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Our Town: Articulating place meanings and attachments in St. Johns using Resident-Employed Photography

Authors: Lauren Everett*, Portland State University
Topics: Human-Environment Geography, Urban and Regional Planning, Environmental Perception
Keywords: place attachment, place identity, photo voice, participatory planning, sense of place, Portland
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/8/2020
Start / End Time: 3:20 PM / 4:35 PM
Room: Virtual Track 3
Presentation Link: Open in New Window
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The St. Johns neighborhood of North Portland is known for its strong sense of identity, working class character, and diversity. Portland as a whole has experienced a major socioeconomic shift in the last ten years, and these changes have impacted St. Johns particularly severely. My research seeks to identify the place meanings that underpin sense of place, place attachment, and processes of attachment formation, among residents of the neighborhood. My research questions are: What are the objects of attachment? Why (the place meanings that underpin attachment)? And how (through what processes are attachments formed)? In what ways are the ‘why’ and ‘how’ intertwined? What are the commonalities across different variables, and how do those gesture at a holistic St. Johns essence, or sense of place? My primary method was Resident-Employed Photography, supported by participant observation and archival research. This 'photo voice' method entailed giving single-use cameras to 43 place-attached St. Johns residents and asking them to photograph and write about twelve things that explain their connection to the neighborhood. The results offer a rich, multifaceted understanding of place meanings and processes of attachment in St. Johns, and insight into what individual elements are most intrinsic to sense of place. The intention of this research is to inform planning efforts, contribute to community dialogues about the future of St. Johns, empower residents to become civically engaged, and articulate a sense of place that can be leveraged by the community in spatial struggles.

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