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The place selected for the research project is North Riverside Park Mall. It is a large shopping center that comprises over one hundred fashion, grocery, electronics, perfumery, and other stores, as well as a food court, a movie theater, and a few play areas for children. The mall serves as a hub for people from diverse backgrounds, with different interests and needs. It is always full of those in search of entertainment, socializing, new trends, and purchase experiences.
Place Description and Evaluation
The mall is a two-level building with a parking lot in front of it. Inside it is spacious and light-colored. The interior and exterior design is neutral so that it does not distract or cause discomfort. Overall, the mall may not look that different from many other shopping centers. It is located 3,2 miles away from my home. Therefore, I usually drive my car to get there.
Most of the time, I visit the mall when I have an actual need to buy something. Nevertheless, when with my friends, I can watch new movies or grab a coffee there occasionally. No matter what the purposes of my visit to North Riverside Park Mall are, it always helps me relax and take a break from stressful events in life. Thus, it is possible to say that the place can provide a psychological relief.
Like in my case, the mall gives other members of the community an opportunity to shop for a great variety of things, meet friends, or spend time with their families. The role of North Riverside Park Mall in support of socialization is rather the most important one. Multiple events for both adults and children are held there on different occasions. Thus, it helps enhance the community connections. This feature defines the importance of the place to me, and it can also be regarded as the major strength of the mall. However, it has a significant weakness as well. Since the shopping center is specialized in commercial activities, one can be excessively exposed to advertisement there. It is apparent that by influencing motivations of the mall visitors, advertisers promote consumerism and irrational purchases and stimulate psychological dependence on material objects. Moreover, scholars note that the vulnerability of children to marketing messages is especially high because of their underdeveloped ability to understand and recognize the actual intents of advertising (Watkins, Aitken, Robertson, & Thyne, 2016).
Despite its weaknesses, North Riverside Park Mall can teach the community members a lot and share its wisdom with them. Kopnina and Shoreman-Ouimet (2013) define wisdom as an understanding of what is true, right, or lasting. The commonsense knowledge, which a person can acquire in the mall, refers to the unity and diversity of people. When so many individuals are gathered under the same roof, one can easily see how diversified the community is and may feel his or her relatedness to others even without speaking to them. However, an open-minded approach is needed for this. In the spirit of CBPR and ethnographic research, a person should be able to observe and contemplate on individuals’ behaviors and the environment (Anis, n.d.).
It is possible to presume that the realization of a CBPR project aimed at the promotion of healthier lifestyles and healthier dieting, in particular, can be appropriate for the selected type of the place. When visiting North Riverside Park Mall, people can learn a lot of new information from billboards, vocal announcements, communication, and so on. All these media can be used to educate community members about health benefits and risks associated with different lifestyle choices. Nevertheless, to develop an effective program, the project must start with the identification of the need for change and the target audience. For this, researchers involved in the project should investigate the common beliefs held by the mall visitors and evaluate them within a broader context (Minkler & Wallerstein, 2008). It is also essential to develop an extensive research and action network and involve as many participants and stakeholders from distinct organizational levels and spheres of performance as possible. Additionally, the design of educational messages should be paid great attention because, due to the commercialized character of the place, anti-consumption and negative implications can be rejected by the mall’s leadership.
Conclusion: Project Impacts
The impact of the suggested project on the mall and the community as a whole can be extensive and multidimensional. Firstly, educational posters and events can encourage the consumption of healthier foods and engagement in sports. For instance, as stated by Wang, Liaukonyte, and Kaiser (2015), “healthy eating advertising has a statistically significant and positive effect on increasing the consumption of fruit and vegetables” (p. 5). It is also possible to assume that in case the mall’s administration will accept the community education project and will take it seriously enough, in the long-run the very culture within North Riverside Park Mall will change. If the information about healthier lifestyles will be sufficiently represented in the place, it may influence visitors’ attitudes and behaviors to a larger extent. In this way, the demand for certain products and services will increase as well, and the mall will be able to attract new businesses. Thus, the given CBPR project will meet the interests and needs of various stakeholders.
Anis, F. (n.d.). Observation as a research toll of qualitative research. Web.
Kopnina, H., & Shoreman-Ouimet, E. (2013). Environmental anthropology: future directions. New York, NY: Routledge.
Minkler, M., & Wallerstein, N. (2008). Community-based participatory research for health. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Wang, R., Liaukonyte, J., & Kaiser, H. M. (2015). Does advertising content matter? Impacts of healthy eating and anti-obesity advertising on willingness-to-pay by consumer body mass index. Web.
Watkins, L., Aitken, R., Robertson, K., & Thyne, M. (2016). Public and parental perceptions of and concerns with advertising to preschool children. International Journal of Consumer Studies, 40(5), 592-600.