Unveiling of the Atmosphere - Qualitative Exploration of Experiential Background in Relation to Space


  • Maša Poljšak Kus University of Ljubljana



Central interest of our multiple case study is the experiential background of an individual. Based on literature review we define it as fringe awareness, existential, cognitive, and intuitive feelings, often not in the centre but on the brink of our awareness. As an important element of experiential background, we introduce the concept of experiential atmosphere, which we tried to capture using an open qualitative research design. Atmospheres that we were interested in were primarily linked to our experiential background, and secondarily to the concepts of ambience and social settings (“vibe”). Our primary goal was to discover and map individual’s experiential landscapes, focusing on the affective layer of experience, and to discover possible cornerstones of atmosphere. Secondary goal was to examine the relations between experiential atmospheres of an individual, their behaviour, environment, and social context.


Using phenomenological (experience sampling, in-depth interviews) and ethnographic (daily diaries, photographs, informal interviews) methods we aimed to gather ecologically valid data of an individual about their experience and behaviour in different (natural) environments and social contexts. Because our three subjects were actively involved in the research, we view them as co-researchers. The main researcher was one of the participants. We collected data over the span of three months in three phases, first of which was a pilot study designed to train our co-researchers in observing and reporting about their experience.

During each phase co-researchers reported about their experience based on the descriptive experience sampling method [1], with additional information about their environment and behaviour. During the sampling days they wrote detailed diaries focused on their moods and existential feelings [2]. The study was conducted in Slovene language. We used qualitative research guidelines and open coding approach [3] to conduct our analysis.


We aim to produce detailed phenomenological descriptions of our co-researcher’s experiential landscapes, focused on their affective meanders. We intend to link their experiential points with observable circumstances, mainly their environment (spatial and social) and their behaviour.


We intend to offer new terms and ideas to use when thinking and talking about our affective states, which we deem essential to the feelings of atmosphere. Our research has led us to note the importance of our deep experiential atmosphere, which consists of two opposite core feelings: safety and being-in-danger. We believe that they pervade our emotional landscapes and colour the background of our experience.


[1] R.T. Hurlburt and S.A. Akhter, “The descriptive experience sampling method,” Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 5(3–4), pp. 271–301, 2006.

[2] M. Ratcliffe, “The feeling of being,” Journal of Consciousness Studies, 12(8-10), pp. 43–60, 2005.

[3] B. Mesec. Uvod v kvalitativno raziskovanje v socialnem delu. Ljubljana: Visoka šola za socialno delo, 1998.