Feelings and fellings : exploring the process of communication in forest management conflicts

Sammanfattning: The way we communicate about forest issues has consequences for how forests are managed. Policies and research suggest that public participation in natural resource management (NRM) leads to better informed and more sustainable decisions about the environment. This thesis seeks to increase understanding regarding how the way people communicate about a natural resource, such as a forested area, affects the decisions taken about that natural resource. This issue is investigated by studying how individuals involved in forest management interpret conflict, participation, and the actions of other people, and how this process of interpretation is connected to the way they act. The underlying assumption is that reality is socially constructed, and that this social construction is accomplished by people communicating with each other, via symbolic interaction. The empirical material consisted of three case studies of forest management, one case of participant observation in two participatory meetings and two cases of conflict concerning final fellings of forest studied via semi-structured interviews. The empirical material was analyzed using the concepts of avoidance of embarrassment and discursive closure. The findings suggest that situations where people feel insecure about the role they are expected to play create anticipation of embarrassment and causes them to avoid face-to-face meetings. The findings also show that actors in participatory meetings have numerous different expectations on them, leading to discursive closures, i.e., suppression of certain subjects in the discussion, in order to avoid role confusion and hence embarrassment. Avoidance of embarrassment and discursive closure in people's interactions with each other, in conflict and in participation, have negative impacts on listening and learning and knowledge exchange. The conclusion in this thesis is that a conscious focus on creating meeting spaces where role confusion is accepted can create discussions where more perspectives are raised, the common knowledge base is increased, and more sustainable decision-making concerning natural resources is possible.

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