Complexity through multiple roles

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Plaza in Guanajuato, Mexico

At Horton Plaza mall in San Diego

A complex place may embody multiple aspects of a single grammar, or multiple intersecting sets of norms. Actions acquire more meanings and resonances, so that moves in the place are not easily summarized or simply presented. Who stops to talk to whom, and in this location rather than that could be a very complexly interwoven event in the corridors of the Capitol. Different norms and implications infect and influence one another.

Consider a traditional plaza in a town in Mexico; part of the complexity of the place lies in the way the men and women, workers and owners, sellers and buyers, young and old have dovetailing roles on many levels affecting what they wear, where they congregate, what behavior is appropriate, and so on. If I am young or old, male or female, in that plaza, who I am affects my behavior on many levels. Compare this with an American mall that has a less complex choreography of roles and behaviors, based on relatively thin roles. There are fewer implicit restrictions in the mall and they apply in more undifferentiated ways to everyone, rather than being special restrictions or demands on me as a young male or a married woman.