1 Background

Landscape is perhaps one of the most contested and (mis)interpreted concepts in (human) geography and other disciplines. Different theoretical approaches and methodologies have been created for exploring and explaining the relationship between humans, environment and landscape (Cosgrove, 1998; Jones, 2003). Humanistic geographers have drawn on the concept of place when studying the human/environment or human/landscape relationship. Contrary to landscape, place provides a midway between an objective fact and a subjective feeling, which Entrikin (1991*) calls the betweenness of places. It appears as a combination of objects and meanings that differs somehow from its surroundings, regardless of scale.

Why use places in landscape studies? And has landscape ecological research – the main focus of this journal – anything to do with places, senses of places, place making etc.? There are many reasons for dealing with places. First, there are opinions that landscape as a concept is mostly about the visual and therefore studying places gives better access to how people act in landscapes. Cresswell (1996*, p 11) even announced that “we do not live in landscapes – we look at them” – a statement we definitely disagree with. Still, Spirn (1998), see also Olwig (2002), argued that the term land denotes both the place and the people living in it, and scape or schaffen means “to form”, and Olwig (2008) has shown the origin of the term landscape being close to the Greek word choros, and thereby landscape itself should be understood as a land or place shaped by somebody. Thereby place and landscape are interlinked.

Second, both Vorkinn and Riese (2001*) and Derr (2002*) have stressed the importance that place attachment plays in environmental concerns. Vorkinn and Riese (2001*) state that those who are attached to an area may be more sensitive to site impacts and they may be less willing to displace a recreational area due to environmental changes and Derr (2002*) notes that the sense of place is important in maintaining the quality of environment. We need to have an overview of people’s landscape perceptions since, as Gobster et al. (2007) claim, places which are found to be beautiful are more likely protected.

Further, Nassauer and Opdam (2008) point that landscape ecology should also focus on design, not only patterns and processes. If this is the direction, landscape ecology cannot avoid involving people, focusing on participatory planning (see, e.g., Luz (2000), Ghose and Elwood (2003), stakeholder approach (Potschin and Haines-Young, 2006) or whatever one feels appropriate. For lay people landscape is often too large a concept and they prefer to speak about places (see Soini, 2001; Alumäe et al., 2003; Kaur et al., 2004, etc.). Hence it might be useful to look across the disciplinary boundaries and see what has been achieved in other realms in the field of place studies.

Various authors have discussed over the importance of involving place meanings and attachment to participatory planning (Selman, 2006; Manzo and Perkins, 2006*, etc.). Manzo (2003*) argues, that when understanding place meanings the roots of some community conflicts can be manifested. There is a body of substantiated literature (see Yuen, 2005*; Cook et al., 2007*; Fried, 2000*; Daniel and Vining, 1983) which also stresses on the need to more closely relate place attachment studies in participatory planning by indicating various positive effects that such involvement has, for instance, the fact that place attachment increases residential satisfaction. However, one should also be aware of the calls by, e.g., Healey (1996) and (1998) to change the planning paradigm and move on to the collaborative discourse.

Place is a central word of our everyday language, although there exist differences in the ways it is used in various languages. In addition to its everyday usage, the concept has been adopted by various academic disciplines. Place, though, like landscape (Cresswell, 2003; Setten, 2004), has remained elusive and difficult to deal with in research and despite various attempts, place does not lend itself to a single definite interpretation. Its definitions and approaches vary from phenomenological ones to more or less behavioral ones. Lewis (1979, p 28) has stated that “It is often easier to see its results in human behavior than to define it in precise terms”, which is why in the following Section 2 we will discuss the definition of place and various dimensions behind it.

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