What, exactly, is a Center?

I have come to think of a center as a sort of think tank. Someone, maybe several people, devote their attention to a particular issue or problem. They find funding and do research into this topic. It could be one guy in a basement, or it could be several academics in an office, or even an entire building on campus. Is this about right, or is there some essential feature or aspect that I’m overlooking that defines a center?

… context?

It could also just be the middle of something.

You’ve got it right. It’s just a word that can be used to describe “thinking” groups of various sorts (as well as other kinds of groups). Other popular ones include “institue” and “institution”.

“Center” can mean whatever people want it to mean. A Community Center, a Medical Research Center, a Day Care Center, an Athletic Center, a Center for Social Research, etc., may have very little in common.

As a pilot, Center to me means one of several different Air Traffic Control offices… Oakland Center, LA Center, Seattle Center, etc.

Used in reference to people and organizations, I think “center” can mean just about anything that suggests people coming together, whether that’s physically or intellectually.

When you see ‘Center for’ as the lead in then it’s to characterize the place as the center of the universe in that particular area. So the Acme Center for Rocket Powered Personal Transportation Devices implies that the Acme Corp. is the center of all such devices in the world, not just the ones Acme builds.

Well, sometimes. The Center for Digestive Health is a gastroenterology practice group in Florida and has five offices. Presumably they can’t all be the center of the universe.

You’re thinking too spatially literally. They’re the figurative center of the abstract and diffuse universe of gastroenterology.

Yeah, it’s marketing. Marketing is very good at denying any kind of literal correctness in favor of the bullshit message they’re trying to sell you.

It’s the adjacent to the adjacencies, distal to the distals, and proximate to the proximals; in other words, the word grown-ups use in place of “Secret Hideout”.

It’s a basic term in human (including political and economic) geography, to be contrasted with “periphery.” See, e.g., Wallerstein’s World System Theory.

It comes from a Greek word that can also mean a sharp, pointed torture device.

Thank you,** Psychonaut. **

It’s the position played by Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Patrick Ewing, Lisa Leslie, and Shaquille O’Neal. Often considered the most important person on the team, though that varies depending on the team makeup and coaching style. Generally the tallest among a tall field. They tend to spend most of the game close to the basket, bringing the ball in or blocking the other team’s shots.

Isn’t it the name of that guy who lives deep underground, and gets all the bad mail? Return to Center.

I thought it was the guy who was touching the ball when the play began, and usually passes it through his legs to someone else to start the play.

Then there are the Centers for Disease Control. How can there be more than one?

Same way as there can be more than one community centre or health centre. It depends what they think they’re at the centre of.

Yes, but the Centers for Disease Control [and Prevention] was previously named the Center for Disease Control. So what made it plural, aside from an act of Congress?