28 September 2011

The Future of Maps

Mapping it out, old-school.
I like maps. Though I'm no cartographer, there's something about pouring over the details of a well-drawn map that I find irresistible. I've gotten lost in maps for hours. Having grabbed a back-issue of Backpacker magazine from the local library recently, I ran across this May, 2010, article on The Future of Maps and realized it was a perfect fit for mention on the Topophilian. Maps are going high-tech and interactive, but is citizen-sourced cartography reliable? Some top map-makers discuss this and more in the article.

Much of the discussion revolves around modern technology with acronyms like USGS, UTM, and of course GPS. Though technology adds new depth and dimension to old 2D versions, paper maps are not dead. Modern backpackers taking their high-tech gadgets into the wild often rely on paper maps in combo with GPS devices. As I read through the short group interview, I was struck by how technology has shaped, and is re-shaping, our collective sense of place regarding back-country adventure. It is mind-blowing.

Much of the early academic work on "place" stems from humanistic geography, looking at the conditions of rootedness and human relationships with land. One of the most conceptually and philosophically challenging courses I've taken was in the UW-Madison Department of Geography, where questions about the interface between people and places are still being unfolded on many fascinating levels.

But maps, back to maps. Still love 'em. In fact at Backpacker readers can create a custom topo for free as a trip planning tool or just for fun. If you're looking for me, that's where I'll be for a few hours.

25 September 2011

The power of narrative setting.

Australian writer and blogger Cally Jackson writes about the importance of setting in bringing out a story's deeper elements. Jackson, who lives in Brisbane, suggests that she strives to have her fictional locations feel so real that her readers "forget where they are and begin to see, hear and smell everything" her characters do.

I agree. This is profoundly important in creating well-rounded work. All the senses should be accounted for. Too often, perhaps, we get stuck in simply describing what things look like or what sounds surround. Taste is important. Touch and feeling such as temperature and textures should not be overlooked.

Good characters are embedded in social, geographic, and psychological territories that consist of overlapping boundaries. Bringing this out includes what ethnographer/anthropologist Clifford Geertz would call "thick description." 

As much as one's own identity is often bound up in the significant places one has been and those places one holds dear, so too must realistic fictional characters. Taking the time to lay out the setting, allowing it to become a character itself is worthwhile. Geertz displays this in his now-classic work "Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight" [pdf] about a series of experiences he and his wife had in a Balinese village in early 1958.

Jackson, in commenting on some of her favorite Australian writers, suggests that they are successful, at least in part, because the "mood" of narrative locations "filters into every scene." Because of this, Jackson writes, "you feel as if you’re right there in the location with the characters. I find this to be true of good fiction, nonfiction, songwriting, and cinema as well. It is, at best, transcendent.

Just like Jackson, I to am curious about which writers bring you into a deeper sense of place. When does setting become its own character? How does identity shift over time by the places we love as they, too, change?

23 September 2011

Why are "places" special to you?

The last three posts here were very long and a little conceptually dense. This one will be short. There's not a lot of traffic on this blog but, if you stop by, please comment if you have the time.

What does "sense of place" means to you? 
What are some of your favorite places? 
Why does "place" matters in your life. 

To me, sense of place is a very broad term. Perhaps it is even too broad to garner any meaningful definition. Significant places for me are the Driftless Area of the Upper Mississippi River valley, the desert southwest, and other special places I've visited and thoroughly enjoyed such as Paris, western Germany, the Yucatan Peninsula, and northwestern Ontario.

The role of "place" in environmental communications - a fictitious formal talk, Part III

Part III of a fictitious talk I composed recently. The intended imaginary audience for this academic hoop-jumping exercise was environmental communications professionals (journalists, public affairs officers, etc.).  A version of this "talk" with embedded references/citations is available if you're interested in that level of detail.

There are three underlying aspects of place-based research
that can help to guide reporting in this framework. As much as all three of these assumptions can be present in the construction of a place-based narrative, it seems to me, the resonant power would be multiplied exponentially.

The first of these primary assumptions is place as “material form.” In other words, ground your story in the spatial-temporal context or setting within which people conduct the happenings of their daily lives. We must meet people “where they are” in terms of localized information and time-sensitive progress on environmental issues.  Second is a matter of scale. This can be addressed both socially and geographically. The story you tell is happening in the home, the town, the corn field, the watershed, the wind channel... wherever. It should be bounded in an abstraction of space somewhere between local and global. The place-based approach would, as one might guess, heavily emphasize the local connections people have to the places they care about most. Also, on a sociocultural scale, are you discussing individual perceptions, small group perceptions or macro-level assumptions about what a place is or could be or should or should not be? These levels of abstraction should be explicitly stated or otherwise made clear in the construction of any meaningful narrative. Lastly, there is the relational aspect of place. Who is connected to whom? This is the cognitive landscape of meaning-making that constitutes a fundamental way, as the influential geographer Sack once stated, “through which we make sense of the world and through which we act
." As a story is grounded in personal lived experience at an appropriately cast geographic scale, it must also take into account the social, historical, and cultural context surrounding the people and their environmental issues.

Aside from these three elements, I would also like to suggest tying stories to one or more of five general themes that have been teased out of the social science literature. These themes are related to the attachments people develop for places and may potentially constitute “ideal types” of sense of place categories
.  By suggesting that these are connected to place attachments and, as such, could be used as motivational devices for people to attend to place-based communications, I am saying that these themes have affective or emotional components that have been found common across many interview-based studies on place. To say they are motivational is to suggest that they are of human value and have been found to move people toward place-protective action on some level. What a person values is most often his or her self-interests, including those bound to where one lives and the more relevant a story can be to the self-interests of a target audience, the better.

Professor Patricia Stokowski of the University of Vermont has suggested these particular motivational categories. Stokowski’s approach to place–based research aligns with my own perspectives and interests and I encourage you to follow-up by seeking out her work at your convenience.

Places have been found to be meaningful, Stokowski suggests, because of past family heritage and history; current family connections to a piece of land; the connection to past memorable events; a sense of individual, personal, well-being in relation to proximity or time spent in a place; and the beauty of the place itself. Wrapping these subtexts either explicitly or implicitly into a narrative has the potential to create or elicit affective bonds to particular places, though not necessarily places in general. When developing a story rooted in particular places and the experiences of particular people, readers can more likely relate their own sensations of attachment and associations of meaning for a deeper connection and, one hopes, greater investment in the issue.

I would like to offer one other set of finding regarding strategic science communication. These were developed under the rubric of climate change communication strategies but I believe they are useful for stimulating thought on a broader range of topics as well. One other caveat; some of you may be independent journalists. Others of you work as representatives of news outlets or larger institutions. Whereas these next six suggests have been framed as useful for institutional representation I believe they are worth considering for any environmental communicator working today. Many citations support these assertions but they were compiled by staff working in the human dimensions of natural resources department at Colorado State University
. Please take a moment to consider the ways one could wrap these strategies in a place-oriented context and I believe you will walk away with some powerful tactics for engagement.

First, we need to move away from the “balanced coverage” approach which has led to a disproportionally large sense of scientific uncertainty regarding topics such as climate change. We need to represent more accurately, state more clearly, the levels of scientific agreement on controversial issues. Second, beware of fear-inducing messages. The boogie-man, and I’m not talking about John Lee Hooker here, can be good at raising awareness but can also discourage people from taking action if they develop a sense of hopelessness. Next, suggestions for behavior change must be rooted in a target audience’s values, beliefs, and attitudes regarding the behavior. Fourth, and I’ve alluded to this above, messages should appeal to both intellectual and emotional dimensions of thought. Fifth, and this is my favorite, messages have greater potential to be effective if they are connected to specific regions, communities, and locations. Lastly, there is no one-size-fits-all message. The ‘general audience’ does not exist. Know your particular audience. Effective outreach will require multiple communication strategies if you intend to impact diverse audience segments.

In conclusion, aside from considering some of the narrative elements and strategies I have suggested here today, I would like to urge you to continue thinking about your work as environmental communicators as a means to push beyond the status quo assumptions of what environmental communication “is.”

As we face what has been called a crisis of representation
in society today, it is part of our responsibility as thought leaders and potential agenda setters to question just how and why environmental communication can and should challenge some of the dominant societal paradigms surrounding environmental issues. I suspect that these conversations have been ongoing but I urge you to take a place-oriented framework in challenging some of the social and cultural norms that disenfranchise too many by avoiding talk about places that are not as immediately beautiful, and the biases and assumptions of the dominant culture that tends to ignore the experiences and needs of minority groups. Disenfranchised people are just as firmly embedded, sometimes all but trapped, by their circumstances of place. In order to weave a web of meaning that approaches the complexity of lived experience, we must approach place from the perspective of multiplicity, even questioning our own assumptions and biases, perhaps especially questioning our own assumptions. Through this, we can create communication which, in turn, facilitates understanding and motivates action across diverse communities and ever expanding social hierarchies.

In these times of great post-postmodern and post-structural flux, as sociologist Thomas Gieryn has suggested, “the jet, the ‘net, and the fast food outlet”
have added to a sense of placelessness for many people. Connections back to the corporeal physical and social landscapes that root meaning in individual experience can help combat the malaise of late modernity and help you, fellow writers, connect with your audience in what I hope are intellectually meaningful and emotionally satisfying ways.

Thank you for listening. Good night and good luck.

21 September 2011

The role of "place" in environmental communications - a fictitious formal talk, Part II

 Following from my last post, this is a continuation (Part II) of a fictitious formal talk I was asked to write one day.


Of the various aspects of place research, the realm of place meaning seems to have the most resonance with communications scholarship. Place meanings represent a distinctive yet highly fluid and ever-changing whole that includes the person, the environment, and the experience within a locale. Conversations and information exchange with others are the processes through which place meanings are shaped. One could consider meanings as akin to stories or narratives about places rather than simple descriptions of physical properties of a place. These are narratives as embodied descriptions, stories illuminating experience.

Simply put, meanings answer the question of “what kind of place is this?”
rather than a question of “how much” do I like (or dislike) this place. The question of “how much,” incidentally, gets us back into the psychometric territory of place-attachment. But today let us stick within the realm of meaning.

Many of you probably realize how personal connections to land come through in the stories that are told about meaningful places. These anecdotes convey something more than basic evaluative attitudes. Stories emphasize the relationship between a group or person and a place
and are often constructed through the use of metaphors. Manuel Castells, in his hefty tome Communication Power, refers to metaphor as the most important protocol of communication. Metaphors help define social roles within their respective social contexts. Again, I am sure this is something that many of you have understood intuitively. The significance of how and why people respond to both environmental beauty and environmental threat come through in the symbolic stories they tell about the places they love or the places they fear to lose. By extension, the stories you tell, which re-configure and re-contextualize those first-hand personal narratives into a broader narrative arc to convey meaning for your audience, are based upon the metaphor and symbolism inherent in the language used by your interview subjects.

As it happens, this process enacts two of my favorite philosophical lines of inquiry: hermeneutic phenomenology and symbolic interactionism. But we don’t need to go there. I digress.

Given the important translational role a journalist or public affairs person plays, one of telling a story as true to life as possible while wrapping it in the context of larger global happenings; environmental communicators can use place to root meaning in tangible, meaningful circumstances while creating emotional resonance through metaphorical imagery and, ultimately, stimulate dialogue about place protection and other acts of environmental courage.


As suggested above, one strong signal people provide regarding relationships with meaningful places is through stories. It is through personal narratives that memories develop and deeper relationships are often given voice
. Though the study of narratives has not been common in the analysis of recreation and natural resource place-making, they do offer a structure and coherence that I am sure you are all familiar with as a way to communicate complex or controversial ideas to a general audience. They can also be helpful for communicating to a scientific audience, for what it’s worth. But I would like to relay a few “master narratives” that have been suggested as potentially fruitful for revealing place meanings in recreational areas. These narratives can also be employed outside of the recreation management domain. Such themes include stories of personal change or revelation, discussions of spirituality, action stories, stories centered on heroic acts, travelogues, and tales about overcoming adversity within the wilderness milieu. These stories have the potential to elicit a range of meanings about land and resources use, ownership and rights, resource protection or preservation, personal identity and/or group identity, reverence or a sense of awe, and heroism, among others.

Places, remember, are not simply the physical surroundings of space. Places are created through communication and can be seen as internalized and creative social productions that develop meaning in the telling
. As such, a personal sense of place is built upon a foundational and situated self-concept that itself is a product of discourse and experience. It is informed by concepts of the self and self-in-place as influenced by social norms and the ongoing social influence of those we turn to for information and advice. In relaying basic themes reflecting people’s placed-based identifications related to where they live, what they value, and how they situate themselves in the larger environment, strategic environmental communication supplies the cognitive cornerstone for people to engage in environmental advocacy on many levels. 


When sense of place is strong, it has been found useful in explaining people’s outlooks, perceptions, behavioral beliefs, capacity building, and political activity. Meanings held for particular places, as I’ve suggested, come forward through this context. These meanings are located geographically; simultaneously related to their social, economic, and cultural surroundings and give individuals what’s been called a ‘subjective territorial identity,' an ‘environmental self,’ or what influential researcher James Cantrill has termed, a ‘sense of self-in-place.'

The way people perceive their surroundings colors how, or if, they pay attention to communication about that environment. These are mental frameworks, or schema, we all use to help configure our own understanding of the world. An entire line of social science inquiry has been built around the effectiveness of framing arguments in relation to commonly held mental models or schematic interpretations of the socio-political world. Again, “framing” may be something many of you do already without calling it such. Framing is not a topic I will delve into here but suffice it to say that it is a fruitful and promising rhetorical device. It is also a powerful path to engagement given the multiplicitous media environment of today, when every story attempts to gain necessary traction through resonance with its target audience amid the din of the 24/7 newstainment industry.

Arguments that directly address personal environmental identities or self-interests, those that are place-based or “backyard” issues, are likely to be most persuasive whether it is in a policy debate or a light-hearted conversation at the local diner. Communication is likely to be more effective if it is grounded in some understanding of the extent to which people’s place-based identities are generally associated with, for example, particular critical habitats or protected or at-risk species
. For topics as diffuse and seemingly distant from many American’s daily concerns as climate change, clear simple metaphors and imagery that resonates with established schema, and framed in a way to entice more elaborate processing, will be helpful for generating understanding among audiences unfamiliar with a given topic.
          

19 September 2011

The role of "place" in environmental communications - a fictitious formal talk, Part I.


As an academic hoop-jumping exercise, I was recently I was asked to develop a (fictitious) formal talk about the importance of “sense of place” in communication strategies for an audience of professional (but non-academic) environmental communicators. 

This is much, much longer than I would normally put on a blog post so I have broken it into three parts. I use a bit of humor and, perhaps, a bit too much 'stuffy' academic language but I tried to walk that tightrope as best I could. The whole thing was written within one eight-hour time span while locked in a room with no food or water.  I've left it more-or-less as-is, minus a lot of citations/references. **Disclaimer** I actually did have food and water, and the door wasn't really locked.

Here is Part I of my fictitious formal talk on the role of "place" in environmental communications. 


Hello and thank you for inviting me to speak here today. It is an honor and a joy to be afforded such an opportunity to talk about a topic that I enjoy so much. Please, please, hold your applause. No, really, have a seat. Please, that’s enough. Thank you.

What I will talk about today is the potential role for “place” in environmental communication. Broadly speaking, this is an area of social science research that is often referred to as “sense of place” research. It has seen a tremendous amount of research activity in the past several decades. I think you will find that unwittingly, or perhaps consciously, you have been using place-based strategies in your writing already. It makes perfect sense. Place is inherent in most if not all environmental communication. It is the social and physical environment, the natural biological and human-influenced world, that we write about in our columns and articles, our blog posts and podcasts. But you are here because you’re curious. There is a large, often contradictory, field of research regarding place and its various conceptual permutations.
             
The underlying assumption in a lot of environmental communication research is that people’s relationships to particular places are made meaningful through the discursive practices invoking those places. We talk about our lives to develop understanding, to know where we stand regarding the places that we love or, in some cases, the places we fear. If you’ll allow me just one aphorism, one that seems particularly apt when discussing the notions of place and its influence on our perceptions of the wide world, it is Miles’ Law: Where you stand depends on where you sit

How we see the world, how we relate our ever-changing internal √©lan vital to the equally ever-changing external complexities of modern life, depends on where we root ourselves, where we are emplaced. It depends on where we set bare feet on meaningful ground, the fertile soil, of identity and fulfillment. And it is not only this way for us in an air-conditioned conference room overlooking these beautiful red rock cliffs here in north central New Mexico. It is this way for everybody. Your audience also lives in these terms. It is unlikely, however, that they think in these terms. That is your job, our job. To connect. To empower through place. We help people realize their connections to the wider world. We change people’s thinking. We educate. If we’re really good, we change behaviors. We help save the planet, one backyard story at a time.
             
As I said, this is the focus of my talk here today: the importance of place in communication about environmental issues.  What is environmental communication if it is not place-based narrative? I will discuss first some of the background and admittedly murky conceptual territory in the ever-expanding field of place-based social science research. After we get a bearing on the basics I will provide some evidence of how place is thought to influence perceptions of the environmental itself. Finally I will offer some advice on how to incorporate place into narratives about the environment although, as I think you will find, many of you probably do this intuitively already. It is my hope then that this advice then will help guide your reporting and writing toward a more conscious application of place-based strategies.

To be sure, there are social science researchers who could spend an entire conference discussing the complex relationships between people and their environments. In fact, it happens with some regularity. This is not the task at hand, however. What I would like to provide is a brief overview of some primary concepts related to sense of place research. If you would like a more in-depth look, but one that is still accessible for people outside of academia, I suggest Trentelman’s recent (2009) article comparing the similar concepts of place attachment to community attachment from the vantage point of a community sociologist. If you are interested in the more philosophical roots of the topic, I suggest Williams’ chapter (2008) on the pluralities of place as it covers basic current theories, concepts, and philosophies in this arena. It is written primarily for natural resource managers but I believe you may still find it useful. References to these and other primary texts are found among the literature at the back of the room. Please help yourself.

Philosophers, visual artists, writers, songwriters, poets, and politicians have long recognized the emotional, affective, sociocultural, and spiritual aspects of place. These wide-ranging endeavors often get subsumed under the umbrella term “sense of place.” Research on sense of place has blossomed into a tremendous social scientific bloom ever since Edward Relph’s Place and Placelessness (1976) and Yi-Fu Tuan’s Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience (1977) first planted the seed among phenomenological researchers and humanistic geographers. Place research now involves multiple research traditions such as environmental psychology, sociology, humanistic geography, and phenomenology of landscapes. The use of place as a communications device has more recently been developed in the work of Cantrill and colleagues and will be part of what I discuss here today.

Relph
emphasized the importance of living in a place, engaging in the “multifaceted phenomenon of experience,” in order to facilitate a sense of attachment. Space is said to become ‘place’ as community attachments deepen through local social networks and as personal meanings emerge in the context of a particular locale. Senses of place are based on symbolic meanings attributed to a setting and, as Stedman writes, “…it is possible for a single space to encompass multiple 'places,' reflecting the uniqueness of human culture and variations in experiences people have had with the landscape.” This perspective proves true if one were to conceive of a real-estate speculator, a rancher, an off-road vehicle enthusiast, and an earth-worm loving environmentalist standing in the middle of the same virgin meadow. All four would likely come to see the land as having quite different meanings and potential future uses.

Two of the most common notions within “sense of place” research are place attachment and place meaning. Though many researchers have used these terms interchangeably, place meanings generally represent the symbolic and evaluative beliefs which provide cognitive order for the physical world of the individual observer
. Place attachment is generally described as an emotional bond, usually positive, that develops between people and the significant places in their lives. There are other theoretical and methodological elements of place research, including concepts such as place-dependence and questions of whether research should be pursued from a constructionist or positivist framework, but these are largely beyond the rather pragmatic scope of our confab today.

17 September 2011

Linn County, Iowa, is on the rebound. Flood waters swept through and destroyed much in the way of property in June, 2008, and now a new installment in Cedar Rapids called "Mapping a Sense of Place" is helping to restore the cultural center of this hard-hit hamlet.  A news piece by S. Gravelle at Eastern Iowa Government dot-com highlights the project.

Yes, lest you think I've gone mad, I referenced "culture" in Iowa. I know of enough good songwriters, writers, and artists from this area to make clear that corn and soybeans aren't the only thing growing. Fertile artistic minds abound.

The Chicago artist (though, hello, why not an Iowan on the job here?) Sonata Kazimieraitiene compiled a tile mosaic. She used individually adorned tiles to map the county as a sort of ceramic relief map. Tiles were designed by people working in the Linn County Community Services building in southwest Cedar Rapids (there we go!) as the composite material. An inspired project to inspire recovery and hope.
Place is a touchstone of many artistic endeavors. A recent post on the A History of Girls blog makes evident the evocative and central role of "place" in historical fiction, among other well-constructed forms of literature.

Even the rich description of the authors trip to Poland draws out and describes the places and events in a compelling way. Well done!

13 September 2011

The title of a recent news blurb, "Root River council sponsoring contest for pictures of river" caught my attention because I, too, grew up on the Root River. Only this is a different river, one that happens to be in SE Wisconsin. The Root River of my childhood is in SE Minnesota. It is a good example, however, of a small-scale community-based engagement effort trying to encourage local people to appreciate the unique sense of place along this particular Root River. Photography is often spoken of as a means to "capture" place and the emotions, memories, and identities belonging to specific locations.

When one thinks of Racine, Wisconsin, one likely doesn't think of picturesque river photography. Perhaps this project will encourage urbanites to appreciate the value of rivers and waterways in pragmatic as well as aesthetic ways. Another example of encouraging people to value "sense of place" as an omnipresent element of attraction and reason for sustained care.

11 September 2011

"Rapid Issue Tracking" of Media and Public Opinion

An example of the type of research that is both of my interest area and within the reaches of my developing skill set is also one that I had never heard of until today. And, AND, it is part of a U.S. Forest Service initiative out of the Northern Research Station (NRS) outpost in Evanston, IL. Happy to see some USFS innovation! This endeavor has both a potential multi-region focus as well as, seemingly, an ability to tease out geographic intricacies of the give-and-take between media reporting and public discussion.

Rapid Issue Tracking: Taking the Pulse of Media Attention and Public Discussion is the long title. As the USFS is wont to do, it will no doubt be acronymized to RIT or TPMAPD or something worse.  No, acronymized was not a real word until today, either.

But I think the folks at NRS are on to something. In an age of engagement rather than top-down governmental "expert driven" heavy-handedness, this is both an inventive and timely endeavor. It triangulates data from a variety of sources, including social media, to make sure station leadership is aware of the "pulse" of public opinion on various issues. As the NRS describes it, there are five basic steps in Rapid Issue Tracking:
  1. Define the problem or issue including timing, geographic focus, interested parties, and types of messages that are relevant.  In addition, identify any budget issues or constraints related to carrying out the data analysis.
  2. Identify appropriate online news sources.  For some issues, specialized news sources may be included.
  3. Develop search terms and download stories.  In identifying search terms, it is especially important to use non-technical language when appropriate in order to capture articles or references that use plain language.
  4. Analyze the textual data.  This is the most labor-intensive step even when commercial software is used to facilitate the process.
  5. Present the findings.  In most cases, a presentation or short report that summarizes the findings is expected.
One can only hope (as futile as it might be) that leadership at USDA ** criticism alert ** would get on the ball join the 21st Century, too, instead of hamstringing USFS innovation in the extended use of social media as **gasp** an actual communications tool. Kudos to the NRS folks heading this project up.

10 September 2011

Introduction to the Topophilian blog


One of many signs hanging on the old tobacco shed.
This may be the initial post but I'm just going to jump in as if into an ongoing conversation. Topophilian is a blog about Sense of Place and its many concepts. What I mean by this will be borne out as the process of blogging unfolds. But, in short, "place" concepts and references will be explored from a more-or-less social science perspective but in an accessible way. My broader academic goals include exploring the role of "place" in communication of science, risk, and environmental issues. Topophilian is but one part of that larger effort.
The photo here is one I took recently while on a visit "home" to Southeastern Minnesota. Geographically represented here by the "Tri-County" region served by the Rural Electrical Cooperative, where my father worked for 40+ years, this is where I grew up. The uneven line to the right of Winona and Houston counties represents the Mississippi River. The whole of my childhood is rooted in this region, the unique "Driftless  Area" that covers parts of MN, WI, IL, and IA. The bloodflow of the driftless zone is the rivers and creeks serving as tributaries to the mighty and gorgeous Big River herself.
To be sure, a signal people provide regarding their relationships with meaningful places is through the stories they tell. I like stories. This blogging project, if done correctly, will likely add up with many ongoing and overlapping "storylines" spun together and unraveled all at once. It is through such personal narratives that deeper psycho/emotional relationships to physical locations are often given voice. How we talk in and about our communities has consequences for the different sorts of of identities we develop, the various dimensions of our relationships with each other, and the lives we choose lead. It can extend from the very personal to the global way in which we view and process information in the world.
When sense of place is strong, it has been useful in explaining people’s outlooks, perceptions, behavioral beliefs, social capital building, and political activity, among other variables. Meanings held for particular places come forward through this social discourse context. These meanings are geographically located, simultaneously related to their social, economic, and cultural surroundings and give individuals what has been called a ‘subjective territorial identity.’
Stories I will tell, links that will be offered, and perhaps posts more closely related to creative writing rather than academic investigation will elucidate my own ongoing story as well as the living narratives of others. Posts will likely be made weekly rather than daily and my aim is to try this for a year. Wish me luck.