Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

The Meanings Associated with Varying Degrees of Attachment to a Natural Landscape

Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

The Meanings Associated with Varying Degrees of Attachment to a Natural Landscape

Article excerpt

Research concerning the value of natural landscapes has evolved to incorporate visitors' subjective, emotional, and symbolic meanings associated with particular settings in addition to economic impact models (Williams & Vaske, 2003). These subjective valuations can be difficult to identify because they are often expressed in dynamic ways (Stokowski, 2002). One way that researchers have attempted to understand the subjective components of landscape value is by investigating human-place bonds using the concepts of place meaning and place attachment (Kyle, Graefe, & Manning, 2005; Proshansky, 1978; Williams, Patterson, Roggenbuck, & Watson, 1992).

Place meanings reflect the value of the setting, whereas place attachment concerns the intensity of the human-place bond across dimensions related to identity, functional utility, emotional connection, and social interaction. KyIe and Chick (2007), wrote that past research on place "in the leisure literature has been primarily concerned with the intensity of recreationists' attachment and less so with the reasons for attachment. ... It does not represent an understanding of humanplace bonding reflected in the broader literature" (p. 209). As a result, the leisure literature and the greater place literature have provided only limited insight on the association between place attachment and place meaning (Trentelman, 2009).

Although past research has led to valid and reliable scales that measure the intensity of people's attachment or has been able to describe in rich detail the meanings places hold for people, there has been little work that describes meanings at varying levels of attachment intensity. This disconnect is partially due to the two modes of knowing that have predominantly been used to examine the constructs. As Trentelman (2009) indicated in her review of the place literature, scales used in positivistic designs have been criticized for abstracting an individual's thoughts and feelings toward a place into dimensions that provide little insight on the subjective meanings we associate with places. On the other hand, interpretive designs provide tremendous insight on the character of meanings, but have received criticism for reflecting the meanings of only a select few people and places. This investigation utilizes both approaches in an attempt to provide insight on how place attachments that are quantified using psychometric scales are manifested in individuals' accounts of why natural landscapes hold value and significance.

Literature Review

To investigate the association between place meanings and place attachment, we began by reviewing the empirical research that has sought to develop and refine the measurement of the intensity of an individual's attachment to a setting. We also reviewed literature concerning the conceptualization of place meaning and typologies of meanings identified in natural settings. Finally, we discuss the literature that connects these concepts.

Place Attachment

Research developing place attachment scales has been prominent in literature concerning the relationship between humans and the natural environment for the past 15 years. The purpose of these scales has been to identify the extent to which people are attached to landscapes rather than to identify the factors that foster attachment (Stedman, 2002). In this regard, Williams, Patterson, Roggenbuck, and Watson (1992) suggested a two-dimensional scale composed of place identity and place dependence. Place identity refers to the cognitive connection people share with the setting which is a substructure of the global concept of self-identification (Proshansky, 1978; Jorgensen & Stedman, 2001). Cuba and Hummon (1993) suggested that there are places to which individuals are familiar, but the settings that are the basis of identity are ones in which the individual works, lives, and plays. Individuals can use places to confirm their identity to themselves and express their identity to others (Twigger-Ross & Uzzell, 1996). …

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