Navigating the Connotation of Spaces

Every space has a certain connotation that is identified with it. Much of this connotation is collective: specific groups view particular places in pretty much the same way. These ideas help us decide where we think we belong and–diversity, be damned–where we don’t.

We choose our neighborhoods, what kind of work to pursue, where to shop, eat and play based on cultural expectations, variations in economy, who we can identify with and are willing to interact with, if it meets our definitions of safe, or welcoming, or worthwhile. This is how we decide where we belong.

A space might be male or female, professional or punk. But connotations are malleable, and spaces are often more dynamic than we give them credit. Deeper readings may return new meanings. The war room, the man cave, the center stage. A dark alley signifies danger to John and Jane Doe, but for someone else the same channel is “home.”

Parks, parties and front porches–these are permeable spaces that we move through and impose our attitudes into. My point is this: Make a conscious contribution to the creation of spaces with positive connotations. Leave a way-finding marker that facilitates navigation. In English: Go forth and make a path for the ones who will come after you. This is a process of breaking expectations, thwarting intimidation, surprising the naysayers, swallowing fear and ultimately making meaning within the space you choose to occupy.

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