This paper focuses on the question of how local people perceive, adapt and use the new nature that arises on abandoned industrial land, i. e. the relationship between the individual and the place is the subject of the research. This approach is one of qualitative social research; in contrast to a hypothetical-deductive procedure, the research is characterised by processability and reflexivity. Thus the analysis was not aimed at finding the “final truth” or “concrete knowledge”, but at gaining knowledge that would provide orientation. Figure 1 shows the different dimensions of the study and illustrates the strong linkage between previous knowledge, empirical procedure and theory formation.
Fig. 1. Methodical concept of the study
The field studies consisted of the following approach (for more details see Keil 1997, 2002; Findel et al. 2003). Observations and mappings were made in the summers of 1997 and 1998. Over 72 days and, in total, 360 hours, the activities of children, adolescents and adults were observed at three post-industrial sites within the Ruhr: “Industriewald Rheinelbe” in Gelsenkirchen, “Landschaftspark Duisburg-Nord” in Duisburg, and “Sin – teranlage Ruhrort” in Duisburg. The aim of the study was to collect data on the uses of these post-industrial areas in order to describe and interpret the uses. In the summer of 2003, the survey was repeated by Sibylle Findel at the Rheinelbe area using the same methodological approach (over 24 days, in 120 hours).
To begin to understand people’s perceptions of nature, visitors were invited to take photographs of the three areas. Many visitors to the areas participated voluntarily in the photo campaign in order to capture their personal, uninfluenced impressions of the investigated areas. Based on the results of the observations, which are presented in the following sections, and of the photo campaigns, problem-centered interviews were held with 17 users and residents of the analysed areas and with 19 experts.