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Understanding recreation experiences through crowdsourced trip reports

Authors: Melanie Armstrong*, Western Colorado Univers, Monika Derrien, US Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station, Hannah Schaefer Tibbett, Western Colorado University
Topics: Tourism Geography, Cultural and Political Ecology, Applied Geography
Keywords: recreation, crowdsourcing, social media, public lands, protected area management
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/9/2020
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM
Room: Virtual Track 8
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Applying geographic frames to visitor use monitoring increases managers’ ability to grapple with the complexities of human experiences in protected areas. For example, crowdsourced and social media data have high potential to explain visitation characteristics and patterns at finer geographic and temporal scales than possible through traditional monitoring programs. This study uses trip reports written by protected area visitors on peer-to-peer online forums as a rich data source to provide insights into the nature of visitors’ experiences, visitors’ conceptions of the meaningfulness and benefits of those experiences, and people’s relationships to protected areas more broadly. Such research has shown promising results as a tool to augment agency data collection.

Using qualitative analytic approaches, we evaluate crowdsourced texts at different management scales and locations, with a focus on national forest recreation users. We collect rich data through forums where people share recreation descriptions in the form of text, maps, and photographs and pair it with in-depth study of what motivates people to create content in such forums, generating new insights into the wide-ranging individual and collective engagements with place. Effective analysis of crowdsourced data could help managers understand the diversity of recreational visitors and experiences, informing planning of programs, facilities, services, and resources that promote equitable and inclusive access. As land managers move toward benefits- and outcomes-based management, geographic thought can enable them to better learn, respond, and adapt using insights from such crowdsourced data.

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