Placelessness in Mississauga: A proposed research study


Mississauga is an Aboriginal name for a city within the Province of Ontario, Canada, situated on the shores of Lake Horun– formally Lake Ontario.  In the native dialect, it is translated to mean “River of many mouths of the North.” The city has a multicultural population comprising of Aborigines, Europeans of French and British extraction, South and East Asians, as well as Arab immigrants.  It is known for its wonderful skyline and famous people in business and history such as Colonel Sanders of Kentucky Fried chicken and Duchess Alexandrovna, sister to the last Tsar of Russia respectively. Toronto is also home to Canada’s busiest international airport, the nation’s financial hub, and a popular tourist destination. It is a melting pot of nationalities and cultures as well as business and pleasure that cannot be limited to the confines of defined geographical borders. This is a research proposal for a qualitative study to establish a hybrid concept space and place of Mississauga form both ontological and epistemological perspectives. 

Literature Review

            The concept space has been diminished by time because of transport and communication links between the city and the world.  Consequently, Massey (1994) argues that it is possible in these circumstances to think out of space in an era of time-space compression. She further suggests that capitalism has made global brands available locally and increased mobility across geographical borders globally. Another source of time-space compression is gender and race, which sets people apart wherever they go. Conceptually, she argues that “…time-space compression needs differentiating socially” (Massey 1994, p.3). Therefore, mobility and connection are dependent on the power geometry of time-space compression. In this way, some people are in control of their mobility, such as tourists while others, such as refugees, are immobile such that heterogeneity of cultures within a locality is guaranteed.  Consequently, this progressive concept of sees modern spaces and places as fluid, boundless, and with multiple identities.

            Place is a key distinguishing characteristic of geography and equally relevant for determining the unique identity of a place. According to Seamon and Sowers (2008), this may be regarding its physical setting, activities, and events, as well as individual and group meanings drawn from shared experiences. He supports Edward Relph’s phenomenological methodology in Place and Placelessness because it focuses on the taken-for-granted nature of a place to establish the meaning of places and spaces. According to Seamon and Sowers (2008), the strength of this approach is “…seeking out what is obvious but unquestioned and thereby questioning it” (p. 2). As such, it concentrates on unique identities of people to determine either their sense of belonging or alienation.

Mississauga is a geographical location defining a people’s unique experiences and at the same time a global space due to time-space compression. Therefore, Hubbard (2012) argues that epistemological and ontological perspectives of understanding place and space are both valid. In this regard, he states that “…questions of spacing appear epistemological as much as ontological”(Hubbard 2012, p.24). He, therefore, proposes a hybrid approach to the understanding of space and place (Hubbard 2012). Notably, this will be the preferred approach in this proposed research.

Research Design and Research Methods

This study aims to understand the conceptualization of place and placenessness in Mississauga as an aspect of social life. Therefore, a case study design has been adopted for this proposed study since the idea behind this study is to establish the epistemological and or ontological conceptions of the people of Mississauga of the place and placenessness of the city (Harrison, Birks, Franklin and Mills, 2017).  Moreover, this study design is helpful because it will facilitate an in-depth understanding of this complex social phenomenon (Harrison et al., 2017). Notably, this approach is also favorable because the overall perspective of this study is sociological as opposed to geographical.  Also, the relevance of this approach arises out of the need to test the hypothesis that arises out of the study’s research question (Harrison et al., 2017). In particular, the hypothesis to be tested is that the residents of Mississauga have a dual conceptualization on the place and placenessness of their city. Overall, the data generated from this study shall be mainly descriptive, which will allow for the construction and interpretation of the same, a robust approach to obtaining data.

A multiple methodology approach has been preferred for the study because qualitative studies require both synergetic as well as comprehensive data to verify and confirm the veracity of the qualitative data selected; this is referred to as triangulation (Harrison et al., 2017). In this regard, the study will adopt structured focus group discussions, in-depth interviews, as well as observation of the city’s monuments, architecture, social scenes, and museums (Harrison et al., 2017). Notably, this will facilitate a wide understanding of the research question. 

            There are other issues to consider in this research. Foremost, special consideration will be paid to the appropriate data to be collected during the interviews and observation because some responses that may be irrelevant and inconsequential to answering the research question (Harrison et al., 2017). The data shall be obtained from urban populations in Mississauga city across diverse age, race, and gender. Last, data collected from this process shall be cleaned and an interpreted using content analysis (Harrison et al., 2017). These combined efforts will ensure that data collected is relevant regarding place, content, and objectives of the study.


            This study is informed by an insider’s perspective since I believe that there is no absolute approach to understanding the question of place and placelessness. I am attracted to a hybrid approach that conceptualizes the phenomenon of place from epistemological and ontological perspectives (Hubbard 2012). This is a theoretical position that requires to be falsified through the study. Being a resident of the city and a student, I have an opportunity to understand the conceptions of the youths better. Also, I am fairly outgoing with a good reputation, a factor that will enable me to interact with respondents of higher age groups. Furthermore, being a resident of this town gives me access to sites across the city. However, due to time constraints occasioned by personal and academic commitments, the observation process shall take more than one day. 

Ethical Issues

            The ethical issues anticipated in this study include data integrity as well as respect for respondents before, during, and after the research process. Concerning the first issue, honesty shall be a cardinal value dictating how data is gathered and analyzed (Walliman, 2011). This is vital for ensuring that the outcome of the study is a representation of the views collected and collated from the field (Walliman, 2011). Respect for respondent confidentiality and anonymity is an important aspect; thus the data gathered shall be used purely for purposes of the study and, therefore, no direct reference to them shall be made in the final report (Walliman, 2011). Courtesy shall apply at all times and participation in the study shall be voluntary.  


            Even though it is difficult to envisage currently, there are real limitations for qualitative approach to research that this study shall be based on. Foremost, it shall depend on my research skills and there is a possibility that my ideological leanings and biases may influence the process of research and data analysis (Anderson 2010). The other challenge is that the study may end up with more data which may consume more time in analysis and interpretation. Moreover, while the study has committed to ethical compliance through anonymity and confidentiality, the same may be difficult to maintain during the presentation of the research findings (Anderson 2010). Lastly, it may be difficult to maintain precision, thoroughness, and diligence during the entire period of study (Anderson 2010).    


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