A phenomenographic study of lived experience in a residential street in a small city in the Scottish Highlands

  • Matt Sillars

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (awarded by UHI)


The research explores the lived experience of residents in the Innes Street Area of Inverness to understand more fully the experience of residents in small, complex, urban spaces drawing on narrative methods, social ecological resilience and phenomenography. The research also makes recommendations for policy and practice in the consultation process for urban planning initiatives.
The area is a historic residential area on the periphery of Inverness town centre. It is encircled by a railway line, the harbour, and a dual carriageway, and operates almost as an island. It is a unique residential space in a city centre environment, which in turn is located within a large rural area.
The research uses narrative methods drawing on the stories people tell of their lived experience. The research focuses on place-based approaches to understanding rootedness and belonging and critiques the ubiquitous nature of neoliberal models of resilience as a deficit of the person. It challenges the deficit model by adopting a social ecological resilience stance through the model of Panarchy. This rejects the equilibrium model of resilience in favour of a complex adaptive systems explanation. The research also uses phenomenography, to explore the qualitatively different conceptions participants hold of the area and allows a model to be produced describing that set of experiences as an Outcome Space.
The findings are presented in a diagram describing the Outcome Space. Three themes emerged describing lived experience, which are labelled: Ownership and Control, Continuity and Change, and Area as Dynamic Space.
The thesis finally addresses the potential impact of phenomenography, narrative methods, and social ecological resilience as methods and approaches in social science, and their potential to generate results which may influence social policy, by focusing on new discourses in community consultation which are beneficial in understanding the complexity of communities.
Date of Award12 Dec 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of the Highlands and Islands
SupervisorFrank Rennie (Supervisor) & Keith Smyth (Supervisor)

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