Walking the talk in outdoor recreation research: The theory and practice of the mobile interview on the Port Hills, Christchurch, New Zealand

Heijnen, I.
Stewart, Emma
Espiner, Stephen R.
Conference Contribution - published
Fields of Research
Background: This presentation focuses on the theoretical foundation and practical application of walking as a research method. Walking interviews have been used as a research tool for some time, particularly in the field of human geography (Jones, et al., 2008), and have proven very effective in revealing human connections to place which more traditional stationary face-to-face interviews have found difficult (MacKay et al, 2017). Place meanings are co-constructed between people and the physical locations themselves, and the practice of walking forges deep understandings of the people and places we research (Wylie, 2006). It has been claimed that walking interviews enable a meaningful and shared encounter with place, which includes a range of embodied and sensory experiences, “and thus has the potential to generate rich, sometimes evaluative, accounts of situated life experience and the dynamics and biographies of place” (Mackay et al, 2018, p. 2). Approach: To enable an exploration of the utility of walking interviews in the field of outdoor recreation research, the presentation draws on a project examining how outdoor educators (n=8) engage with the Port Hills in Christchurch as place, both in their personal lives as well as in their teaching practice. The data gathering and analysis phases of the research are shared to further explain how this method can provide rich and valuable insights for outdoor recreation researchers. Significance: Surprisingly, mobile methods such as walking interviews are rarely utilised in outdoor recreation research. Following Carpiano (2009), we argue that walking interviews enable researchers to study local areas such as the Port Hills with specific social, cultural, or historical contexts, and to develop or refine theories that are grounded in the lived experiences of the participants.
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© Department of Tourism, University of Otago 2019
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