Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Phenomenologically Investigating Mediated "Nature"

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Phenomenologically Investigating Mediated "Nature"

Article excerpt

During the summer of 2001 I worked as a bartender in Wyoming, two miles east of Yellowstone National Park. This opportunity provided me with unique experiences of "the wilderness" and as a result, allowed me to become aware of intricacies of living within a primarily simulated and mass mediated culture, i.e., the United States. Following tenets of phenomenology, this paper investigates the simulated- and mass mediated-ness of society with specific focus on experiences with two nature environments: simulated-nature places (e.g., shopping malls, zoos) and televised-nature representations (e.g., Crocodile Hunter, Jaws). Key Words: Representation, Phenomenology, Mediated Nature, Space, Marshall McLuhan


During the summer of 2001 I worked as a bartender in Wyoming, two miles east of Yellowstone National Park. Here, I could not access many of my urban conveniences. For example, I could not receive radio, television, or cell phone signals because of the mountains surrounding the resort; I could not easily travel to town as Cody, Wyoming was 60 miles away; I had to exercise outdoors since an indoor gym did not exist; and I could not access the internet on demand or walk through a shopping mall. Furthermore, I watched bears and buffaloes roam free, animals I had only ever seen on television and in zoos. I also experienced severe boredom and depression, feelings I had never before encountered.

When I arrived back to my familiar world, I became increasingly aware of how I functioned with the assistance of various technologies. I noticed dimensions of my life to which I previously remained oblivious, such as my reliance on email and television as well as the difficulties in accessing nature-related space. These interests, when combined with my role as "graduate student," led me to research mediated-nature environments in an attempt to understand political underpinnings of my most mundane nature-related habits and desires. I turned towards phenomenology, a way of investigating the lived-through experience of phenomena and decided to write this paper.

While I could focus on many aspects of U.S. culture in order to address mediated qualities of our lives, I will examine relationships that we could establish with mediated-nature settings. I specifically focus on how mediated forms of nature, such as televised-nature re-presentations and simulated-nature re-creations, influence our communication towards and ideas about "nature." I argue that such forms, which did not enter into mainstream U.S. culture until the 1950s, have affected much of how we live with the natural world.

I use the following terms to describe different types of nature: authentic-nature, simulated-nature, and televised-nature. Authentic-nature describes local, state, and nationally designated areas within the United States that we can visit in order to interact with the natural world; examples include Yosemite National Park, the Everglades, or the countryside. Authentic-nature can also imply mythic or idealized visions of what nature is or should be. Simulated-nature describes areas that portray re-creations of nature; examples include zoos, shopping mall landscapes, or botanical gardens. Televised-nature describes nature presentations that occur via television; examples include Jaws, Survivor, and Bambi. One of my underlying assumptions in this project is that anyone who lives in the United States will have most exposure to mediated forms of nature, not authentic ones. I also acknowledge that we can view authentic-nature areas as mediated forms of nature as well, but such a project remains contradictory to the theoretical issues I highlight in this work.

Furthermore, following Japp and Japp (2002), the tone of my paper may suggest that I am searching for "the good life," a life of simplicity and independence from technology. However, I would like to acknowledge that my intentions remain only to probe aspects of living within a highly technologized, mediated world, an attempt to review characteristics of U. …

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