Article Title

On Seeing Places for What they Are and not what We Want Them to Be

Journal Title/Source

Environmental Communication: A Journal of Nature and Culture

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Page Numbers


DOI (if applicable)


Document Type

Journal Article


Communications and Media Studies


  • For more than 40 years, scholars have been investigating psychological and communicative implications for the concept of place. During that time, a variety of methods have been employed, yet often without an obvious concern for the extent to which investigative conclusions match perceptions held by respondents who originally generate data the analyses rely upon. Although this distinction between actors’ and informants’ meanings for place is a subject most in the field of environmental communication encounter in their formative education, the actual practice of place-based research sometimes fails to adequately address the issue. Thus, the following commentary explores various threats to representational validity and suggests a number of areas we researchers should consider when conducting our place-based studies. In urging ourselves to rise to the challenge of self-skepticism, I hope my analysis provides a modestly novel take on empiricism regarding what places mean to those we study.

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