Academic journal article Electronic Journal of Business Research Methods

Using Photo-Elicitation to Explore Place Attachment in a Remote Setting

Academic journal article Electronic Journal of Business Research Methods

Using Photo-Elicitation to Explore Place Attachment in a Remote Setting

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

This paper reports on a novel methodology to examine and describe the relationships between people and place in a remote marine park in north-western Australia. Ningaloo Marine Park is located over 1,000km from the capital of Western Australia, but is still a popular destination for marine-based activities such as swimming, surfing, snorkelling and diving with many visitors returning year after year. Therefore, as the primary research population was people enjoying their leisure time, a method that was as unobtrusive as possible on visitors' experiences, while still providing information, was needed. Photo-elicitation using digital photographs taken by visitors to the Marine Park and subsequent interviews onsite proved to be a suitable technique, especially given the constraints of remoteness and unobtrusiveness while at the same time providing comprehensive information on peoples' relationships with Ningaloo Marine Park. The first part of this paper provides a rationale for examining place concepts in a remote marine setting, and is followed by an explanation of why photo-elicitation was a suitable technique. Included are details on why the technique was used, despite the tyranny of distance, and how this issue was overcome through the use of digital cameras and onsite interviews. Key aspects contributing to peoples' relationship with the Marine Park are also examined. The paper concludes with a discussion of the appropriateness and effectiveness of this technique in remote setting where knowledge is urgently required on the relationships between people and place.

2. The choice of photo-elicitation for Ningaloo Marine Park case study

Ningaloo Marine Park contains one of the largest fringing coral reef systems in the world and provides visitors with the opportunity to visit a unique marine environment relatively easily with only a shallow lagoon separating the reef from mainland Australia (Cassata & Collins 2008). Although the Marine Park is located approximately 1,200km north of Perth, the capital of Western Australia (Figure 1), approximately 200,000 people visit annually to participate in a range of nature-based activities including swimming, snorkelling, fishing, boating and diving (Beckley, Smallwood, Moore & Kobryn 2010). A recent comprehensive survey of how people use the entire 300km length of the Marine Park identified that 55.2% of survey respondents had visited on a previous occasion and of these, 43.8% always stayed at the same location (Beckley et al 2010). But what is it that makes these visitors continually return to this remote Marine Park and even the same site time after time? One possible explanation explored in this study is place attachment, a concept that has emerged as a promising focus for exploring the relationships people have with their surrounding environment (Koons Trentelman 2009).

In exploring the attachment between visitors and their environment in this remote location, a number of research logistics were salient. As place attachment considers the relationship people have with specific locations, on-site rather than off-site methods were more suitable. In addition, the method chosen had to be able to provide the in-depth responses required to fully articulate people's attachment. Finally, visitors to the Ningaloo Reef region have been subject to numerous surveys as part of a national scientific research focus on the region (Beckley et al 2010) and there was a sense that visitors were being 'over researched'. Therefore the technique employed needed to ensure the detailed information through engaging visitors was obtained without them feeling their holiday experience was being impinged upon.

2.1 Place attachment

Place attachment studies have been informed by a number of research traditions including philosophy, psychology, geography, sociology and natural resource management. For natural resource management, place attachment seeks to understand what type of experiences make people value places, what they seek when going or indeed returning to particular places and why some people may visit a particular place and others do not (Manzo 2008). …

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