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In this paper, we focus on the question of the nature of place and how orderliness arises in places. The development of the psychology of place is briefly reviewed emphasizing the contribution of a phenomenological perspective. This review allows us to identify a central problem in the development of ideas of place in environmental psychology, namely the problem of sociality. The sociality problem is that current conceptualizations of place do not explain how places become known and understood intersubjectively. Current conceptualizations emphasize individual understanding without explaining how places can become known collectively. We propose a resolution to this problem by drawing upon a strand of phenomenology which has not usually been foregrounded in psychology-the phenomenology of Alfred Schutz. Schutz's programme for social science and in particular how he addressed the problem of intersubjective understanding is outlined. Schutz's perspective emphasizes the 'We-relationship' and its mutual co-construction through interaction and in particular language use; places as 'typifications' form an integral part of this co-construction. Drawing on work undertaken in discursive psychology, conversation analysis and ethnomethodology we then illustrate how this programme could be implemented in environmental psychology with a particular focus on how collective understandings of place can arise and how the genesis of this collective understanding can be empirically studied. © 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original publication




Journal article


Journal of Environmental Psychology

Publication Date





38 - 50