Understanding community perceptions of an urban stream before and after a discussion of revitalization possibilities using photo-elicitation
Environment, Development and Sustainability
Centre for Ecosystem Management / School of Science /
© 2020, Springer Nature B.V. Understanding local community perceptions is an important first step in seeking ways to revitalize degraded urban streams. This research sought to understand community perceptions of the highly modified Parnamirim stream in the city of Recife, Brazil and to solicit perspectives on potential for revitalization of the stream before and after discussion of such possibilities using a photo-elicitation-based approach. Structured interviews were conducted with 167 residents situated close to the stream using three photographs of urban streams in various stages of modification and revitalization to prompt responses regarding preferences and opportunities for stream revitalization. While a majority of respondents overall indicated that the Parnamirim stream currently looks like a degraded stream (as depicted in one photograph), these perceptions generally matched the characteristics of the stream in their particular area of residence, indicating that people’s perceptions are influenced by the quality of their immediate environment. However, after the brief discussion of urban stream revitalization practices, there was overall positive response for Parnamirim stream to become like the photograph of the revitalized stream shown to participants. Our findings point to the power and utility of the photo-elicitation method in terms of provoking emotional and cognitive responses to local environmental conditions and in promoting changed community perceptions of possible Parnamirim stream revitalization and its future potential. The potential for social desirability bias to influence community perceptions is acknowledged regarding the post-discussion preferences and comments regarding the potential for revitalization of Parnamirim stream. Nevertheless, the research demonstrates the value of engagement in discussion and ideas sharing with community members through the use of photo-elicitation and such approaches may represent an important first step in realizing urban stream revitalization.