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Using life history interviews to examine outdoor experiences and behaviours

Uzzell, D, Gatersleben, B and White, E (2010) Using life history interviews to examine outdoor experiences and behaviours In: IAPS21, International Association of People-Environment Studies, 2010-06-27 - 2010-07-02, Leipzig.

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The life histories methodology is a form of oral history which involves the recording of people’s memories and experiences across their lifespan. A life history interview typically examines the interviewee’s family background, memories and experiences of childhood, school, marriage, parenthood, and retirement (if older participants are recruited), as well as present day activities. In the past it has been used as an effective tool by historians to add personal narratives to the more traditional historical content of important events and dates in time (e.g. Portelli, 1991, 1997). But it is a tool which is also beginning to generate excitement within the social sciences, given the depth of data that it can generate. In particular, the historical context which it provides enables us to understand how and when certain behaviours and attitudes may have originated or changed, in addition to information about current practices and behaviours which more traditional psychological approaches provide. The present study was therefore conducted in order to evaluate the possibilities of using the life histories methodology to examine outdoor behaviours. Specifically, the Outdoors and Health Network identified the need to understand why people use greenspace regularly, in order to find ways in which to increase the use of those who seldom utilise these psychologically and physically beneficial areas (e.g. Maas, Verheeij, Groenewegen, de Vries, & Spreeuwenberg, 2006; Ulrich, 1984). Four women aged between 40-55 years were recruited, each of whom reported to regularly carry out one of the following outdoor activities: 1) Gardening / working on allotment; 2) Walking / hiking in areas of wild or spectacular landscapes; 3) Visiting outdoor sites / gardens; 4) Running or dog walking. A variety of activities were chosen in order to test the effectiveness of the methodology at examining different types of outdoor experiences and life histories. Additionally, a woman of the same age group, who reported to use greenspace infrequently, was selected. Participants then took part in a life history interview which lasted between 1-2 hours. The present paper presents results from the study and discusses experiences and applications of using this methodology. We would suggest that this methodology has potential to add to the existing body of knowledge which examines how people interact with their environment, as well as how these interactions may be formed and changed.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (UNSPECIFIED)
Divisions : Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Authors :
Date : 2010
Contributors :
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Depositing User : Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited : 28 Mar 2017 15:51
Last Modified : 21 Jun 2019 10:16

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