Communicating the arcane: a conceptual framework for environmental interpretation
Istvan, Laurence Bryce
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A conceptual framework is offered for research to advance the practice of environmental interpretation. The intent is to improve scientific understanding of interpreting, as a form of communication, by establishing a more organized and encompassing basis for inquiry. Improved understanding and practice of interpretation is important as the public plays an increasing role in resource management decisions.The framework is developed through conceptual analysis of writings about interpretation, and content analysis of studies of interpreting published from 1972 through 1990. The framework is based on a perspective of interpreting as assisted experience: a person experiencing and forming a relationship with what is being interpreted, assisted by the interpreter. From the conceptual framework, a typology is developed of interpretive contexts and salient factors--elements (people, things, ideas, etc.), their relationships, steps they can take, and characteristics of each--that can and ought to be studied.Analysis of existing studies shows a wide field remains for productive research. Existing studies have focused on the outcomes of interpretation rather than the steps and other factors within interpreting that make it a unique form of communication. The dominant independent (manipulated) variable has been one non-personal service (a sign, brochure, etc.) compared to another or to a personal service (a guided walk, talk, etc.). Dependent (measured) variables have centered on "knowledge" and "attitudes" (or their cognates). Four of 10 elements delineated in the typology, 8 of 13 relationships, and 42 of 48 steps remain unstudied. Ten of 24 interpretive contexts have not been considered.Five themes emerge as a core for future research agendas: (1) the need to study interpreting, not just to evaluate interpreting's outcomes; (2) the concomitant need for new measures; (3) consideration of the presence or absence of what is being interpreted, before, during and after interpretation; (4) consideration of the time spent experiencing and making something of what is being interpreted; (5) matching the mode (aural, visual, etc.) of the research measures to the mode of the interpreting. Research methods and techniques for addressing the many factors of interpreting are explored. Research questions and hypotheses that emerge from the conceptual framework are discussed and tests of the framework's validity are proposed.
- Forestry