The most prevalent approach to understanding recreation experiences in resource management has been a motivational research program that views satisfaction as an appropriate indicator of experience quality. This research explores a different approach to studying the quality of recreation experiences. Rather than viewing recreation experiences as a linear sequence of events beginning with expectations and ending with outcomes that are then cognitively compared to determine experience quality, this alternative approach views recreation as an emergent experience motivated by the not very well-defined goal of acquiring stories that ultimately enrich one's life. Further, it assumes that the nature of human experience is best characterized by situated freedom in which the environment sets boundaries that constrain the nature of the experience, but that within those boundaries recreationists are free to experience the world in unique and variable ways. Therefore this alternative approach seeks a more context specific description of the setting/experience relationship that is intended to complement more general management frameworks (e.g., the Recreation Opportunity Spectrum) developed in conjunction with the motivational research program.
Patterson, Michael E.; Watson, Alan E.; Williams, Daniel R.; Roggenbuck, Joseph R. 1998. An hermeneutic approach to studying the nature of wilderness experiences. Journal of Leisure Research. 30(4): 423-452.