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Permanent URL to this publication: http://dx.doi.org/10.5167/uzh-2747

Müller, U; Backhaus, N (2007). The Entlebuchers: people from the back of beyond? Social Geography, 2(1):11-28.



Incorporated knowledge is structuring the way actors comport themselves and interact with their environment. Knowledge feeds on experiences, especially on recurrent or particularly intense ones. In our media-dominated societies, recurring visual representations of certain facts have a special formative power. Therefore, image analysis provide access to often un-reflected mental images that are to a certain degree the motivations for actions. With the research project “The power of images” we analysed how images influence sustainable regional development. As case study we analysed the self-determined redefinition of the Swiss Alpine region of Entlebuch as a biosphere reserve. Of the range of approaches open to us, a human geographical perspective was chosen: We were particularly interested in how visual representations suggest certain interactions with space. In order to get an overview of entire, image-laden publications, a quantitative approach was taken using categories of spatial appropriation. Results show that the outside view conceives the Entlebuch as a largely natural, idyllic region. In terms of the visualization of sustainable development, the biosphere Entlebuch appears to be a nature and landscape conservation project. The inside view (before the crucial poll, where people decided whether to obtain the status of a biosphere reserve or not) looked totally different: In the voter’s information brochure the Entlebuch is presented as a (relatively modern) living and production space. Nearly no visual images depicting the Entlebuch as natural environment and idyllic cultural landscape respectively were published. Taking the historical and socio-economical context of the Entlebuch into consideration, the promoters of the biosphere reserve wanted to get rid of its backward image. However, two years after the poll the same promoters changed the way Entlebuch is presented in order to address the values of the target groups outside the region. Therefore, mere aesthetic images of nature and cultural landscapes were published. The study shows that image analysis can provide access to mental images that form part of practical knowledge (or even the unconscious) rather than of verbalised knowledge, for instance those which image producers might not be able to explain well during an interview. We can also detect the use of stereotypes, to which the image producers might not always want to admit. The developed method of image analysis is an attempt to process and analyse a great number of images without neglecting their context nor the reference to the research question. 1 Introduction People’s actions are grounded in the meanings they attribute to things. These meanings are constructions that Giddens (1984) suggests can be conceptualized as an element of social structures. The knowledge that these structures represent leaves its mark on all individual actions. This incorporated knowledge then shapes the way people comport themselves and interact with their environment. The knowledge and mental images channel their perception of “reality” and thus reduce its complexity. If a tourist finds out from a guidebook what the recognised sights in a region are, he or she can or will look out for these sights in a way that a tourist lacking the same knowledge would not think of doing (cf. Culler, 1988:166). The internalisation, storing and the recollection of experiences is of course a complex process (Lester, 2003). Knowledge feeds on experiences, especially on recurrent or particularly intense ones. However, these experiences are not simply stored away mentally but are actively absorbed on the basis of pre-existing mental images. Put another way, they are weighted and combined in line with an individual’s interests.



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Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
Dewey Decimal Classification:910 Geography & travel
Deposited On:21 Jul 2008 14:36
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 12:24
Additional Information:Free full text article
Official URL:http://www.soc-geogr.net/2/11/2007/sg-2-11-2007.html

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