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River Experience: A phenomenological description of meaningful experiences on a wilderness river journey

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Morse, M (2011) River Experience: A phenomenological description of meaningful experiences on a wilderness river journey. PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Abstract

Outdoor educators, nature-based tourism guides and private recreationalists make use
of wilderness river areas for extended journeys. The justification for running such
trips commonly involves the potential ‘experience’ that it affords participants. Yet
the experiences themselves are often unique, individual and difficult to describe.
While ‘the experience’ is commonly used as a justification for such journeys,
experience itself does not always appear to be well understood or easily articulated.
This research project explores participant descriptions of meaningful experiences on
a wilderness river journey, in order to answer the questions ‘what forms of
meaningful experiences might occur on a wilderness river journey?’, ‘what
components of the journey facilitate those meaningful experiences?’, ‘what is the
role of the wilderness landscape itself in facilitating those experiences?’, and ‘what is
the potential value of meaningful wilderness experiences subsequent upon returning
to everyday life?’. The research uses a phenomenological approach to elucidate
individual perceptions of meaningful experiences, and then combines the
recollections to reveal the commonalities within those experiences. Using interviews,
journals, observations and follow-up emails from 32 participants on eight Franklin
River (ten day) trips, the project moves from the individual to the collective, to
identify and describe the qualities and essences of meaningful experiences on a
wilderness river journey.
The research identifies two recurrent key ‘streams of experience’. These involve a
feeling of humility and being alive to the present. By interrogating the thematic
structure of participant descriptions surrounding these two streams of experience,
invariant structures are revealed. These invariant structures further provide the
opportunity to refocus on individual participant descriptions, and illuminate the
essential qualities of the phenomena described.
It is argued that by understanding potentially meaningful experiences on a wilderness
river journey, outdoor educators, commercial guides and facilitators will be better
able to make use of surrounding environs to facilitate such experiences. There is a
focus on the unique elements of the wilderness river journey that, in this research,
contributed to the unique experiences which participants valued as meaningful.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: meaningful wilderness, experience, river journey, phenomenology
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Copyright © the Author

Date Deposited: 03 Jun 2011 05:38
Last Modified: 15 Sep 2017 01:06
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