The Little World

FTLComm - Winnipeg
Friday, July 12, 2002

The shopping mall of the late twentieth century and of the early twenty-first is a fascinating creation and unfortunately we may never really have a chance to understand its significance because of the short span of our lives, but no doubt, someone in the future will be able to make some sense out of this monument to mercantilism and the worship of the new god, that of the deity of capitalism.

Shopping malls have been with us a long time, this temple, Polo Park in Winnipeg has been doing business for more than a quarter century and yet our basic understanding of the function of this kind of marketplace is not understood or even studied by those who believe in

whatever it is and those who accept its existence and adjust to it as a part of their lives.

There is with certainty a specific limit and size to the kinds of community that we humans can handle. Though demanding a social interactive setting in which to live and work, we can innately feel the parameters of acceptable size. Village, town and market life all have sizes that match our human nature and we can immediately feel

discomfort when the size is beyond our own personal limits.

Some sociologist have suggested that the critical numbers come from our experience, while psychologist are more inclined to believe that the critical sizes relate to the limitations of our memory. Whatever the case, we are bound within our physiological structure and we are remarkably capable of surprising adaptability. We can learn to live with discomfort and with practice we can push our memory limitations, but ultimately, we are what we are. A complex unit within a dynamic interactive matrix of reality.

With these limitations in mind, the shopping mall becomes a sort of community. Be it a small mall, or a very big one, even in a very big one, natural segmentation will occur that will confine the areas of the mall into manageable communities.

The over all feature of a shopping mall is managing of the physical environment, producing a stable unchanging climate, imposing a very rigid behaviour structure on all who work and shop within. The natural inclination for people to produce novelty and points of interest is one of the main elements in an environment which is essentially artificial in its creation and though there is a need to follow convention, the display of creative features, colour and light, all play their part in its amusement.

The next time you go "shopping" notice how few people are actually shopping and how many are merely utilising the environment as a place of leisure. In a consumer oriented society, it is perfectly logical that part of one's leisure will be spent as a consumer and shopping as a matter of recreation.

What fascinates many of us is the very strict imposition of over riding and intrinsic ideological concepts. These are to a certain extent political and economic, but they are also most certainly social and connected to societal moral conduct as determined by some planner, some accountant some architect. Unseen, unknown minds shape the environment of the mall, select the colours, temperature, sounds and imagery that the willing consumer submits themselves to, willing to accept the positive nature of the environment as compensation for the negative imposed controls.

It is laughable for the financial myopia that lets so many tell all those gullible enough to listen, that there is some over riding principle of "freedom" or "market determined" force involved. Freedom or the market determining the conditions are even remotely involved, the shopping mall is a creation of an economic and political society in which it has evolved and what it is doing to us needs to be questioned vigourously.