Anthropology of Super-Modernity: Influence of Spaces, Non-Places, and Places

Lexie Hesketh’s summary and analysis of Marc Augé’s Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity prompted me to think about the importance of space and in particular, personal space, to an individual. This discussion of a space then allowed me to examine the expansion of non-places and the decline in places happening in the movement towards super-modernity. Lexie deliberates the idea of a space and the three concepts that should be taken into consideration when examining and defining a space. These concepts are “how a space can be felt, how it can appear unexpectedly, and most importantly the desire to have it.” A space is felt differently by the individual experiencing it and its definition becomes influenced by the specific characteristics possessed by each person. Each person is unique and they each bring different things to a space to make it their own. Nowadays, personal space is being invaded almost unknowingly through the use of instant communication. Individuals have only begun to realize how the improved communication technology the majority of us use, is taking away from a personal space because now everything is shared in some form or another. Especially with how our society today is moving away from more personal space and transitioning into a single shared space through this use of communication technology and a constant connection to others, the desire to have a space of one’s own is growing.

In an Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity, Augé connects this idea of a space with the existence of places and non-places by showing that, “the distinction between places and non-places derives from the opposition between place and space.” With this increasingly popular movement from modernity to super modernity, society is constantly subjected to excess. Our senses are overloaded and were are so involved with the need for constant circulation and consumption of information that we are moving further and further away from what Augé describes as places, to non-places. The world will continue to push for a more globalized society, which means integration and interconnection to create a single global market, culture, society, and political order. As this globalization occurs, because it is believed to be progress, society loses sight of the importance of places. Places create closer connections to individuals as they are “relational, historical, and concerned with identity.” Non-places, on the other hand create an environment for individuals in which they believe they are a part of a universal plan. Individuals continue to use and create non-places to feel like they are more involved with the world and have strong connections to others around them, when in reality this comfort and deep-rooted connection that the non-spaces provide is false and misleading. Another important concept to consider when understanding non-places is that varying intersections of people act differently within them, based on how they are perceived by others and by their stereotypes. This is significant in understanding how non-places influence social activity and how they may set restrictions on the individuality of a person.

This whole concept of the expansion of non-places and the decline of places leads me to question how long this movement of super-modernity will continue on in our society and how far it will reach? I find that the majority of individuals in today’s society have become so wrapped up in creating and supporting non-places. We do this in order to satisfy our need for a larger network and connection with others and we often lose sight of the fact that these non-places are not as meaningful in shaping and influencing our personal identity for the better. These non-places may seem to connect society on a global scale when beneath the surface they restrict a person’s identity and only isolate individuals further. Non-spaces are necessary to a certain extent, as they are often transient spaces needed for certain ends useful to society. Thus the real challenge is finding the proper balance between non-spaces and spaces to avoid excess isolation and to provide sufficient development of personal identity and social activity.

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