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The Impact of Third Places on Community Quality of Life

Abstract

Older cities struggling with issues of survival focus on jobs and the economy, but competition requires all cities to pay attention to the quality of life that attracts residents. Creating such an inviting environment includes “third places” that foster community and communication among people outside of home and work, yet we have little empirical evidence that speaks to the subject, or their importance for a community’s quality of life. Here we report on a national U.S. survey that asked people to identify such places in their community, producing a wide variety of “third places” that ranged from the most popular community centers, coffee shops and restaurants to parks and malls. While a few relationships are found between population/diversity and the popularity of particular third places, the most important result confirms a hypothesized relationship between perceptions that third places are accessible in their community and the perceived quality of life.

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Notes

  1. Paskaleva-Shapira (2007) notes that tourist cities need to create an appeal to all stakeholders—tourists, businesses and citizens—to be competitive. The importance of local tourism through arts festivals also is a factor (Quinn (2005).

  2. The lyrics of the theme from the television show, Cheers, “Where Everybody Knows Your Name” are:

    Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got.

    Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot.

    Wouldn’t you like to get away?

    Sometimes you want to go.

    Where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came.

    You wanna be where you can see our troubles are all the same.

    You wanna be where everybody knows your name.

    You wanna go where people know, people are all the same.

    You wanna go where everybody knows your name.”

  3. In a study of urban café guests in Norway, Traeen and Rossow (1994) note that people come together for common purposes regardless of social rank.

  4. In analyzing a Tel-Aviv café, Shapira and Navon (1991) note that public spaces can become private spaces and vice versa.

  5. Mass media usage, especially community newspaper reading, has been found to “encourage community participation, create community identity, serve as a forum for public affairs, increase public knowledge of their community, and allow the community to solve problems” (Jeffres and Lee 2002, p. 115).

  6. Smith (2003) notes that synchronous computer-mediated communication has several major benefits that include increased equity of participation among students, increased quantity of learner output, and increased quality of learner output. Thus, the characteristics of virtual communication also reflect aspects of third places that attract people.

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Correspondence to Leo W. Jeffres.

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This manuscript is based on a paper presented at the Urban Communication Seminar, National Communication Association, Chicago, Ill., November, 2007.

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Jeffres, L.W., Bracken, C.C., Jian, G. et al. The Impact of Third Places on Community Quality of Life. Applied Research Quality Life 4, 333–345 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11482-009-9084-8

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11482-009-9084-8

Keywords

  • Third places
  • Communication
  • Community quality of life
  • Urban Communication
  • Constructed Environment