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Mediated Sense of Place and Attachment to a Setting

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Sense of place is an aspect that has been considered from multiple viewpoints and by academics from numerous disciplines. Its significance in different aspects regarding people’s perception of it, the importance of feelings of belonging and attachment to place (Buttimer, 1980; Liu, 2014; Marcu, 2012; Pred, 1983; Qian and Zhu, 2014), the role of place identity (Buttimer, 1980; Carter et al., 2007), and of place for identity (Liu, 2014, 2015; Qian and Zhu, 2014; Singh, 2015) as well as the influence on place perception (Rodaway, 1994; Tuan, 1979, 1977) are a handful of the instances. A majority of other existing publications have focused on the experience of a non-mediated place in their conceptualization of sense of place. However, does digital media change our perception of place or our sense of place? Meyrowitz (1984) suggested that electronic media gradually combine people’s knowledge and perception of space. 

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Ogden (1994) proposed a different stance where he described digital space as a ‘parallel universe’ and as a ‘spaceless place’. Similarly, other studies defined digital space as being fictional or abstract and being opposed to the ‘real’ physical world. Additionally, Kitchin (1998) claimed that the mediated and physical space will evolve to a state where cyberspaces exist parallel to geographic spaces in which a virtual layer will be superimposed. Chan (2008) too postulated that virtual space allows movements that isn’t completely independent from the physical world. Recognizing this change, Graham (2004) made it clear that digital media are not causing “some wholesale, discrete, break’, but that ‘we are experiencing a complex and infinitely diverse range of transformations where new and old practices and media technologies become mutually linked and fused in an ongoing blizzard of change”. Miller and Horst (2013: 12) said that digital media provides an alternate frame for people, through which the same world can be experienced. Hence why the research stresses that there is a necessity to analyze the effects of this differential frame on our perception of place and to recognize what new multiplicities it involves.

Perception of place has specific qualities that are influenced by digitalization, Zook et al. (2004) said that digital media, allow visual and aural experiences of a particular space. Although Kellerman (2006) postulated that digital spaces “do not permit the physical sensing of places, nor do they provide for a third dimension of depth, natural movements, air breezes and winds, or smells and sunshine”. Differing from both, Lemos (2008) argued that “new informational technologies reinforce our sense of place” because they don’t restrict virtual mobility, for instance a place can be experienced without physical presence, which give rise to imaginary mobility and an imaginary sensing of place. However, it must be mentioned that it applies to other types of ‘old’ media, such as radio and television. Nevertheless, ‘wireless digital geographies allow individuals more freedom and control of the process of constructing new geographies of how and where they create and consume information’ (Zook et al., 2004: 168). As they are more personalized, they incite subjective relations and imaginations of places when compared to old media. 

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