The meaning(s) of place: Identifying the structure of sense of place across a social–ecological landscape
Rajala, Kiandra F.
Sorice, Michael G.
Thomas, Valerie A.
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1. Sense of place holds promise to understand how people perceive and respond to social and ecological change; however, using this concept to explore vulnerability and adaptation first depends on identifying the multiple ways people define their relationship with a place. 2. We introduce the meaning-dependence framework to account for the broad array of person–place connections within social–ecological landscapes. 3. We applied this framework to private landowners in the Southern Great Plains of the United States, a working landscape experiencing ecological transformation from grasslands to degraded woodlands. 4. Using a mail survey, we explored the structure of sense of place based on the relationship between place meanings and place attachment. We employed complementary analytical methods: correlation analysis, ordinary least squares regression, and machine learning through a regression tree and random forest. 5. Place meanings explained a large amount of variation in place attachment and were characterized by intercorrelations and interactions. Across analyses, experiential meanings reflecting personal psychological connections to one's land were the predominant drivers of landowners' place attachment. Way of life emerged as a central meaning for understanding sense of place on private lands. 6. The meaning-dependence framework builds on existing research to account for the multiple ways meanings inform human connections to a place. This framework is broadly applicable to any setting and can capture diverse configurations of person–place relationships and increase the utility of sense of place in social–ecological research.
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