Your Rights to People and Places

I would’ve gone if my local cinema looked like this! Source

Our task was to go to the movies this week, and observe human interactions and movements. For this assignment, we were to use Torsten Hagerstrand’s “Time Geography” theory as the basis of our observations and research for the excursion – or if we weren’t able to go to the movies, we were to deduce what stopped us. To break it down, Hagerstrand created three constraints to human movement.

  1. Capability – limitations to what individuals are and aren’t capable of doing
  2. Coupling – limitations to when, where, and for how long an individual can join with others to interact
  3. Authority  – limitations to the level of authority and/or permission individuals have to be in a certain place at a certain time

With these three constraints in mind, I deduced that I had capability limitations, in that I had neither the time nor inner will to go see a movie. Also, there just weren’t any good movies on at the time that I could justify spending $15 on (because this is how expensive movies are getting and I just do not like it).

Statistically, attendance at the movies in Australia is fairly high – even more than 40 years ago in the early 1970s. But, we go less frequently than we used to. The rise in home-entertainment systems (PCs, video games, TVs, DVD & Blu-ray) and the hike in prices may be the reason behind this – or it is for me. The trends predicted for the future are that “we’re going to see … cinemas being much more attentive in changes in people’s taste about what they want from an experience of going out for the night. We’ll be seeing much more high end food offerings, premium beverage offerings and so on” – so says Deakin University audience researcher Deb Verhoeven.

This assumption is closely linked to the continually growing power that consumers have over retailers. Consumers now want the best, the most value for money, the most convenient – any demand they make, retailers will do their best to appease the consumer in order to garner their patronage at their place of business. “[Forces are shaping] changes in social behaviour, some of it driven by technology but also shifting demographics and economic globalisation. The retailers who will thrive are the ones who understand shopping is an experience.”

Saks Fifth avenue
Crowds flock around the Saks Fifth Avenue holiday display windows – another way of generating customer interest and brand positivity. Source

Returning to the topic of human movement and behaviour, the concept of authority is in particular a fascinating one as so many of our public spaces are barred. “Paying customers only” signs decorate restaurants and shops to limit the use of their toilets. Lush gardens and parks are often closed in the early evenings, or require payment to enter, leaving the privilege of patronage to those with more time or money on their hands. I have personally felt the pressures of browsing in shops when I knew I wouldn’t buy anything on that visit – I felt as if I didn’t have a right to spend time in the shop since I had no plans on purchasing. It seems that we’re unwelcome in many places; it’s not a great feeling to swallow this realisation.

One country that is doing something remarkably different is Scotland. Scotland’s right to roam laws enable the public to go walking on almost any land they want (even private!), with permission to explore the magnificent lochs and valleys and highlands as long as they obey a few restrictions, most of which are to do with sustainable practices. The Scots have embraced this law with gusto, dedicating a website solely to encourage exploration. The Highlands have long been a revered place of beauty, so these laws are perfect for those wanting to explore the lands.

Glencoe Scotland
This is all yours, guys. Glencoe, Scotland. Source

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