Non-place or nonplace is a neologism coined by the French anthropologist Marc Augé to refer to anthropological spaces of transience where the human beings remain anonymous and that do not hold enough significance to be regarded as "places". Examples of non-places would be motorways, hotel rooms, airports and shopping malls. The term was introduced by Marc Augé in his work Non-Places, introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity.
The perception of a space like a non-place, however, is strictly subjective: any given individual can view any given location as a non place, or as a crossroads of human relations. For instance, a shopping mall is not a non-place for a person who works there every day. The concept of non-place is opposed, according to Augé, to the notion of "anthropological place". The place offers people a space that empowers their identity, where they can meet other people with whom they share social references. The non-places, on the contrary, are not meeting spaces and do not build common references to a group. Finally, a non-place is a place we do not live in, in which the individual remains anonymous and lonely. Augé avoids making value judgments on non-places and looks at them from the perspective of an ethnologist who has a new field of studies to explore.
With regard to the classification of shopping malls as non places, more recently an Italian researcher from the University of Bergamo, Marco Lazzari, developed a survey on a large sample of adolescents, and showed that the mall is a place where teens do not meet by chance, nor with the sole purpose to buy something, but to socialize, meet friends and have fun. Whereas shopping malls are (at least in Italy) yet prejudicially regarded by adults as non-places, they seem to be natively concerned with the identity of the so-called digital natives.
- Marc Augé, Non-Places: An Introduction to Anthropology of Supermodernity, Le Seuil, 1992, Verso, p. 122.
- Marco Lazzari, The role of social networking services to shape the double virtual citizenship of young immigrants in Italy, Proceedings of the IADIS International Conference on ICT, Society and Human Beings 2012, Lisbon, Portugal, July 21–23, 2012.