Volume 5, Issue Part 2, 2010
Selected Essays from North America Part 2
Lori K. Schneider
Local Workers, Global Workplace, and the Experience of Place
This paper presents selected findings from a hermeneutic phenomenological study of how remote workers in global corporations experience and interpret local place. The research was based on Heidegger’s thinking about space, place and dwelling, Giddens’ conception of globalization as “time-space distanciation,” research on remote work, and concepts from architectural theory. The eight study participants were knowledge workers in the United States and Europe who work full time from home as employees of three large global corporations. In this paper I share several insights about remote workers’ rich and varied lived experience of place. Key findings include the importance of managing the threshold between work and home and the need to create spaces for interaction at work. Some remote workers learn to shape, choose, or create places that better suit them, while others prefer to remain in place. Those remote workers who find that working at home brings opportunities to become more deeply involved in their local communities may ultimately help communities become more globally-connected while retaining unique local qualities. This research suggests that the essential phenomenological nature of place is both spatial and temporal. A place is a specific location within physical space that acquires personal meaning, arising from a person’s past history and evolving with ongoing or repeated experience. Individuals make meaning of place as Center (groundedness or rootedness), Setting (activity, convenience or purpose), and Source (generativity, inspiration or transcendence). Each facet of place experience contains, reflects, and tends toward the others; all contribute to the meanings of place. We shape and respond to places based on these lived meanings; places shape us as our lives take place within them.