third-place finish

The Third Place

The third place is a term used in the concept of community building to refer to social surroundings separate from the two usual social environments of home and the workplace. In his influential book The Great Good Place, Ray Oldenburg (1989, 1991) argues that third places are important for civil society, democracy, civic engagement, and establishing feelings of a sense of place.

Oldenburg calls one's "first place" the home and those that one lives with. The "second place" is the workplace — where people may actually spend most of their time. Third places, then, are "anchors" of community life and facilitate and foster broader, more creative interaction. All societies already have informal meeting places; what is new in modern times is the intentionality of seeking them out as vital to current societal needs. Oldenburg suggests these hallmarks of a true "third place": free or inexpensive; food and drink, while not essential, are important; highly accessible: proximate for many (walking distance); involve regulars – those who habitually congregate there; welcoming and comfortable; both new friends and old should be found there. (58)

Michael Krassa argues along similar lines, looking at neighborhood design, social network formation, and civic involvement.


An increasing percentage of American workers now telecommute, not from home, but from a third place. Workers cite isolation when telecommuting from home and find working in public spaces a happy medium between the home office and the corporate office. Availability of public wifi has been a major enabler of this trend, and an increasing number of retail chains are catering to it.

Third Place as a new kind of space

In Culture Place and Society 'third space' is recognised as a new kind of 'place'. First Space is the environment we live in and have tangibly created. Second Space is the place that we 'want' to create, for example the plans we draw up for a new extension to the house. You can envisage the space but it isn't a 'reality'. When you build the extension the 'second space' becomes a 'first space'. A 'Third Space' is when you create an environment within a computer game such as 'second life'. You have an idea what you want that place to look like, you create it but it does not become a first space as it is not tangible. That new place is a 'third space'. Within a game like second life our 'etherial' bodies or 'avatars' live in this 'third space'.

Third Space has become a new kind of place...


A traditional public house encourages social contact between patrons. But a third place which provides internet access may create a hollow effect in that the patrons are physically present but do not make social contact with each other, being absorbed by their remote connections. Some café owners are trying to ameliorate this effect by staging performance art such as live jazz and turning off the wi-fi to encourage audience engagement.

Use in advertising


Starbucks uses the term the third place in its marketing because it vies to be the "extra place" people frequent after home and work. This idea came from a marketing concept by Howard Schultz. In an attempt to make Starbucks a "home away from home", the café section of the store is often outfitted with comfortable chairs, as well as the usual tables and hard-backed chairs found in cafés. Free electricity outlets are provided for patrons, and many branches also have wireless internet access, provided on a charge basis by T-Mobile and AT&T. Many larger retail stores also host "mini-concerts" for local musicians.

PlayStation 2

PlayStation 2 also advertised itself as the third place in Europe. The exact meaning of this phrase in this context was left unstated, to add to the air of mystery surrounding the product launch, which was accompanied by a David Lynch-directed commercial with surreal, dream-like visuals. A pejorative alternative meaning – that the console would be in third place in the three-horse "console war" against the Xbox and GameCube – did not escape the notice of videogame journalists.

See also


Further reading

  • Oldenburg, Ray (1989). The Great Good Place: Cafes, Coffee Shops, Community Centers, Beauty Parlors, General Stores, Bars, Hangouts, and How They Get You Through the Day. New York: Paragon House. ISBN 978-1557781109 [Hardback].
  • Oldenburg, Ray (1991). The Great Good Place. New York: Marlowe & Company. ISBN 978-1569246818 [Paperback].
  • Oldenburg, Ray (2000). Celebrating the Third Place: Inspiring Stories about the "Great Good Places" at the Heart of Our Communities. New York: Marlowe & Company. ISBN 978-1569246122.

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