Where once there were places, we now find nonplaces. In real places, the human being is a person. He or she is an individual, unique and possessing a character. In nonplaces, individuality disappears, In nonplaces, character is irrelevant and one is only the customer or shopper, client or patient, a body to be seated, an address to be billed, a car to be parked. In nonpalces one cannot be an individual or become one, for one’s individuality is not only irrelevant, it also gets in the way. Toby’s Diner was a place. The Wonder Whopper, which stands there now, is a nonplace.
Lamenting the lack of third places in contemporary ‘planned’ American cities, Ray Oldenburg in The Great Good Place (205) complains of the loss of individuality which comes when places where one can mingle and be yourself disappear. This is consumer culture. We don’t feel the need to make friends with the girl at the checkout, because it is highly unlikely that we will see her again. And we don’t desire a community in our supermarket anyhow.