A Study of Third Place: Benefits of Shared Leisure Practices in Public Gathering Places

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Camp, Brad Harrison
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Middle Tennessee State University
Oldenburg (1999) argued that third places, which he defined as public gathering places outside the home and work that offer chances for casual social interaction, were disappearing in American communities. This troubled Oldenburg who argued that informal public life was essential to the social structure of communities, and that third places were ideal environments for facilitating public life. Therefore, Oldenburg and many researchers since have argued for continued research and celebration of third places. Unfortunately, leisure scholars have not given much attention to third place research (see Glover & Parry 2008; Mair, 2009 for exceptions).
However, leisure scholars have depicted the benefits of informal public life, democratic participation, and other shared leisure practices (Arai & Pedlar, 2003). This line of work showcases the potential of leisure to be more than just something that serves the individual, but also benefit the common good of our communities. Highlighting the difference between consumptive, individualistic view of leisure and the communitarian ideal allows scholars to articulate how meaningful leisure is to our communities.
This study continued the communitarian focused leisure research, and also pulled upon Oldenburg’s (1999) third place concept. This allowed the researcher to examine the relevance of the third place concept in providing an important function within our communities. Also, the study was able to confirm that participation in public places facilitates social benefits (i.e. sense of place). The findings of the study supported work that highlights benefits of shared leisure practice (Arai & Pedlar, 2003), and also supported the relevance of the third place concept (Oldenburg, 1999).
Leisure, Sense of community, Sense of place, Social capital, Third place, Urban planning