Tuesday, July 10, 2007

what is a third place??

Rather than try and re-invent the wheel (or the 'third place' as the case may be) I am borrowing the following explanation from another church community doing the 'coffehouse thing'. It's called "The Freeway", and this is how they explain the concept:

Third place?
"Third places" [a term coined by Ray Oldenburg in his 1990 book The Great Good Place] are informal gathering places where people in a particular community or neighbourhood meet to develop friendships, discuss issues, and interact | network with others. They have always been an important way in which the community has developed and retained cohesion and a sense of identity.

There are essential ingredients to a well-functioning "third place". They must be free or inexpensive to enter and purchase food and drink within. They should be a place where a number of people regularly go on a daily basis. It should be a place where the person feels welcome and comfortable, and where it is easy to enter into conversation. And a person who goes there should be able to expect to find both old and new friends each time she or he goes.

Coffee House?
"Third places" are neither home nor workplace, but somewhere between. Places to meet, socialize, relax, hang out, or work away from the office. Places to eat and drink without pressure to consume or move on. The third place is epitomized by the modern coffee house, with its sofas and newspapers - a revival of its 18th century role.

That coffee houses should be third places more than bars, say, has to do with the beverages consumed. Stay in the bar all afternoon and you will get drunk. Stay in the coffee house and you will get things done. Of course it's not always that clear-cut. But for a place serving alcohol to function as a third place, its raison d'etre must not be the consumption of alcohol.

Of course, in many ways this is a new name for the role that coffee houses have long performed in North American life. But the third place is not focused on the act of eating and drinking in the fashion of traditional cafes, restaurants, bars and pubs. The food or drink one consumes is the entry fee, not the point. The "third place" is a living room, but not in someone's house; a workplace, but not in someone's office.

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