From the Silver Bean coffee shop on the Otonabee River to the local Unitarian Fellowship gathering place to McBride Island, a small group is mapping some of Peterborough’s Third Spaces.

The Third Space refers to social surroundings separate from the two usual social environments of home, the First Space, and work, the Second Space.

Author Ray Oldenburg in his book The Great Good Place proposes that Third Spaces are vital for strengthening civil society and democracy and establishing a sense of place.

The following are some of the suggested hallmarks of a Third Space:

  • It’s welcoming and comfortable
  • It includes people who habitually congregate there
  • It’s free or inexpensive
  • Food and drink are important, though not essential
  • It’s within walking distance for many
  • Both new friends and old should be found there.

The group creating Peterborough’s Third Spaces map proposes that Third Spaces could also be called  “Energy Points,” meaning they are sources of social and spiritual renewal in ways that are different from that of home and workplace.

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In his book, Oldenburg suggests that the “magic” of the Third Space arises largely from the relative “stranger-ness” we encounter there. “Many among the regulars of a third place are like Emerson’s ‘commended stranger’ who represents humanity anew, who offers a new mirror in which to view ourselves, and who thus breathes life into our conversation,” he writes.

The mapping of Peterborough’s Third Spaces took place during a Peterborough Dialogues session centred on connecting to place.

In the 20 minutes provided to create the map, the small group chose to highlight the Third Spaces they themselves know and love, rather than attempting to capture all the possibilities for the city.

But they are eager to see the map filled in with many more images of Peterborough’s Third Spaces. Peterborough residents are invited to tweet @ptbodialogues with the names of the places they consider their Third Spaces or Energy Points. The hashtag #3rdspaceptbo can be used.

For a story about another mapping experience, click here: Dialoguers Give Form to Peterborough’s Paradox