There is a vibrant thread of scholarship in HDNR that interweaves the concept of meaning with the nature of wilderness and wilderness experiences. Williams, Patterson, Roggenbuck, and Watson (1992) gave the field a new tool for understanding the degree to which people feel attached to places. Williams (2014, p. 89) interpreted their 1992 work as "an effort to reframe the study of outdoor recreation experiences around the notion of 'relationship to place' as an alternative to modeling it as a multi-attribute consumer choice... 'the commodity metaphor.' "
Borrie and Birzell (2001) considered wilderness meanings and the quality of wilderness experiences and wrote “the meaning and significance of the experience is constructed before, during, and after the experience” and that meaning depends on the totality of a visitor’s being-in-the-world; that is, meaning depends on the many contingencies associated with each visitor. They also related that meanings results from being-in-wilderness as well as from the ideals that wilderness instantiates.
Wild places are not of the sort that can be warehoused and purchased off the rack. Wild places are embodied and instantiated by constituents in a variety of ways and in variable degrees. People become involved and familiar with wilderness in deeper ways than what may be represented on an itemized receipt. The meanings go deeper than an image pinned to a bulletin board. The role that wild places play in people lives are richer that what is symbolized as an insignia on a patch that is stitched across the breast of some ceremonial dress. As people get used to wilderness, they come to embody it and these embodiments deserve greater investigation.
Glaspell (2002) investigated the extent to which naturalized or reified wilderness meanings constrained social groups and “the nature and dynamics of the meanings that recreationists use to interpret and construct their wilderness experiences” (p. 37). It was not an investigation of the ways people share depth and exchange meaning with others (eco-embodiment). Glaspell asked how people construct experiences by meanings they bring to (not gather from) their involvements. Glaspell (2002) revealed cognitive dimensions of meanings that arise during the wilderness experience. Glaspell’s work addressed the problem Stewart (2008, p. 93) identified as “the representation of place through use of public language that fails to do justice to our lived experience in the environment and the place meanings constructed as part of this experience.”
A further problem (addressed herein) is the lack of justice done to wild place meaning gathered experientially and incorporated into everyday life across wilderness thresholds. Stokowski (2008) promoted a more social sense of place and claimed a lack of human dimensions of natural resources (HDNR) analyses attendant to the collaborative production of place. She suggests that methodologies, resourceful to the practice of HDNR, could come from linguistic discourse analysis, rhetoric, semiotics, narrative analysis, discourse analysis, and cultural analysis. In the vein of rhetoric, semiotics, and discourse analysis, it is place meaning, and especially communal and community wild place meaning (unlike individual meaning that arises directly in the experience), which deserves further attention. That is, gathered and shared meaning that comes about a wild place and through those who constitute it deserves further attention.