Are Non-Spaces making us Non-selves?

Space becomes a place when we relate to it bringing meaning to it and to us. We belong to a place and conform to a non-place. A non-place like an airport, mall, or hospital is not a place of transgression. One has to be within what is accepted as expected public behaviour. Although, there is excessive space, lighting and other environmental atmospherics that are designed to keep us inside and keep consuming without limits. A mall is illumined in such a way that it always feels like it is morning. This setting of the atmospherics hides the passage of time. Thus, we are likely to spend time in it and end up buying things that we do not need.

Non-place is excessive and minimally relational in contrast to a place. A place is relational and breeds belonging and identity. The proliferation of non-place leads to a loss of identity. Thus, it is because every place is also simultaneously non-place. It is a place for those who share belongingness to the space and is a non-place for those who come as visitors. When the non-place keeps growing in a place, there is a loss of identity. People do feel displaced as they experience a change in their place. This sense of nostalgia is also a sense of loss of identity.

The new city creates a proliferation of non-places. We have mushrooming of malls, metro stations, hospitals, and airports producing non-places. Anthropologically, the web and even YouTube are non-places. Non-places impose their regime on us. We have to conform to their regime. We have no freedom to transgress. We get domesticated to such an extent that we are not even aware that we are pushed by signs like arrows. We move with a sense of assurance of the familiarity of the space even though it has become liminal to us. We do not really relate to non-places. We pass through them. We are perpetually moving through them or are continuously consuming in non-places. Limitless consumption is feeding an illusion of us enjoying top-class luxuries.

Digitized non-places feed our minds and we become non-bodies. In non-place, we are drifting bodies. Since we interact very less, we are drifting faceless bodies. In fact, we become non-selves. Non-places being spaces of transition are pushing us to pass through them in silence as non-selves without relating or carrying any memories of them. We become non-selves as we pass through the non-places. Perhaps, only through awareness of us as vulnerable of becoming non-selves might assist us to hold on to our core selves.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao