ArticlePDF Available

Abstract and Figures

This paper explores the added value of the ’new’ creative and (inter)active research methods in geographical research. Using examples from our research project with young people in Cedar (Vancouver Island, Canada) we analyze the contributions and limitations of walks, mental mapping, photography and video when compared to only interviewing. Given our engagement with everyday places and a participatory research approach, we explicitly focus and evaluate the research methods for their qualities in revealing different aspects of place, and for their success in involving young people with various interests and abilities actively in the whole research process. The findings suggest that, in addition to revealing diverse aspects of everyday places and practices on different levels of detail, the ’new’ research methods motivate and enable different individuals to participate and share their experiences. Furthermore, combining the ’new’ methods or combining them with interviews has an added value as such a mix is able to paint a detailed picture of daily places, colored by the way different individuals see, hear, smell, use or experience them.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Making sense of place: exploring creative and (inter)active research
methods with young people
Trell, Elen-Maarja & Bettina Van Hoven (2010). Making sense of place: explor-
ing creative and (inter)active research methods with young people. Fennia
188: 1, pp. 91–104. Helsinki. ISSN 0015-0010.
This paper explores the added value of the new creative and (inter)active re-
search methods in geographical research. Using examples from our research
project with young people in Cedar (Vancouver Island, Canada) we analyze the
contributions and limitations of walks, mental mapping, photography and video
when compared to only interviewing. Given our engagement with everyday
places and a participatory research approach, we explicitly focus on and evalu-
ate the research methods for their qualities in revealing different aspects of
place, and for their success in involving young people with various interests and
abilities actively in the whole research process. The findings suggest that, in ad-
dition to revealing diverse aspects of everyday places and practices on different
levels of detail, the new research methods motivate and enable different indi-
viduals to participate and share their experiences. Furthermore, combining the
’new’ methods or combining them with interviews has an added value as such
a mix is able to paint a detailed picture of daily places, colored by the way dif-
ferent individuals see, hear, smell, use or experience them.
Keywords: Canada, visual/(inter)active/creative research methods, children/
youth geographies, participatory research, place experiences, everyday life
Elen-Maarja Trell & Bettina van Hoven, Department of Cultural Geography, Fac-
ulty of Spatial Sciences, University of Groningen, P.O. Box 800 9700AV Gron-
ingen, The Netherlands. E-mails:,
Making sense of place
’Place’ is defined in geographic research as “space
which people have made meaningful” (Cresswell
2004: 7). There are various ways in which people
‘make places’, for example, by naming them, or
modifying some elements in the environment to
suit their needs (Cresswell 2004). Perhaps more
importantly, places are (re)produced through peo-
ple’s imaginations, memories, emotions and feel-
ings, both positive and negative, and by using dif-
ferent senses (Relph 1976; Thrift 2009). Thrift dis-
cusses place experiences during a walk in the
countryside as compared to a walk in the city. He
illustrates how places are constructed through dif-
ferent senses and people’s bodies:
“Think, for example, of a country walk and place
consists of not only eyes surveying prospect but
also push and pull of hill and down dale, the
sounds of birds and wind in the trees […] Or think
of a walk in the city and place consists not just of
eye making contact with other people or advertis-
ing signs or buildings, but also the sound of traffic
noise and conversation […] the smell of exhaust
fumes and cooking food” (Thrift 2009: 92).
Such impressions can construct place as welcom-
ing and pleasant or hostile and aggressive. Koskela
and Pain (2000) show the latter to be the case in a
study on women’s experience in the city where
fear was a guiding principle (see also Semi 2004).
The examples illustrate that, whereas places can
be known through one’s vision and imagination
the “more direct modes of experience” such as
taste, smell and touch1 play a similarly important
role (Tuan 1975: 151; Thrift 2008, 2009). Until re-
cently, much geographic research on meanings of
place has given priority to the so-called represen-
tational aspects and indirect ways of knowing a
place (Tuan 1975; Laurier & Philo 2006; Thrift
2008). Little attention was paid to, for example,
92 FENNIA 188: 1 (2010)
Elen-Maarja Trell and Bettina Van Hoven
people’s experiences of place outside the visual or
communication of place outside the interview
context. However, with the revival of ideas by
Merleau-Ponty (1945; 1995), Bourdieu (1990) and
de Certeau (2002), among others, (human) geogra-
phers have increasingly focused on everyday plac-
es and place experiences (see Eyles 1989; Felski
2000; de Certeau 2002 for a discussion of the im-
portance of ‘everyday’) and the ‘non-representa-
tional’ aspects of place (Lorimer 2005; Thrift 2008).
Laurier and Philo (2006; 2007; see also Laurier
2008), for example, have devoted a series of works
to explore everyday encounters in a café and
Wylie (2005) explores the relationship between
landscape and self through thoughts, sensations
and encounters he experiences during a walk
along the South West Coast Path (see also McCor-
mack 2003).
Thrift (2008) argues that, when given a chance
to use our various senses we start to notice the
“event-ness of the world” and the small details that
make up the everyday lives and place experience
of our research participants (Thrift 2008: 12).
When producing knowledge about place (experi-
ences) in a ‘standard’ interview setting, respond-
ents are asked to recall memories and imagina-
tions of places without visual, audible, olfactory or
tactile stimuli. As a result, some small details, or
‘layers’ of place (experience) may be lost to the
production of knowledge. Sometimes, it is neces-
sary to see, hear, smell or feel a place in order to
make sense of it and to communicate it to outsid-
ers, “sensitivity cannot be shared the way thoughts
can”, as Tuan (1975: 152) argues. Therefore, geog-
raphers have begun to explore ‘new’ research
methods (e.g. walks, photography, videography,
that take a respondent ‘into the field’ and in so do-
ing complement (or replace) the interview (see
Panelli et al. 2002; Hörschelmann & Schäfer 2005;
Carpiano 2009).
An interesting example is the research by Cele
(2006) who used walks, drawing and photography
(in addition to interviewing) for exploring daily
places of children. Enabling children to create ob-
jects (place representation) in an artistic and im-
aginary way (e.g. drawing), and to interact with
each other, the researcher, and place itself (e.g.
when walking or taking photos), provided possi-
bilities for communicating a range of, what Cele
(2006) calls, ‘concrete’ and ‘abstract’ aspects of
place.2 Concrete aspects of places include the ap-
pearance of a place, the physical characteristics
and objects present, but also the ways in which
individuals use places and objects. A sound or a
smell are concrete aspects of place. Abstract as-
pects refer to the inner processes place evokes in
individuals (Cele 2006). They refer to dreams and
imaginations people attach to places, memories
connected to places, how places make people feel
(Cele 2006). Abstract aspects of place are often
connected to the social dimension of place i.e.
other people, friends, relations. In addition to re-
vealing a range of aspects and experiences about
place, by using these methods Cele (2006) en-
gaged children more actively in the research proc-
Cele’s (2006) research fits into broader, partici-
patory, approach taken by many youth and chil-
dren’s geographers in order to engage young peo-
ple more actively in creating knowledge about
what their world is like. Whereas the necessity and
benefits of engaging young people in research has
been established (Best 2007), in practice, it is often
a challenge to get preoccupied and busy young
people interested and involved in a research
project. Creative and interactive research tech-
niques, such as drawings and mental maps (Mat-
thews 1984a; 1984b; Young & Barrett 2001), pho-
to- or video projects (Hörschelmann & Schäfer
2005; Panelli et al. 2002), diary keeping (Latham
2003; Punch 2002), soft-GIS (Kyttä 2008) and
forms of participatory diagramming (Kesby 2000;
Pain & Francis 2003) have been adopted as means
by which it is more appealing for young people to
get involved in a research project.
The above examples illustrate that several ‘new’,
methods have been used by both, geographers in-
terested in place experiences (e.g. Wylie 2005;
Carpiano 2009) and geographers interested in en-
gaging young people in research (e.g. Hörschel-
mann & Schäfer 2005; Cele 2006). Whereas it
seems to be acknowledged that interviews are not
always sufficient for revealing different layers of
place nor for empowering youth, not much is
known about what the exact qualities of the ‘new’
methods for achieving these goals are when com-
pared to only interviewing. In this paper our aim is
to fill this gap by comparing the relative contribu-
tions, limitations and different insights that can be
generated with walks, mental mapping, video and
photography when compared to interviewing. In
order to compare the methods we will use data
gathered with young people during a research
project conducted in Cedar (Vancouver Island,
Canada) which focused on their everyday places
and place experiences. In addition, by adopting a
FENNIA 188: 1 (2010) 93
Making sense of place: exploring creative and (inter)active …
participatory research approach, we focused on
engaging young people with different interests and
abilities as active participants in the whole re-
search process. Considering this research focus
and approach, we compare and evaluate each
method in terms of (1) its qualities for revealing the
multiple aspects and meanings of daily places and
(2) possibilities it provides for involving young
people in research.
In the sections that follow, after briefly introduc-
ing the research approach we will give an over-
view of the characteristics of interviews, walks,
mental mapping, video and photography. We then
use examples from our research practice to illus-
trate the added value (and shortcomings) and com-
pare the ‘new’ research methods to interviewing.
Research approach
Research location and group
Our research project was carried out in the village
of Cedar, on Vancouver Island (British Columbia,
Canada) (see figure 1). The project (on location)
lasted 9 months. It involved four students/research-
assistants from Cedar Community Secondary
School, three male and one female. At the time of
finishing the project the students were 17 years
old. None of them represented an ethnic minority.
The project was introduced to the students
through in-class presentations by the researchers.
In order to participate, students were required to
obtain consent from their parents. The consent
forms contained info about the aim and procedure
of the project based on initial ideas by the re-
searchers. No new consent was sought once the
students had shaped the project to their own wish-
es (see also Heath et al. 2009 for more information
about the use of informed consent in youth re-
search). The participants then received basic train-
ing in (video) interviewing. Guided by the re-
searchers, the students were actively involved in
preparation and data collection phases of the
project e.g. they were brainstorming about re-
search questions and possible respondents, plan-
ning, preparing, carrying out and filming inter-
views etc.
Participatory research: generating knowledge
with young people
In a participatory research project, at least in its
ideal form, the knowledge, priorities and perspec-
tives of the participants ”are not only acknowl-
edged but form the basis for research and plan-
ning” (Cornwall & Jewkes 1995: 1667). Researcher
and research participants can be seen as research
partners all of whom actively contribute to the
project. Research participants contribute their
“subject expertise” and the researcher his or her
“academic and methodological expertise” (Heath
et al. 2009: 74). Participatory research should
therefore enable researchers to focus on reflection
and action with and by research participants rather
than on them (Cornwall & Jewkes 1995, our em-
phasis). Participatory research in combination with
various creative and interactive methods has found
appreciation in youth research as means by which
to give young people more control over the entire
research project. In the research by Cele (2006)
discussed above, walks enabled children to take
on a more active role. In addition, photography
enabled children to take initiative and have more
control over the research project because the re-
searcher was entirely absent from the moment of
data generation (Cele 2006). Other researchers
(Kellett et al. 2004; Kellett 2005; Valentine 2001)
have found that using a combination of creative
and interactive methods encourage and enable
young people to develop and practice new skills
(i.e. communication, writing and organization
skills and critical thinking) that support and im-
prove their self-esteem.
Fig. 1. Research location (Cedar marked with a rectangle)
94 FENNIA 188: 1 (2010)
Elen-Maarja Trell and Bettina Van Hoven
With regards to (1) our aim of revealing different
layers of place experience and (2) our group of
youth respondents in Cedar, a participatory ap-
proach and using a mix of creative and interactive
methods seemed like a suitable fit. In practice, we
introduced the methods to our research partici-
pants and involved them in selecting the methods
to express themselves. By using a variety of meth-
ods we provided an opportunity for young people
with different interests and abilities to take part in
the project since, as Heath et al. (2009: 87) ob-
served, “some young people are simply better at
telling stories than others, better able to articulate
their views”, Table 1 gives an overview of the
methods used, possibilities they offer for youth to
approach the research in a creative and active
manner and interact with each other, and the po-
tential of each method for facilitating youth-place
interaction .
Research methods
In order to illustrate the aspects of place that the
‘new’ visual and creative research methods reveal
and compare their benefits (and limitations) to in-
terviewing, in the sections below we will first pro-
vide an overview of some basic characteristics of
interviewing followed by walks, mental mapping,
video and photography. Secondly, using a specific
location (Cedar Community Secondary School)
from the research project in Cedar as an example,
we will contrast and compare interviews to the
‘new’ methods.
“There’s not really much to say…”3: exploring
place by using interviews
Data collection using interviews continues to be
one of the most widely used approaches in social
research practice (Heath et al. 2009). Interviews, in
their most common form, are “verbal interchanges
where one person, the interviewer, attempts to elic-
it information from another person” (Dunn 2000:
51). In order to carry out an interview it is neces-
sary to have “some form of direct access to the per-
son being interviewed” (Dunn 2000: 51). Such real
time contact is usually achieved by face-to-face
meetings. With the increasing technological possi-
bilities, new creative ways to access people have
been explored, for example, interviews that are
conducted via telephone or online, often via a chat
program like MSN Messenger. Interviews have
many benefits, such as allowing researchers to un-
derstand how meanings differ between people, ex-
ploring topics more in-depth, giving respondents
an opportunity to intervene, raise additional issues
and so on. Relatively recently, the interview proc-
ess has gone through many creative transforma-
tions. Using images or activities to stimulate dis-
cussion, elicit information but also minimize pow-
er imbalance between the interviewer and the re-
spondents has found its appreciation within youth
research practice (see for instance Heath et al.
2009). However, when exploring place-related in-
formation in geographical research, interviews also
impose restrictions. Importantly, interviews often
do not take place ‘on location’ i.e. during an inter-
view a respondent has no direct contact with the
place or objects s/he is talking about (but see An-
derson 2004; Hitchings and Jones 2004 for excep-
tions). The information revealed is based only on
one’s mental image of the place, or one’s memo-
ries. It is challenging then to capture small nuanc-
es, multi-sensual dimensions and embodied prac-
tices of people’s place experiences using only the
interview method. Tuan (1975) and recently Thrift
(2008) insist that those nuances make up a substan-
tial part of what place means to people and how
place influences them.
Method Creativity Interaction:
youth – researcher
youth – place
youth – youth
Interviews *
Walks * * *
Mental mapping * * *
Individual video/photography * *
Video & walk * * * *
Table 1. Research methods and their interactive and creative qualities (after Cele 2006)
FENNIA 188: 1 (2010) 95
Making sense of place: exploring creative and (inter)active …
“[W]e have felt [the] walks to be three-way-con-
versations, with interviewee, interviewer and lo-
cality engaged in an exchange of ideas; place has
been under discussion but, more than this, and
crucially, under foot and all around, and as such
much more of an active, present participant in the
conversation, able to prompt and interject” (Hall
et al. 2006: 3).
Hall et al. (2006) imply that when walking and
experiencing places in an embodied way, a differ-
ent type of knowledge can be obtained than using
methods that are used only indoors. A type of
knowledge, that is “taken for granted by the par-
ticipants, but is often crucial, as it reveals how
places function for people” (Cele 2006: 128; see
also Kusenbach 2003). Walks allow a researcher to
capture interaction between youth and place as it
happens. The knowledge gathered in this context
is closely tied to the physical experiences of place.
As a research technique, walks in general in-
clude a combination of “conversation, unstruc-
tured observations and experiences” (Cele 2006:
149). Cele (2006) calls walking (with children) a
performance-based research method where being
active and on the move, while constantly seeing,
hearing, feeling and smelling the place, triggers
conversations and reflections that would probably
not occur otherwise. Conversation is also one of
the central parts of the walks.4 Walks allow the re-
spondent to “be in charge” – the researcher is the
one “going along” (Carpiano 2009: 263) and can
be bracketed outside the data generation process
or observe it (van Hoven & Meijering forthcom-
ing). The above-mentioned characteristics of the
walk enable researchers to study in detail how
place matters to people, and how people use and
are influenced by places. Walks have been used,
for example, in studies exploring the relationship
between children and urban environment (see
Raittila 2006) or the role of places for people’s
well-being (see Carpiano 2009). In order to make
the walk tangible and recall it later voice recorder,
photo or video camera are often used by research-
ers (see Cele 2006).
Mental mapping
Mental mapping is an activity that is considered to
encompass a great deal of creativity (particularly
when working with young people). Although some
structures and guidelines i.e. the theme of the
map, can be provided by the researcher, a re-
spondent is relatively free in choosing the content,
detail, design and layout of her/his map. The pos-
sibility to express oneself in a creative manner is
one of the greatest strengths of mental mapping.
Although there is no direct interaction between
the objects, places, events and the respondents,
(undirected) mental mapping allows for more cre-
ativity and freedom to express oneself with less
influence from the researcher. Information about
(the meaning of) places in mental maps is based
on respondents’ view of the relative importance of
places in their daily lives (see also Matthews
1984a; 1984b; Young and Barrett 2001). The re-
spondent chooses which elements to include and
exclude from the map which means that the places
a researcher chooses to focus on in an interview
may be absent altogether. If done in a group con-
text, the group can influence the places respond-
ents add to their mental maps and the ways in
which they talk about these places. This process
can also trigger spontaneous discussion about dai-
ly places, activities, and people with whom the
respondents spend time. The mental maps (such as
in figure 2 below) summarize an individual’s use/
opinions/knowledge about her/his environment.
Mental maps provide an overview of places, ob-
jects or activities relative to each other. They can
also be used to make an assessment about the rela-
tive importance of places for an individual e.g.
which place is positioned in the centre (see figure
2). Whereas mental maps as such may provide
enough information for a psychologist to analyze
additional meanings conveyed by the use of
Fig. 2. Example of a mental map (by Kevin, male, 17)
96 FENNIA 188: 1 (2010)
Elen-Maarja Trell and Bettina Van Hoven
shapes and colors included on each map, for ge-
ographers interested in the meanings of places ad-
ditional information is necessary. Hence, explana-
tions by the ‘author’ of the map are essential. The
explanations are usually given in the form of a dis-
cussion in the group context and/ or with the re-
searcher following the mental mapping session.
One might argue that when using interviews or
discussions to explain the maps, words become
dominant and the value of the mental mapping
technique is undermined. Another drawback of
mental mapping is that it is a method which, simi-
larly to interviews, is used indoors i.e. not on loca-
tion the respondent is communicating. There is no
direct contact between the respondents and the
places they show on their maps. The respondents
instead have to resort to using their recollections.
However, the mental mapping process and the
resulting group dynamics themselves can be valu-
able outcomes and means of ‘breaking the ice’ be-
tween the researcher and the respondents. In addi-
tion, the mental maps can serve as basis for other
research methods used, providing an anchor-point
for the students as well as the researcher when ex-
ploring the local context.
According to various authors (see Prosser 1998;
Pink 2007; Edwards & Bhaumik 2008 for exam-
ple), much of our knowledge about the world, and
consequentially about our places, is built on the
visual. Therefore, in line with the rapid develop-
ments and decreasing prices of technology, the
interest in and use of visual research methods,
such as video and photography, has sharply in-
creased within a great variety of research disci-
plines dealing with people and places e.g. sociol-
ogy, planning, geography (Pink 2007). The devel-
opment of digital and computer technologies has
made photography as well as video easy and rela-
tively cheap to use.
Video and photography can be incorporated
into a research process in several ways. Both can
be used as a researcher-led or respondent-led
technique. In case of the latter, asking respondents
to film or take photos of their everyday environ-
ment can be very beneficial as it allows the re-
searcher to get an overview of people’s interaction
with places without “intruding on their daily
schedules or following them around” (Cele 2006:
155). Filming and/or taking photos can be an em-
powering experience as young people are in
charge of the process and get to represent the
things they choose, when and from whichever an-
gle they choose. The benefit of using video over
photography is the possibility for the respondents
to narrate their videos while filming, thus provid-
ing some form of an explanation to the images
while experiencing a location first hand. In addi-
tion, in geographical research these methods can
be used outdoors, therefore, similarly to walks,
they enable the research participants to be inspired
by direct contact with their environment.
Video and photography also have their draw-
backs. Analyzing video-data is a time-consuming
process. Knoblauch et al. (2006: 14–16) note:
“A few minutes of recording produce a large
quantity of visual, kinesthetic, and acoustic data
that must be transcribed and prepared for analy-
Moreover, the researcher has to be well aware
of the influence, relationship and weight s/he at-
taches to different elements (sound, images, tran-
script) of the video data (see Knoblauch et al. 2006
for a detailed discussion of the elements of video
data). The researcher has to make a choice wheth-
er to ask respondents to explain their creation (in
which case words could become dominant) or to
interpret the images independently. In the context
of (participatory) youth research the latter is not
favored. In order to empower young people they
should be included in interpreting the data/their
creation.5 The complex technology may be a fur-
ther challenge when using video as a research
method (Knoblauch et al. 2006), although this may
be the case more for the researcher than the youth
Research methods in practice
In order to discuss the ‘new’ research methods and
aspects of places they help to unveil in this paper,
we focus on a specific location – Cedar Commu-
nity Secondary School (CCSS) (see table 2). Cedar
Community Secondary School (CCSS) appeared to
be one of the key, shared places of the partici-
pants. It was, consequentially, a place represented
by all participants by one or another research
method. However, even though we mainly use in-
formation revealed about CCSS, we will also refer
to other locations and experiences from our
project where more appropriate i.e. where the
merits or limitations of individual methods appear
more clearly.
FENNIA 188: 1 (2010) 97
Making sense of place: exploring creative and (inter)active …
Table 2. Cedar Community Secondary School represented using different research methods
Ryan (male, 17) Kevin (male, 17) Shaleeta (female, 17) Evan (male, 17)
“ [Cedar school] is
really my social outpost. I
love it in school. It is the
place that I have grown up
with, I’m not sure what to do
with my time when I have no
school… I guess it just gives
me something to do.” (re-
searcher-led interview)
“There’s not really much to
say about the environment
[at Cedar school] because it’s
just a normal, relaxed, easy-
going environment. […] I
like pretty much everything
about this school. […] It’s a
really nice comfortable
place” (peer-led interview)
“When I first came here I felt
really... I, I was not impressed
with the school environ-
ment. But now that I’ve been
here for a while it’s much
better. I haven’t had too
many problems here. I’ve
had problems at other
schools, but not here” (peer-
led interview)
“The school envi-
ronment at Cedar
is really, really
neat. Just […] the
way that the school
is basically laid out
is that, it really
makes for easy so-
cial interaction, in
just that it’s so
open” (researcher-
led interview)
Walks: images &
Ryan: “A bird just came out of the school! Oh yeah, we should get the birds! We
have birds in our rafter. I can hear them, but I can’t see them right now, they’re up
in there. There’s a bunch of… yeah, the dung [laughing] (screenshot, traces of birds
on Cedar Community Secondary School) […]
Mental Maps & explanations
“My school is a good place
and I stay there a lot so I put
down my school”
“Anyway, I got the school
right here because I like
coming to school, although I
don’t really do much but it’s
“And this is like…the Cedar
“So, school, that’s
Video / Photography
Ryan’s photo & explanation:
“This is my school. It is cur-
rently the main focus of my
life. All of my activities come
from school in some way,
even if it is making plans
with my friends”
Kevin’s video & narration:
“And just like that I’m at the
school. In order to get to my
favorite place, up there, I
have to GET up there [film-
ing the school roof]. […] And
just like that I’m up.[…] And
this, this is my favorite spot to
be [the school roof]. In fact I
even come up and read right
there, right in the shade. I
just love this place.”
Shaleeta’s photo:
Shaleeta with friends at
school. No detailed explana-
tion added.
School not repre-
sented on Evan’s
video. Disposable
camera not re-
Table 2 illustrates the kind of information that
the students in our project generated about CCSS
when using different methods. In the sections be-
low, information from table 2 serves as basis for
discussing different qualities of research methods.
In order to eventually assess the added value and
success of each method, we will consider aspects
of places revealed and aspects of methods such as
98 FENNIA 188: 1 (2010)
Elen-Maarja Trell and Bettina Van Hoven
creativity/interactivity for involving different indi-
viduals, as criteria.
“It’s a really nice comfortable place”6:
Interviewing in practice
In our project we used both structured and un-
structured interviews as well as peer-led and re-
searcher led interviews. The participants also prac-
ticed conducting individual interviews with each
other. In addition, they conducted a number of
peer-led interviews among their friends and class-
mates. Finally, the students planned, prepared,
conducted and filmed (semi-structured) interviews
with, for example, the manager and a security
guard of the local shopping mall and the principal
of their school.
Unstructured discussion/group-interview was
the most frequently used form of interviewing in
our project. The researcher was guiding the dis-
cussion but the conversation usually remained
informal. We used group-interviews, for instance,
as a support for the visual/active and creative ap-
proaches where the participants could explain
the contents of their mental maps, photos and
videos to the researcher. As an addition to the
‘new’ methods, interviews were beneficial be-
cause they gave young people a chance to ex-
plain their creation and include information that
was forgotten or unclear to the adult researcher.
In such a way, the young people obtained more
control over the way in which the information
they provided was interpreted. Interviews carried
out in a group context also had its drawbacks. It
appeared that more articulate individuals became
dominant, and so did their opinions and prefer-
ences. However, the students were aware of that,
were later able to reflect on their role in a group
and divide roles for their own research project
accordingly. The same individuals who talked
much during ‘practice-interviews’ were the ones
who preferred to take a role as interviewer during
the peer-led interviews.
Peer-led interviews enabled the research partici-
pants to learn new skills such as preparing inter-
view questions, playing a role of an interviewer or
camera (wo)man. The information the students
gathered during interviews also allowed them to
reflect on their own role in society. For example, a
piece of information revealed by the manager of
Woodgrove mall about security guards regularly
dispersing larger groups of teenagers was later of-
ten quoted and used by the students in discussions
about their encounters with adult mall visitors, ex-
clusion and marginalization they experience while
in the mall (and their motivation for transgressing
the mall rules).
Focusing on the information revealed about Ce-
dar School, during the interviews students were
asked to describe their school environment. It was
a concrete question which prompted everybody to
talk about their school. However, the students lim-
ited themselves to strictly answering the question
(see table 2). Table 2 illustrates that the discussions
focused on the social and cultural dimensions of
the school. Interviews revealed that the students
have a similar, positive, opinion about their school.
School appears as more or less equally significant
for everybody. Interviews triggered associations
and comparisons thus revealing different aspects
of students’ character, family life and friends i.e.
Shaleeta (see table 2). In addition, based on inter-
views, estimations could be made about different
levels of attachment students feel towards their
school e.g. compare Ryan and Shaleeta (table 2).
One of the disadvantages of the interviews was
that the students did not talk much about what
their places look like. Since our meetings were
held at school they may not have felt it necessary
to describe the building to the researcher. How-
ever, as appeared from the photos and videos,
there were many details about the layout and the
school building itself that made it a meaningful
place for the students. These details, like the view
from the school roof, the local scenery, a little bird
or a forgotten football were too common for them
to mention or to even remember. However, as ap-
pears from table 2, such small details contributed
to making the school meaningful and special for
many of the students.
“Oh yeah, we should get the birds!”7:
Walking with young people
In our research project, the students were in charge
of planning the walk. The walk, which lasted
roughly three hours, took us through Cedar village
centre, through a forest area (which was used as a
running-track for Cedar secondary gym lessons)
leading to a residential area and eventually back to
Cedar school. We used walks in conjunction with
video. The students recorded the entire walk with
a video-camera, and a photo camera was used by
the researchers to capture students in interaction
with their places. Conversations during the walk
evolved around daily activities, interests, memo-
FENNIA 188: 1 (2010) 99
Making sense of place: exploring creative and (inter)active …
ries and friends and were mostly triggered by the
objects encountered on the way.
Table 2 includes a still from a clip from the be-
ginning of the walk. The quote next to it reveals the
main strengths of walks; the objects that are en-
countered during the walk actively participate in
the walk and the data generated. For example, a
bird flying by prompted Ryan to film the school
rafter where the birds nest and discuss the noise
they make and the traces they leave (see table 2
and the quote in the subtitle above). Ryan indi-
cates that the birds are a part of the school experi-
ence and that it was not the first time the students
noticed their presence. It is quite possible that
Ryan would hear the birds during class and that
they affect his in-class experience (e.g. provide a
welcome distraction during boring moments or
prove to be annoying during exams). The possibil-
ity of being outdoors and hearing the birds thus
had a direct influence on the way Ryan represent-
ed his school. He was able to reveal a new dimen-
sion of his school experiences that was not talked
about in the interview. The encountered objects or
situations may also trigger discussions about more
abstract aspects of place. In the wider context of
the walk, an interaction with a Cedar tree, for ex-
ample, sparked a discussion about the history of
Cedar and, eventually, its social problems. Simi-
larly, seeing a dog inspired students to talk about
local life-style which led to a discussion about
places in the neighborhood they liked or disliked.
In our study, the walk facilitated interaction not
only between people and places but also among
people (respondents and researcher). Walks can
be a good means for the researcher and respond-
ents to get to know each other outside the formal
‘classroom’ context. After the walk, the students
felt more at ease in the researcher’s presence and
were more eager to take initiatives. Hence, walks
can be considered useful for balancing the une-
qual power-relations. The possibility of interaction
between the researcher and the students during
the walk allowed the researcher to compare adult
and youth perspectives and revealed in detail how
places were interpreted and used by young peo-
ple. The researcher’s reactions to young people’s
stories and encountered objects, however, influ-
enced the kind of information and detail young
people were willing to reveal.
Similarly to Cele’s (2006) findings, in our study
walks and interviews appeared to provide differ-
ent, even contradictory information about young
people’s use and experiences of places. For exam-
ple during interviews the students claimed that
they “never actually do anything in Cedar [vil-
lage]” (Evan, male, 17). However, during the walks
it appeared that most of their friends live in Cedar,
that they often hang out at these friends’ places
and that some of their favorite places for solitude
and recreation are in Cedar.
The disadvantages of walking were mainly of
practical nature. First of all, walks can be very
time-consuming. As noted above, our walk in Ce-
dar lasted three hours. Participants may not be
willing or able to give up such a big part of their
day (or week) to go for a walk with a researcher. In
our research project, Evan was, for example in-
volved in planning the walk but had too many
other engagements to join the group later. Second-
ly, when one’s target group is young people (or
children) there may be other restrictions involved
in taking them out for a walk without the supervi-
sion of parents or teachers. Therefore, cooperation
with a parent, local youth worker or teacher may
be necessary. Thirdly, and specifically for research
dealing with places and place experiences of a
group of people, a disadvantage of walking can be
that it is not possible to include everybody’s mean-
ingful places equally. In our project, the distances
between different person’s individual key places
were too great to cover during an afternoon of
walking (or driving). The route the students chose
for the walk for practical reasons (time and acces-
sibility) was therefore more familiar to some stu-
dents than others. In addition to limitations experi-
enced in our project, Carpiano (2009) added, for
example, natural conditions (i.e. it may not be pos-
sible to conduct a walking tour with extremely
cold/warm weather), time of day (i.e. the time of
day that respondents are able to walk with the re-
searcher may be the time of day that a neighbor-
hood is un-naturally quiet or busy) or vague lan-
guage respondents use that may be understanda-
ble in a concrete situation but make analyzing an
audio/video recording challenging.
“So, school, that’s self-explanatory”8:
Mental mapping in practice
In our research project, the participants were
asked to make a mental map of their meaningful
daily places. Instructions were given to include
places that they like as well as places that they dis-
like. Besides that, they were free to choose what-
ever color, shape, size or detail they wanted the
places on their map to have.
100 FENNIA 188: 1 (2010)
Elen-Maarja Trell and Bettina Van Hoven
Mental maps were useful for the (adult) re-
searcher to get an overview of the wider context of
young people’s lives/places. It also proved to be
beneficial for making a distinction between the
participants’ shared and individual key places.
Considering the interaction between the students
and the researcher, mental maps were a good start-
ing point for discussions about the daily places of
participants in more detail. While making the
mental maps, the students engaged in conversa-
tions about their daily activities and people they
spend time with. The time spent on making the
mental maps and the spontaneous and unstruc-
tured conversations that occurred during that time
between the researcher and the students allowed
both to become familiar with each other and were
a good means of ‘breaking the ice’.
Looking at the information revealed about CCSS
in table 2, mental mapping appears to have added
value in revealing locations of places in relation to
each other (compare where ‘school’ is located on
different maps, its position to other places). Fur-
thermore, mental mapping reveals respondents’
view of relative importance of places in their daily
lives (see also Young and Barrett 2001). Whereas
during interviews students were asked explicitly
about their school and they were expected to talk
about this place, in the mental mapping process
they were not told which places to include. When
making mental maps, all of the students individu-
ally and voluntarily chose to include Cedar School
on their maps as a meaningful place.
In practice, we combined mental mapping with
a discussion about the maps. As mentioned above
and as appears when looking at figure 2, mental
maps do not provide much additional information
about details of places, their meanings or personal
reasons for including specific locations on the
map.9 Hence, the participants were involved in in-
terpreting the maps. Looking at table 2 it appears,
however, that even the explanations from the au-
thors of mental maps may not provide much ad-
ditional information. Concerning the CCSS exam-
ple, the students considered its importance “self-
explanatory” and did not elaborate much on its
meaning on their maps.
“In fact I even come up and read right there,
right in the shade”10: Video & photography in
In our project, the emphasis was on respondent-
generated images (both photos and movies). Al-
though a video-camera was always present during
our group-discussions and meetings, only the stu-
dents were actively using it for recording their
places and (peer-led) interviews. In addition, the
students received disposable cameras for their in-
dividual data collection, took turns in taking the
video camera home to record and narrate their
daily places and used the digital photo-camera
during the walk and peer-led interviews.
Since the students narrated their videos, both
abstract and concrete aspects of place were re-
vealed. Besides the words they selected, the tone
of voice of the students when talking about their
place while experiencing and being present, was
very expressive and an invaluable addition to the
video images. A good example is Kevin who, while
filming the school roof, stresses his strong positive
emotions towards this place with the sound and
pitch of his voice. In contrast, the written explana-
tions on the back of photographs were more gen-
eral comments in which the students described
what was depicted on a photo or giving an opinion
about a place.
The fact that it was possible to use video and
photography outdoors provided further advantages
similar to walking (see above), e.g. students were
active and seeing, hearing, smelling, feeling their
places. Objects/people/events took part in data
generation and generated different and additional
information to interview data.
Since we used video and photography in indi-
vidual data collection, the participants were able
to be alone and unrestricted by schedules imposed
by the researcher when using these methods. A
clear advantage of such choice appears from the
example of Kevin in table 2. Kevin did not reveal
the school roof as his special place in the in-class
interview, nor did he mention it during the walk
with the rest of the group. In his video, however,
the school roof appears as his favorite place. Indi-
vidual data collection using video was suitable in
his case as it allowed him to choose the time and
means by which it was comfortable for him to re-
veal the importance and his use of this place. One
limitation of the researcher not being present dur-
ing individual data collection is the fact that s/he
cannot observe the interaction between people
and their places or point out/ask questions about
details that respondents may be too accustomed to
notice or reveal.
Kevin’s example in table 2 also illustrates the
qualities of individual data collection using video
and photography in enabling youth to communi-
FENNIA 188: 1 (2010) 101
Making sense of place: exploring creative and (inter)active …
cate their intimate places and comfort zones. Sim-
ilar tendencies appeared from the video-data of
Ryan who took the camera to one of his favorite
places near a creek behind his house and Evan
filmed the door of his bedroom where he hangs
“everything that is special” to him.
Discussion and conclusions
In this paper, we explored the additional value of
walks, mental mapping, video and photography
when making sense of place by comparing ‘new’
methods to more ‘traditional’ research method –
interviewing. We furthermore discussed the limita-
tions of each method and their suitability for in-
volving young people more actively in whole re-
search process. Given our engagement with every-
day place experiences, we explicitly focused on
and emphasized the suitability of different meth-
ods for exploring the multiple aspects and mean-
ings of daily places for different individuals. Table
3 gives an overview of the discussed methods and
the information they revealed.
Table 3 illustrates that the ‘new’ research meth-
ods have additional advantages for exploring peo-
ple-place relations. The results of our study in part
support Cele’s (2006) findings in that interviews
reveal mostly abstract aspects of places (i.e. social
and cultural aspects, opinions and memories). But
more creative and interactive methods are able to
include objects, events and the respondent’s whole
body and senses in generating knowledge and
communicating a place (table 3). In so doing, they
reveal emotions triggered by direct contact with
the object/place/event. Especially methods that
can be used ‘in the field’ enabled research partici-
pants to communicate place by using their senses
(olfactory, tactile, auditory, visual).
In the context of our project, the (individual)
video data collection appeared to be the best
method for gathering information about emotions
connected to places and gaining a ‘feel’ for places
and what they ‘sound like’. Furthermore, both vid-
eo and photography, communicated the appear-
ance of places better than any of the indoor-meth-
ods used (i.e. interviews and mental mapping).
However, analyzing the visual data proved to be a
challenge because of the abundance of different
elements captured, especially on film and because
there is little guidance in methods literature (Rose
2001 is a notable exception). Another challenge of
using visual methods is the possibility of coinci-
dental things to be overrated. For example, things
that are encountered often may be overempha-
sized as meaningful. Therefore, video and photog-
raphy can best be used in combination with inter-
views. A further limitation of the creative and in-
teractive methods is the difficulty to involve larger
number of respondents. Therefore, the methods of-
fer limited possibilities to reach wider-ranging
conclusions about place.
Concerning the involvement of different indi-
viduals, the creative and interactive methods were
beneficial because they enabled young people to
express themselves both individually and in a
group context. In that way, it was possible for
youth to generate knowledge while interacting
with their places but also with their peers and the
researcher. Video and photography, for example,
were beneficial for young people for communicat-
ing their places without the presence/influence of
the group or the researcher. Such an opportunity
was useful for involving the views of students who
were shy or less articulate in the group context,
who were very active or whom the schedule of the
researcher did not suit. However, because data
collection where the researcher is not present in-
Table 3. Themes and aspects of place revealed with different research methods
Method Themes/Aspects of places revealed
Interviews Abstract aspects (i.e. thoughts, memories, feelings towards places)
Walks Concrete aspects (birds, tractor, dogs, sounds, smell – appearance of place); abstract aspects
(memories, activities, opinions, interaction with each other and place)
Mental maps (& discus-
Location of places in relation to each other; relative importance of places; shared and individual
key places; information about past experiences, opinions, future plans, interests and hobbies
Video & Photography Concrete aspects (appearance, sounds, smells); written explanations behind photos revealed use
of places, information about friends and favorite places; narration of video revealed emotions,
personal meanings, use of place
102 FENNIA 188: 1 (2010)
Elen-Maarja Trell and Bettina Van Hoven
volve a certain amount of discipline and responsi-
bility, they may not be suitable for all individuals.
Video appeared as the most attractive method
for all of the students. The fact that it was chosen as
a technique for their individual research project
(movie about Cedar School) illustrates this point.
(Inter)active methods such as making the individu-
al video or walking proved to be very successful
for students such as Kevin who were highly active
and knew the local environment well. It was diffi-
cult for Kevin to sit still or concentrate on one task
for a long time.11 For example, when asked by a
teacher during photography class to take photos of
significant places in Cedar school he claimed he
was always on the move and never stopped long
enough to have any significant places (hence there
are no photos by Kevin in table 2). Filming, and
the possibility to walk/climb/run outside with the
video camera, enabled Kevin to be on the move
and still express himself and contribute to the re-
search project. For a creative and artistic person
such as Shaleeta making (very detailed and com-
prehensive) mental maps appeared to be a good
means to express herself.12 Talkative and outgoing
Evan enjoyed being the ‘interviewer’ during the
(peer-led) interviews where he could interact with
others. He often took the initiative and liked to
lead interviews and discussions.
Comparing individual interviews with methods
used in group context, the latter (i.e. mental map-
ping, walks) had added value as they created a
more relaxed atmosphere where attention was not
focused on one individual, everybody could be
exactly as active as they wanted and choose differ-
ent means to express themselves. Therefore, mix-
ing methods and giving young people a chance to
choose the method they feel most comfortable
with appeared beneficial in order to involve every-
body as equally as possible. The methods dis-
cussed in this paper could also be applied for in-
volving or working with respondents from other
age groups. However, in that case, different practi-
cal limitations and considerations should be taken
into account (see Carpiano 2009 for an example).
In the context of the participatory approach
chosen in our research project, combining the
‘new’ creative and interactive methods proved to
be particularly successful. The ‘new’ methods mo-
tivated young people with different character, in-
terests and abilities to express themselves and be
involved in our project. First, the creative and in-
teractive components of the ‘new’ methods pro-
vided individuals, with different skills and abili-
ties, ways to express themselves, and thus moti-
vated them to stay involved with the project. Sec-
ond, the qualities of creative and interactive meth-
ods enabled respondents to choose to work out-
side the group context and without the presence of
the researcher. Hence, the combination of meth-
ods gave the participants more control over the
research process. The outcomes of our project
demonstrate that when employed in such a way
the ‘new’ methods have added value as they have
the potential to motivate respondents to include
additional information about their comfort zones
and personal meaningful places (where they
would not go with an adult researcher or a whole
group). We would emphasize, too, that the stu-
dents learned new skills (i.e. how to carry out an
interview or edit a movie) and gathered knowl-
edge that was useful to them when reflecting on
their daily lives (i.e. using information, concepts
and terminology of the project in their everyday
communication) during the project. We may con-
clude then that the mix of methods was successful
in terms of empowering youth.
The authors are grateful to the respondents and Ms.
Susann Young at Cedar Community Secondary School
for their assistance and for sharing their everyday
lives with us. Special thanks are extended to our col-
league prof. Paulus Huigen for his guidance and sup-
port throughout the process of writing this paper. The
authors would furthermore like to thank two anony-
mous referees for their valuable comments on the
earlier version of this paper. Dr. Nadine Schäfer was
an inspiration for us on the participatory research
methods and Tamara Kaspers-Westra kindly helped to
prepare the map of Vancouver Island. This project
would not have been possible without the financial
support from the International Council of Canadian
Studies (ICCS), Association for Canadian Studies in
The Netherlands (ACSN), Groninger Universiteits
Fonds (GUF), Faculty of Spatial Sciences (University
of Groningen) and Canadian Studies Centre (Univer-
sity of Groningen).
1 Different modes of knowing a place often overlap
and co-occur. For example, a smell can be a remind-
er of a certain history with a place.
2 See Trell and Van Hoven (2009) for more details
about importance of different aspects of places for
young people’s attachment to place.
FENNIA 188: 1 (2010) 103
Making sense of place: exploring creative and (inter)active …
3 Kevin (male, 17) interview with the researcher.
4 Carpiano (2009) refers to such walks (also car or
bike-rides) as ‘go-along’ qualitative interviews.
5 See Hörschelmann & Schäfer (2005) for a detailed
discussion about issues relating to interpreting imag-
es in youth research.
6 Kevin (male, 17), peer-led interview.
7 Ryan (male, 17), filming & narrating the Cedar walk
8 Evan (male, 17), discussing mental maps.
9 Since the aim of our project was to explore stu-
dent’s daily meaningful places in general the result-
ing maps covered a very wide range of places. When
focusing on one specific place and mapping it, one
can assume that more concrete aspects and details
will be revealed.
10 Kevin (male, 17), individual video data collection.
11 Kevin has an attention deficit disorder
12 Although creative writing would have suited her
Anderson J 2004. Talking while walking: a geograph-
ical archaeology of knowledge. Area 36, 254–
Best A 2007. Representing youth: methodological is-
sues in critical youth studies. New York University
Press, New York.
Bourdieu P 1990. The logic of practice. Stanford Uni-
versity Press, California.
Carpiano RM 2009. Come take a walk with me: The
“Go-Along” interview as a novel method for stud-
ying the implications of place for health and well-
being. Health & Place 15, 263–272.
Cele S 2006. Communicating place, methods for un-
derstanding children’s experiences of place.
Almqvist & Wiksell International, Stockholm.
de Certeau M 2002. The practice of everyday life.
University of California Press, California.
Cornwall A & Jewkes R 1995. What is participatory
research? Social science and medicine 41:12,
Cresswell T 2004. Place: a short introduction. Black-
well Publishing, Oxford.
Dunn K 2000. Interviewing. In Hay I (ed). Qualitative
research methods in human geography, 50–82.
Oxford University Press, Malbourne.
Edwards E & Bhaumik K 2008. Visual sense: a cul-
tural reader. Berg, New York.
Eyles J 1989. The geography of everyday life. In Gre-
gory D & Walford R (eds). Horizons in human ge-
ography, 102–117. Macmillan Education Ltd,
Felski R 2000. Doing time: feminist theory and post-
modern culture. New York University Press, New
Hall T, Lahua B & Coffey A 2006. Stories as sorties.
Qualitative Researcher 3: 3, 2–4.
Heath S, Brooks R, Cleaver E & Ireland E 2009. Re-
searching young people’s lives. Sage, London.
Hitchings R & Jones V 2004. Living with plants and
the exploration of botanical encounter within hu-
man geographic research practice. Ethics, Place
and Environment 7, 3–19.
van Hoven B & Meijering L (forthcoming). On the
ground. Thinking through the production of
knowledge. In Cloke P, del Casino V, Panelli R &
Thomas M (eds). Companion to Social Geogra-
phy. Blackwell, Oxford.
Hörschelmann K & Schäfer N 2005. Performing the
global through the local – globalisation and indi-
vidualisation in the spatial practices of young East
Germans. Children’s geographies 3:2, 219–242.
Kellett M 2005. How to develop children as research-
ers. A step-by-step guide to teaching the research
process. Paul Chapman Publishing, London.
Kellett M, Forrest R, Dent N & Ward S 2004. Just
teach us the skills please, we’ll do the rest: em-
powering ten-year-olds as active researchers.
Children & Society 18, 329–343.
Kesby M 2000. Participatory diagramming: deploying
qualitative methods through an action research
epistemology. Area 32, 423–435.
Knoblauch H, Schnettler JR & Soeffner HG 2006.
Video analysis. Methodology and methods: quali-
tative audiovisual data analysis in sociology. Peter
Lang, Frankfurt am Main.
Koskela H & Pain R 2000. Revisiting fear and place:
women’s fear of attack and the built environment.
Geoforum 31, 269–80.
Kusenbach M 2003. Street-phenomenology: the go-
along as ethnographic research tool. Ethnography
4: 3, 449–479.
Kyttä M 2008. Children in Outdoor Contexts. VDM
Verlag Dr. Mueller, Sarbrücken.
Latham A 2003. Research, performance, and doing
human geography: some reflections on the diary-
photograph, diary-interview method. Environ-
ment and Planning A 35:11, 1993–2017.
Laurier E & Philo C 2006. Possible geographies: a
passing encounter in a café. Area 38:4, 353–363.
Laurier E & Philo C 2007. A Parcel of muddling muck-
worms: revisiting Habermas and the English cof-
fee house. Social and Cultural Geography 8: 2,
Laurier E 2008. How breakfast happens in the
café. Time & Society 17:1, 119–143.
Lorimer H 2005. Cultural geography: the business of
being ‘more-than-representational’. Progress in
Human Geography 29:1, 83–94.
McCormack DP 2003. An event of geographical eth-
ics in spaces of affect. Transactions of the Institute
of British Geographers 28:4, 488–507.
Matthews MH 1984a. Cognitive mapping abilities of
young boys and girls. Geography. Journal of the
Geographical Association 69:4, 327–336.
Matthews MH 1984b. Cognitive maps: a comparison
of graphic and iconic techniques. Area 16:1, 33–
104 FENNIA 188: 1 (2010)
Elen-Maarja Trell and Bettina Van Hoven
Merleau-Ponty M 1945; 1995. Phenomenology of
perception. Routledge, London.
Pain R & Francis P 2003. Reflections on participatory
research. Area 35, 46–54.
Panelli R, Nairn K & McCormack J 2002. “We make
our own fun”: reading the politics of youth with(in)
community. Sociologia Ruralis 42:2, 106–130.
Pink S 2007. Doing visual ethnography: images, me-
dia and representation in research. Sage, Lon-
Prosser J 1999. Image-based research: a sourcebook
for qualitative researchers. RoutledgeFalmer, Lon-
don & New York.
Punch S 2002. Research with children: the same or
different from research with adults? Childhood
9:3, 321–341.
Raittila R 2006. Methodological approaches to pre-
school children’s relationship with the urban envi-
ronment. In Tani S (ed). Sustainable development
through education. Proceedings of the interna-
tional conference on environmental education.
Helsinki, 14 June 2005, 111–126. University of
Helsinki, Helsinki.
Relph EC 1976. Place and placelessness. Pion Press,
Rose G 2001. Visual methodologies: an introduction
to the interpretation of visual materials. Sage Pub-
lications, London.
Semi J 2004. Fear in urban space: experiences of
space and fear among young people in Joensuu.
The Finnish Journal of Youth Research (“Nuoriso-
tutkimus”) 22:1, 17–29.
Thrift N 2008. Non-representational theory.
Routledge, New York.
Thrift N 2009. Space: the fundamental stuff of geog-
raphy. In Clifford N, Holloway SL, Rice SP & Val-
entine G (eds). Key concepts in geography. Sage
Publications, London.
Trell EM & van Hoven B (forthcoming). Place attach-
ment in rural areas: a participatory research
project with youth in Cedar, British Columbia. In
den Toonder J (ed). Re-Exploring Canadian Space.
Canada Cahiers.
Tuan Y-F 1975. Place: an experiential perspective.
Geographical Review 65: 2, 151–165.
Valentine G 2001. At the drawing board: developing
a research design. In Limb M & Dwyer C (eds).
Qualitative methodologies for geographers. Issues
and debates, 41–54. Arnold, London.
Wylie J 2005. A single day’s walking: narrating self
and landscape on the South West Coast Path.
Transactions of the Institute of British geographers
30, 234–247.
Young L & Barrett H 2001. Adapting visual methods:
action research with Kampala street children.
Area 33:2, 141–152.
... There are many benefits of this combination compared with the simple in situ conversation. As Trell and Van Hoven (2010) argue, interviews may produce information which: '[…] is based only on one's mental image of the place, or one's memories. It is challenging then to capture small nuances, multi-sensual dimensions and embodied practices of people's place experiences using only the interview method' (94). ...
... To gather the viewpoints of the children on their way to/from school, the 'mosaic' methodological approach was used. It combines three participatory tools deployed consecutively and encourages the child to express him/herself freely and form a personal opinion on a single topic raised repeatedly (Clark 2010;Trell and Van Hoven 2010). The mobile interview is one of the methods proposed to talk about the journey; other elements are drawing the route and giving a narrative of it and an activity is known as Diamond Ranking (Clark et al. 2013) in which pictures are ranked and prioritised but these tools will not be described further here. ...
... In addition to this opportunity, the mobile interview and accompanied itineraries leave a certain amount of freedom in the interviewee's response (Guibert and Jumel 1997): even though the researcher may have a pre-defined interview guide with the main topics to be covered and possible open questions, unexpected situational elements may at any time produce triggers or new subjects of conversation (Carpiano 2009;Trell and Van Hoven 2010). During the mobile interview with Élodie (aged 11), for example, a black cat crosses the road in front of us. ...
Based on a transdisciplinary perspective, this contribution aims to describe the methodological issues presenting themselves when walking is deployed as a tool to co-produce knowledge in a research project conducted with children. An analysis of two projects, one in Switzerland and the other in Spain, shows the relevance of working across a number of disciplines to study the movement of children and adolescents in their living environment. These research projects use a participatory methodological device, combining the interview and walking technique (mobile interview or accompanied itineraries) as a method of analysing and understanding the experiences of young social actors by prioritising their viewpoints. We also show how adopting a transdisciplinary approach to data co-production enables the participants to inhabit the research through their physical presence and their words.
... Parents were permitted to accompany their child, if they desired, but were asked not to speak during the interview (only five parents opted to follow along). The go-along format was deemed appropriate given that it: allowed participants to take an active role in shaping the interview (Garcia et al., 2012); balanced the power dynamic between researcher and participant, and promoted a collaborative approach (Anderson, 2004); and added a layer of depth to the study by including ambient noises, unscripted interactions, and context-driven interpretations of environmental experiences (Trell and Hoven, 2010). ...
With the continued migration of people into cities, urban environments are becoming increasingly important determinants of health. However, the study of how precise environmental designs are linked to mental health are generally lacking, especially among adolescent populations. Using a qualitative approach featuring 23 go-along interviews with adolescents, we investigated the relationships between specific urban designs as outlined in pedestrian- and transit-oriented design (imageability, enclosure, scale, transparency, complexity) and cognitive architecture (biophilic architecture, symmetries, fractals) concepts and adolescent mental health indicators (i.e., emotional responses). Central findings from the subsequently undertaken framework analysis include considerably different perceptions regarding natural versus built enclosure and landmarks, significantly more expressed emotional engagement with visually rich and transparent urban designs relative to grey/concrete and windowless designs, and strong positive reactions to the three cognitive architecture concepts. Additional exploratory gender-based analyses were conducted and found potential differences in perceptions of design concepts between boys and girls. We note the broader relevance of these findings by discussing their implications for practitioners and suggesting how they can advance certain UN Sustainable Development Goals.
... Da un lato l'intervista mira ad ottenere un resoconto narrativo delle occupazioni degli intervistati, mentre dall'altro tenta di comprendere come il discorso istituzionale attorno al paesaggio terrazzato risulti condiviso e rielaborato nella comunità locale ed in particolare tra coloro che fanno del territorio e del suo mantenimento la propria professione. A tal fine si è optato per l'impiego di interviste narrative (Wiles et al., 2005;Trell e Van Hoven, 2010;Bulkens et al., 2016), coadiuvate dall'uso di domande di follow-up incentrate attorno a nuclei tematici prestabiliti, legati all'individuazione della visione di insieme del contesto economico della MVT e delle aspettative per il futuro del terrazzamento agrario valtelline-se. Lo strumento trova terreno fertile in ambito geografico da oltre un ventennio per la sua capacità di fare luce sulle esperienze, situate e dirette, delle comunità rispetto ai propri luoghi (Kearns, 1997). ...
Full-text available
Contemporaneamente all'emersione di progetti di recupero del suo patrimonio storicoculturale, il paesaggio terrazzato della Media Valtellina di Tirano (Alpi centrali, Lombardia) ha negli ultimi anni guadagnato una posizione centrale nel discorso pubblico, sia a livello regionale che a quello, transfrontaliero e internazionale, della macroregione alpina. Tali progetti si focalizzano soprattutto sul restauro del patrimonio rurale, permettendone un nuovo impiego come substrato per la conduzione di attività agricole e turistiche, spesso integrate. Avvalendosi di interviste narrative con una serie di informatori chiave, sviluppate nell'ambito del progetto "Emblematici", l'articolo esplora, tramite un approccio qualitativo, la cultura contemporanea del terrazzamento in una regione fortemente contrassegnata dalla sua presenza. Questioni legate alla dimensione simbolica e culturale del terrazzamento si accompagnano a interrogativi riguardo al lavoro quotidiano, alle prospettive future di sviluppo dell'agricoltura locale e al ruolo dell'abbandono nella formazione del paesaggio culturale.
... Therefore, we combine quantitative data with photovoice data that we have collected in the four villages. Photovoice, as a creative research method, is specifically suitable for mapping the more intangible aspects of people's experiences in their living environment [26,27]. With photovoice we obtain a better picture of how people experience their living environment, in a positive and negative sense, and the emotions this evokes in them. ...
Full-text available
This article aims to contribute to the existing literature about liveability in rural areas by explicitly focusing on the level of residential satisfaction of older adults (55+) in four small Dutch villages. We strive not only to identify the key indicators of residential satisfaction among older villagers but also to better understand how these indicators affect their (daily) life. Moreover, in line with the person–environment fit tradition, we differentiate according to the capabilities and vulnerabilities of older villagers. To this end, we use a mixed-method approach, in which we combine survey data with qualitative data collected with photovoice in the four villages. The findings indicate that older adults’ perceptions of spatial, social and functional aspects of the living environment are related to the degree of residential satisfaction overall. However, these perceptions appear to be strongly intertwined, especially perceptions about spatial characteristics, local identity and connectedness. Older adults who are hindered by health problems in undertaking daily activities experience a lower level of person–environment fit, which is reflected in a lower level of residential satisfaction. However, this relationship between subjective health and residential satisfaction can only be partially explained by different perceptions of the spatial, social and functional environment.
... For example, a novel research environment could help put individuals at ease who suffer from introversion, lack of confidence, or other limiting concerns [32]. Additionally, applications of novel focus group methodologies such as holding sessions online [32,33] or using journaling and photo-elicitation [34] have been used to successfully elicit richer, more complete data. Although some of the individual activities (e.g., sticky notes) have certainly been previously adopted in focus group research [5], the current study's primary reliance on the combination of activities as communication tools for the entire session validates its claim to novelty. ...
Full-text available
Ensuring that racial and ethnic minority women are involved in breast cancer research is important to address well-documented current disparities in cancer incidence, stages of diagnosis, and mortality rates. This study used a novel interactive focus group method to identify innovative communication strategies for recruiting women from two minority groups—Latinas and Asian Americans—into the Komen Tissue Bank, a specific breast cancer biobank clinical trial. Through activities that employed visual interactive tools to facilitate group discussion and self-reflection, the authors examined perspectives and motivations for Asian American women (N = 17) and Latinas (N = 14) toward donating their healthy breast tissue. Findings included three themes that, while common to both groups, were unique in how they were expressed: lack of knowledge concerning breast cancer risks and participation in clinical research, cultural influences in BC risk thinking, and how altruism relates to perceived personal connection to breast cancer. More significantly, this study illuminated the importance of using innovative methods to encourage deeper, more enlightened participation among underrepresented populations that may not arise in a traditional focus group format. The findings from this study will inform future health communication efforts to recruit women from these groups into clinical research projects like the Komen Tissue Bank.
... Loovuurimismeetodeid saab rakendada ja on rakendatud väga erinevate uurimisprobleemide puhul: mitmesuguste nähtuste ja nende tajumise mõistmiseks, igapäevapraktikate uurimiseks, telesaadete või turunduskampaaniate vastuvõtu analüüsimiseks, poliitiliste liikumiste või subkultuuride uurimiseks. Meetod on leidnud põnevaid rakendusviise uuringutes, mis käsitlevad näiteks seda, kuidas patsiendid tajuvad haigusi ja valu (Cheung et al. 2016); käsitööaktivismi (craftivism; Rowsell, Shillitoe 2019); geograafiliste paikade tähendusi piirkonnas elavate noorte jaoks (Trell, Van Hoven 2010); noorte online-identiteete ) ning mitteheteronormatiivseid seksuaalseid identiteete ( Barker et al. 2012 Loovuurimismeetodite enim kasutatud meediumid joonistuste kõrval on fotod ja videod. Siin pakuvad uued tehnoloogilised lahendused teKstiKast 6.3.7. ...
Full-text available
Millised võimalused avanevad uurijale, kui aeg ja ruum on uuringus osalejate jaoks paindlikud tegurid? Kuidas kombineerida online’i ja offline’i, et paremini mõista inimeste igapäevaelu, tajutud tähendusi, väärtushinnanguid ja tõekspidamisi? Kuidas viia läbi Skype’i-intervjuud? Kas fookusgruppi saab üldse veebipõhiselt korraldada, kaotamata meetodi peamisi tugevusi? Kuidas pakkuda digitalletavas süsteemis uuringus osalejatele anonüümsust ja konfidentsiaalsust? Kuidas leevendada „küsitlusväsimust“ ja pakkuda mängurõõmu? Need on vaid mõned küsimused, millele siinses peatükis põhjalikumalt keskendun ja vastuseid otsin. Peatükk algab ülevaatega sünkroonsetest ja asünkroonsetest kvalitatiivsetest intervjuudest, mis võivad toimuda ekraani vahendusel nii suuliselt kui ka kirjalikult. Sünkroonsus tähendab siin kontekstis seda, et uurija(d) ja osaleja(d) on intervjuusituatsioonis ühel ajal, tegemist on voogsuhtlusega. Asünkroonsus viitab aga sellele, et iga osapool valib endale sobiva tempo ning intervjuu on suuremal või vähemal määral vaba fikseeritud ajalistest raamidest ja tavapärase intervjuusituatsiooni kohesusest, tegemist on viivissuhtlusega. Järgneb alapeatükk sellest, mida võiks pidada silmas veebi vahendusel toimuvate rühmaintervjuude puhul. Kuna kvalitatiivsetes uuringutes püütakse sageli kombineerida erinevaid andmekogumisvõtteid, mis annaksid uuritavast mitmekülgsema ülevaate, tutvustan peatüki teises pooles intervjuudes kasutatavaid erinevaid projektiivtehnikaid ja loovuurimismeetodite võimalusi ja piiranguid, mis võivad esineda veebi vahendusel tehtavates või veebifenomene käsitlevates kvalitatiivsetes uuringutes.
... Although visual techniques do not guarantee an increase in participation, scholars often cite their potential to place participants and researchers on an equal footing, as active co-creators of knowledge (Trell & van Hoven, 2010). Some also choose these methods for their emancipatory potential and capacity to affect change (Driskell, 2002;Wang, 2006). ...
Full-text available
City-regional planning has gained significant attention and funding in the UK, as national and local authorities decided that an intermediary level—the city-region—would be the appropriate one to drive economic development. Nonetheless, city-regions have long been criticized for their undemocratic and closed structures, enlarging the engagement barriers especially for young people. Encouraged by Wales’ innovative legislation, The Wellbeing of Future Generations Act , this research tried to fill the gap in the city-regional youth engagement literature. Specifically, it asked: How could a research project stimulate a conversation with the future generations about the areas where they live, and how could it encourage meaningful reflections on previously unfamiliar concepts, such as city-regions? Two creative participatory research methods, web-mapping and Photovoice, helped explore young people’s lived experience within a newly created administrative layer—Cardiff Capital Region. Results show that despite failing to emancipate the participants’ voices and needs, the two methods employed helped to attract participants, facilitated the understanding of the city-region concept and enabled young people to reflect on their surrounding environment.
Urban environments constitute the habitats in which an increasing number of people live. Place-making forms part of this living, occurring in the context of specific urban assemblages made up of facilities that serve different purposes. For example, Soho in London is characterized by entertainment facilities, while large parts of the Ruhr area in Germany are dominated by industrial features. In this article, we explore possible links between exposure to certain urban facilities and sense of place in Lisbon, Portugal. To do so, we use a web mapping-based survey that allows respondents to map and rate meaningful areas. These areas and their assessments are related to points of interest extracted from Google Places in a structural equation model using PLS-SEM. The results show that exposure to everyday urban facilities such as grocery shops is negatively correlated with place identity, while those that represent leisure locations are negatively correlated with place attachment. Both findings suggest that the temporal rhythm of exposure to certain features is an important factor. Methodologically, our study shows that scales differ between place concepts and their associated spatial footprints – an important finding for future studies. We end the article by offering conclusions and policy recommendations. © 2021 Published by Elsevier Ltd.
Artykuł zawiera wprowadzenie do założeń metodologicznych badań, których celem była identyfikacja map mentalnych zamieszkiwanej okolicy i zachowań terytorialnych osób doświadczających wykluczenia w różnych sferach życia. W tekście znalazły się także odniesienia do cząstkowych wyników badań, opracowanych na podstawie danych zebranych z wykorzystaniem poznawczej schematyzacji ścieżek, wspomaganej fotospacerem. Na tej podstawie wyróżniono typowe sposoby bycia w przestrzeni i doświadczania jej przez badanych. Autorki tekstu omawiają teoretyczne i metodologiczne implikacje sięgania po metody wizualne i mobilne w procesie wzbudzania i gromadzenia wiedzy o przestrzeni; na końcu – odwołując się do praktyki terenowej – wskazują na korzyści oraz ograniczenia w ich zastosowaniu.
This paper discusses the question: What is the explanatory power of bringing into dialogue theories of space and place with participatory research approaches that focus on joint perspectives of pupils, teachers and researchers in understanding the dynamics of children’s places of belonging in schools? It advances an argument that understanding children’s spaces of belonging in schools is relatively limited, particularly from a theoretically sophisticated stance or from children’s perspectives. The paper concludes that bringing together concepts of relational space as analytical tools with a participatory approach can create a third space that challenges binary positioning of ‘in/out’ with potential to act as a safe haven for reflection and growth.
Researching Young People's Lives provides an overview of some of the key methodological challenges facing youth researchers and an introduction to the broad repertoire of methods used in youth-orientated research. The book is split into two sections. In the first half of the book, the authors consider the broad methodological and contextual concerns of relevance to the design and conduct of youth research, including ethical issues, the importance of context, and the rise of participatory approaches to youth research. The second part of the book focuses on the use of specific research methods in the conduct of youth research, ranging from surveys and secondary analysis through to interviewing, ethnography, visual methods, and the use of the internet in youth research. Throughout the book, the emphasis is on research in practice, and examples are drawn from recent youth research projects from a wide range of disciplines and substantive areas, and from a range of both UK and non-UK contexts.
At first sight, everyday life may not appear to be a subject worthy of academic investigation. When we think about what we do in everyday life, we tend to think of mundane, routine activities (often seen as chores) which we all appear to do. Indeed, because of its routine nature not many of us think about our everyday lives very much at all. Of course, we do ponder about segments of our lives — a family event, problems at work, making a journey — but as soon as we bring these activities into our consciousness they tend to be taken from everyday life and given their own distinctive and special meaning and status. But what we should recognise is that these distinctions are only seen as distinctions in the context of our everyday lives and concerns. We thus treat everyday life as unproblematic and unimportant at our peril.
This paper focuses upon the personal geography of a group of school children aged between 6 and 11. Its objectives are to examine whether gender influences a child's awareness of place and ability to represent space. Images of the home area are elicited by free-recall mapping. The analysis considers both the quantitative accretion of spatial knowledge and the qualitative structural changes associated with the internalisation of environmental information. The different ways in which boys and girls come into contact with the environment seem to have important implications for the development of their cognitive abilities. From a young age boys show a much broader understanding of space, mentioning places much further away from their homes than girls. Their maps are more complex in form showing a good grasp of spatial relationships. Both in terms of cartographic competence and map accuracy, strong gender related differences are apparent, suggesting that boys by the age of 11 have already achieved a higher level of spatial competence. -Author
First published in 1945, Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s monumental Phénoménologie de la perception signalled the arrival of a major new philosophical and intellectual voice in post-war Europe. Breaking with the prevailing picture of existentialism and phenomenology at the time, it has become one of the landmark works of twentieth-century thought. This new translation, the first for over fifty years, makes this classic work of philosophy available to a new generation of readers.
The way in which young children are able to externalise about place and space using free-recall sketching, large-scale plans and aerial photographs is examined. The choice of technique is shown to have a considerable bearing upon children's imagery, suggesting that explanation is not independent of the initial stimuli. -Author
This paper discusses the outcomes of an initiative to empower ten-year-olds as active researchers. It debates some of the barriers that are commonly cited with regard to children of this age taking ownership of their own research agendas—power relations, competence, knowledge and skills—and challenges the status quo. It describes a study in which a group of ten-year-olds participated in a taught programme aimed at equipping them with the knowledge and skills to design their own research. This empowering process resulted in the children undertaking research projects of their own choosing, designed, carried out and reported entirely from their perspective. Reports from two of those projects are presented as part of this paper.