Sense of place visualization for the whaling station remains of South Georgia Island

  • Scott L. Smith

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The art practice of this PhD seeks to promote understanding of the historical context and cultural heritage of the whaling industry of South Georgia Island through a gallery based exhibition of a combination of digital art, olfactory installation, and theatrical performance concerning South Georgia whaling. These representations aim toward a gestalt effect that is complementary to existing representations and accounts of South Georgia. Performative methods aim to reveal a reflexive relationship between the phenomenological experiences of forming a sense of place and how we interact with the world.

The research investigates sense of place visualization for the shore-based industrial whaling station remains of South Georgia Island from a phenomenological position. The whaling stations on South Georgia were in operation from 1904 to 1965 before being abandoned, and at times these stations were the epicentre of commercial whaling in the sub-Antarctic and Antarctic. Relatively infrequent visitors to the island largely consists of tourists, military, and scientific personnel—the island has no native or permanent population. The area is remote and possesses a unique sensitive environment regarding native flora and fauna, making mass tourism highly unlikely.

Inherent in this research is a focus on how representation and visualization—often as memory—reflexively coincide and especially on how this relationship establishes the foundation for technological evocation of embodied virtual experience.

This thesis contributes a deeper understanding of sense of place visualization through practice by delivering spatial and sensory information that promote empiricist understandings of time, locational information, spatiality, and sensory derived material characteristics involved in place. This information is then bound with cognitive information originating with the visitor as well as that delivered by exhibits that function as narrative transmissions of constructed cultural understandings of place. A reflexive and reflective aspect is identified as promotion of critical metacognitive visualization, which fosters understanding of individual sense of place formation with an emphasis on embodiment.

These categories of approach mix within the exhibition to provide a surrogate place experience through technological means that performs the function of sense of place visualization in lieu of actual experience in the original location. Those with actual place location experience who visit the surrogate gallery place, gain an opportunity to reactivate their original memories and extend their sense of place impression of South Georgia.

This thesis also makes an original contribution by adapting existing qualitative phenomenological reduction methods (Moustakas, 1994) to a performative art practice as research application.
Date of Award2018
Original languageEnglish
SponsorsEngineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
SupervisorElaine Shemilt (Supervisor) & Chris Rowland (Supervisor)


  • Sense of place
  • Visualization
  • South Georgia Island
  • Whaling
  • Phenomenology
  • Visualisation
  • Performative art
  • Industrial ruins

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