Transforming the Health & Wellbeing of Consumers: The Role of the Public Park

McEachern, Morven and Cheetham, FC (2011) Transforming the Health & Wellbeing of Consumers: The Role of the Public Park. In: 7th Customer Research Academy Workshop, 2011-04-142012-03-15.

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There is significant evidence of a strong correlation between the quality of life and accessibility to high quality, public parks (Ward-Thompson, 2002; Wood et al. 2007). However, recent government restrictions on public spending have meant that some urban public parks are facing a serious decline in investment and in some cases disappearing altogether (Layton-Jones and Lee, 2008). Given that shaping policy around the needs and wants of a community provides a powerful means to transform individual wellbeing and social welfare (Dolan et al., 2010), it is imperative that city councils possess a detailed understanding of how park facilities are utilised and to what extent by their communities. Calls for research to develop a more comprehensive understanding of the nature and structure of consumption-related practices associated with urban park users have recently been made (Lee et al., 2009). Consequently, this paper responds to those appeals and offers theoretical advancement concerning the consumption-related practices of users of urban public parks. In so doing, the paper focuses on the Greater Manchester area and aims to target parks from both disadvantaged and affluent areas. To help capture the diversity of activities and the complexity of interactions in this socio-cultural context, this study adopts a complementary range of data gathering methods such as visual ethnography and walking interviews. Concerning our visual and textual analysis, we aim to employ a reflexive approach, recognizing “both the constructedness of social science categories and the politics of researchers’ personal and academic agendas” (Pink, 2007, p.117). Our preliminary findings indicate that the urban public park caters for a diverse range of individuals and groups with distinctly different health goals (e.g. walkers, runners, cyclists, dog walkers, families, military fitness groups etc). Despite their varied motivations for using the park facilities, these different user groups appear to manage their interactions with each other amicably. However, tensions were evident at times and certain users would indicate their annoyance at the intrusions and lack of respect for their space (e.g. off-leash dogs getting in the way of runners). Nonetheless, it is clear that all users are instrumental in co-creating the overall consumption experience of the urban public park. Therefore, if policymakers are committed to transforming the health and well-being of consumers, they must plan and manage the urban park appropriately to provide an accessible, multi-functional, public space suitable for all. The paper concludes with policy implications and recommended avenues for future research.

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Contribution to Conference (Other)
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7th Customer Research Academy Workshop
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27 Mar 2012 09:11
Last Modified:
22 Nov 2022 13:47