Mapping Meaning into the Everyday: Experiences of an Urban Walk and Talk Group

Prof Doc Thesis

Muir, J. 2017. Mapping Meaning into the Everyday: Experiences of an Urban Walk and Talk Group. Prof Doc Thesis University of East London School of Psychology
AuthorsMuir, J.
TypeProf Doc Thesis

In line with public health discourses, current literature indicates that walking can improve mental wellbeing. Much of this research draws on bio-cognitive models to suggest that walking, especially in natural environments, reduces distress. The individualist focus in these studies means that service-users’ holistic experiences of environments and walking are overlooked. There is also little qualitative research that considers service-users’ subjective meaning-making processes. Alternatively, this qualitative study explores service-users’ perspectives of an urban-based ‘Walk and Talk’ (WnT) group and how being part of it has intersected with their experiences of other contexts.
An ecological ontology that drew on the work of Tim Ingold (2011; 2015) and Kurt Lewin (1936/2015) and critical realist epistemology underpinned the study. Multi-modal methods were employed. Participants took photographs that formed the basis of a semi-structured interview and also participated in individual walk-along interviews. Transcripts were analysed using thematic analysis. This framework aimed to increase nuanced understandings of participants’ ongoing experiences of their environments and walking.
An analysis of the data identified several, interconnected themes that are situated within two overarching sections: ‘Everyday Landscapes’ and ‘Wider Worlds’. It is argued that participants inhabited complex environments which contained malleable micro-spaces and oppressive boundaries shaped by macro forces. Furthermore, WnT is argued to be a relational space that fluidly accommodated participants’ subjectivities and helped expand their personal territories.
The findings suggest that urban walking groups, which are not time-limited and focus on shared interests, can form a therapeutic space for service-users. Moreover, the findings highlight the need for clinical psychologists to develop clinical and theoretical frameworks that engage more fully and dynamically with service-users’ experiences of environments. It is also recommended that further research should highlight the complex and multifarious ways that structural inequalities enfold the fluid contexts’ that service-users negotiate.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Publication dates
PrintMay 2017
Publication process dates
Deposited05 Jan 2018
Publisher's version
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