Sense of place in National Park Galicica – using new media in MSc-thesis research

By Bojan Rantasa, MSc-student International Master of Rural Development

Last Friday, 23 March 2012, I presented my MSc-thesis research proposal for fellow students and researchers of the Rural Sociology Group. My thesis research is titled “The Sense of Place of National Park Galicica” is part of my Msc-study International Master Rural Development (www.imrd.ugent.be). Joost Jongerden of the Rural Sociology Group is my sepervisor. My thesis presentation can be viewed at www.galicica.rantasa.net, a website on my thesis research where I will post research proceedings as well.

In my research I will use new media as tools for communication with the public but also as research method. I developed a website at the proposal stage of the research (www.galicica.rantasa.net). It enables dedicated communication with stakeholders and public, by offering updates on the research and a contact form. The web page also hosts the questionnaire on the sense of place of “Galicica”, thus becoming an important and integrated tool to the research. The information on the research currently presented on the web page is limited. This is not to lead the visitors of the web page, thus creating biased answers in the questionnaire.

To spread the questionnaire, I will use Facebook and targeted e-mail messages that are disseminated by the participants, causing a domino effect. This approach resulted in more than 50 completed questionnaires in the first week.

In my approach I will apply a layered exploration of the sense of place. The first layer is the use of Flickr, the social network of photographers, as a start of the research. This is with the aim to explore the peoples’ perceptions on Galicica, through the photos that people have tagged with ‘galicica’. This exploration leads to basic understanding of the place Galicica, which was used to create the questionnaire. The questionnaire is the second layer. Though it explores deeper in the sense of place, it will be used mainly as a guide to the interviews that Ranasa will conduct in the Park.

For my research on sense of place, I take the three fold concept of social space developed by Lefebvre (1974) as a conceptual frame: social space is represented by the spatial practices [the perceived], the representation of space [the conceived] and the representational space [the lived]. I recognize the nestedness of this concept (see Vanclay, 2008) and further more, I merge it with the definition of place [the representational space] developed by Friedmann (2010). I locate the source of the creation of the sense of place in the lived experience, both individual and group. Thus, his questionnaire and interviews will be focusing on the lived experience of people.

The National Park Galicica will be subject of my study and explore the sense of place with my framework. It is a protected area in Macedonia that is of high tourist interest and is inhabited by over 5000 people in 18 villages and settlements. Thus, making it a challenging exploration where interest and perspectives come into conflict.

My main research question is: What kind of sense(s) of place of the National Park ‘Galicica’ exists, and how does it (they) relate to nature protection and the park’s development?. I will focus my research on discovering the sense of place of what represents an abstract conception of the National Park Galicica. But my aim is to explore the applicability of the concept of sense of place in planning and management of protected areas.

For further information you can conact me via my web page dedicated to the research: www.galicica.rantasa.net

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