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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Effectiveness of Informal Two-way Interpretation in National Parks
by Forist, Brian Edward, Ph.D., Indiana University, 2018, 179; 10841125
Abstract (Summary)

This is a study about the effectiveness of natural and cultural resource-based communication or “interpretation” as practiced in national parks of the United States. Specifically, it focuses on informal interpretation, extemporaneous or unplanned encounters between park officials and visitors, in five units of the National Park System. The stated aim of interpretation is to build connections between visitors and park resources. This study asked questions about the effectiveness of informal efforts enhance the experience of park natural and cultural resources for visitors, from their perspective as opposed to that of the park officials.

This study, based in dialogue theory, tested an approach to park communication referred to here as two-way, dialogic interpretation. Qualities of two-way, dialogic communication were identified and then observed in informal encounters between park officials and visitors. Visitors were interviewed between three and thirty-six months after their visit. An assessment of interview data, specifically visitor recall of the experience, compared against ethnographic records of the encounters were used as a measure of the power or effectiveness of the qualities of two-way, dialogic interpretation in enhancing recall. In addition, an assessment of the priority given to informal interpretation was performed through content analysis of various planning and management documents from the parks studied.

Results indicated that employment of the identified qualities of two-way, dialogic interpretation had little effect on visitor recall of their park experience. It appears, according to this study, that the place itself and the natural and cultural resources protected in the parks are at the very center of the visitors’ recall. In essence, the study’s results indicate that what an interpreter says or how they say it is far less important than the actual resource-based experience that the visitor has. This phenomenon is discussed and recommendations for further study are made.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Knapp, Doug
Commitee: Farmer, James, Jackson, Jason, Mowatt, Rasul, Shukla, Pravina
School: Indiana University
Department: School of Public Health
School Location: United States -- Indiana
Source: DAI-A 79/12(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Pedagogy, Museum studies, Recreation
Keywords: Communication, Interpretation, Museums, Parks, Pedagogy
Publication Number: 10841125
ISBN: 978-0-438-26855-5
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