is this coffee shop in raleigh called ‘third place’. i subconsciously associated it with baseball, thinking ‘third base’, but having been there once, i can tell you that there’s no baseball motif. it’s just a small coffeeshop, with black and white portraits of the people who work there on the walls.

or maybe the coffee shop self-deprecatingly saw itself as ranking in third place to some large coffee chains?

in any case, the words “third place” didn’t pique much curiosity in me.

until now. i just happened to be perusing curiousLee’s blog (which marianne passed along to me in one of her blog binges), and i saw this link to “third place“. turns out this is a term from the book “The Great Good Place” by Ray Oldenburg referring to an informal social place where people gather–home and place of work being your first and second places.

and I thought, how spot on! this has been my social philosophy of the last two years: to plant myself in some highly trafficked area where i could sit, watch people, (of course be watched), read, work on my computer, and most importantly, where i could spontaneously bump into friends without having had to make plans to do any specific thing.

during my senior year that place was caribou coffee. but after getting a wireless laptop last spring, my third place has become strong’s coffee on franklin street (used to be called the coffee mill roastery) because the wonderful campus wireless bleeds into the front part of the coffee shop, keeping me connected to email and the web–in a social context.

[curiouser even: Ray Oldenburg has a new book out called “Celebrating the Third Place” which Amazon recommends buying together with “Bowling Alone” by Robert D. Putnam.

this is interesting because it happens to be a book read throughout SILS in order to understand the nature of communities and the degree to which electronic mediated communication is wrecking (or fostering) them. as you can tell from the title, the book paints a bleak picture.]

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