The topic of the large project

The Sprawling Places project discusses contemporary places such as shopping malls, theme parks, and suburban sprawl, which seem less humane and rich than more traditional places such as Greenwich Village, Italian hill towns, or central Paris. The project reviews criticisms of contemporary places and argues that most such critiques make unjustified total claims, and depend on limited conceptions about the kind of unity places can possess.

The book and hypertext develop a theory about what makes an area of space into a human place, and argue that contemporary places, despite their problems, show new modes of place unity. They suggest that complexity versus oversimplification is a better way to judge places than true versus false, or commodity versus use-value, or simulacra versus authenticity. They then apply this criterion to themed places, suburban sprawl, and discontinuous places. Throughout, examples are cited from both real and virtual places.