Identity, Social Interaction, and Networks in the Region of Wisconsin's Holyland

Authors: Beth Schlemper*, University of Toledo, Kimberly A. Panozzo, University of Toledo
Topics: Cultural Geography, Qualitative Methods, Regional Geography
Keywords: Regions, Boundaries, Social Interaction, Social Network Analysis
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/11/2021
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Virtual 35
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper focuses on how a sense of identity, social interaction, and networks contribute to the construction and maintenance of regions. Using Wisconsin’s Holyland as a case study, we collected primary data from residents and utilized social network analysis (SNA) and GIS to determine how the region is defined by the people who live there. We conducted fieldwork in the region and implemented a survey through a stratified random sample of current residents. The questionnaire included questions related to the meaning of the term "Holyland" (asking for defining characteristics and what towns they believe are included in the region), the types of social and cultural activities that contribute to regional identity, and the frequency of their interactions in specific places within the region. While there appeared to be consensus regarding the key defining characteristics of Wisconsin’s Holyland on the surface, our data analysis revealed contrasting perceptions and definitions of the region. In addition, a network analysis of self-reported social interactions by residents highlighted a complex cultural geography with the existence of subregions within the region. Because social networks are complex and multi-scalar in nature, they need to be understood within the historical context in which they were created and from the perspective of the people who live within them. As such, we used a mixed methods approach integrating qualitative analysis, SNA, and GIS to illustrate how social interaction and a sense of belonging contribute to regional identity and boundaries.

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