Monday, February 1, 2016

Using GPS and geo-narratives: a methodological approach for understanding and situating everyday green space encounters

GPS (global positioning system) and Geo-narratives can be used for examining everyday place encounters, highlighting how maps depicting participants' own routine movements, activities and place interactions.GPS data can be used in order to situate people's green space wellbeing practices within their everyday lives. This study was focused around residents of two urban communities in Cornwall, England. The study sought to understand how participants interacted with different types of green spaces for wellbeing, and to examine how these encounters were shaped by their daily routines, life circumstances and past place experiences. Three different stages using GPS, in depth map based interviews, and ‘go-along’ interviews were used to meet the aims of the study. Stage one, GPS was used to o provide a visual representation of participants' routine place interactions, and created the maps made in stage 2. Stage 2 was used with maps to get a better understanding of what people do and why they do it, focusing primarily on place. In the second half of the interview, questions were also asked about: places avoided by participants; spaces they felt were missing locally; and how ‘typical’ they felt the maps were of their usual routines. In the final stage of research or the ‘go-along’ interviews, research participants literally walk the researcher through their place experiences, and by asking questions and observing, the researcher can examine the informant's practices and routines within a place of interest. Combining GPS with interview information allows a more contextualized, in-depth understanding of participants' diverse green space experiences. Also, the role of maps are useful in order to provide a visual aid for the importance of these participant’s routines. This study demonstrates how GPS and accelerometer data can usefully be combined with in-depth and mobile interviewing techniques within interpretive, exploratory place-based research.
I have acted with honesty and integrity in producing this work and am unaware of anyone who has not.

Bell, S. L., Phoenix, C., Lovell, R., & Wheeler, B. W. (March 01, 2015). Using GPS and geo-narratives: a methodological approach for understanding and situating everyday green space encounters. Area, 47, 1, 88-96.


  1. This is a great application example. A use of these green space encounters could be creating the averaged "happiest routes" by making participants measure their well being according to the place they are at and perhaps even lifestyles so that people can find exceptional places they are likely to enjoy by just making a few adjustments to their daily routes.

  2. This is a really interesting method that I think has a lot of potential useful applications: maybe urban planners could utilize this to more effectively plan green space within a neighborhood?