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The impacts of leisure-time walking on waterside areas: innovations, transformations and territories

Submission Deadline
15 May 2020

The democratization of leisure-time outdoor sports activities has led to extensive use of outdoor spaces. While mountain territories have more especially been the subject of numerous studies, waterside areas have barely been considered, even though they have been leisure areas since the 18th century.

Leisure-time walking in particular has become an important activity, leading to several consequences, including the massification of activities, new forms of political governance, conflicts of use, economic and touristic importance, environmental impact and heritagization. Far from being an exhaustive list, these aspects nonetheless show the plurality of the impacts this special issue aims to study. 

One of the objectives is to place territorial impacts, activity management and spatial planning at the heart of our reflection, while addressing a lack of data concerning a sector that is nevertheless a dynamic one. In order to be faithful to the reality of these activities, the area of research to be considered encompasses not only hiking, but also all forms of walking and running activities, such as Nordic walking, trail running, sea wading, strolling, shore fishing, etc. They seek to better understand the modalities of these activities whose varying development has contributed to the structuring of waterside space, by proposing an approach that is both synchronous and diachronic, and diversifying the fields of study.    

The aim is to analyze these practices that are neither uniform nor fixed and to comprehend the changes and innovations which transform walking activities and, consequently, waterside territories. With their waterside location in common (sea, lake, etc), all spaces may be considered in order to understand both the diversity and effects of the activities. Studies should be contextualized with regard to the fields selected, making it possible to examine more particularly the representations attached to the territories. Both innovative and more traditional types of activities make it possible to understand the social and cultural forms, as well as the economic and political impacts of the activities.

Three dimensions at least may be envisaged.

The first investigates socio-economic aspects. It involves analyzing the emergence and then development of a market related to walking activities in waterside areas by analyzing changes in use, the introduction and structuring of an offer (association-based then commercial), taking into account the effects of territorial marketing and the new trends reconfiguring this market, with the diffusion of digital technologies in particular. It is also interesting to put changes in the socio-economic benefits of waterside walking activities into perspective.  User knowledge constitutes a heuristic lead in the understanding of the socio-economic impact of this type of activity. Observing user diversity will make it possible to reveal practice modalities, the meaning of these practices and their impacts in terms of budget, time dedicated to them and consumption patterns.

The second more political dimension looks at policies and aims to analyze regulation of waterside walking activities. These often massified activities pose management issues for local authorities, as well as for associations and federations, since they are at the boundary between different public policies (sport, tourism, planning, environment, etc.). This dimension may also involve considering forms of governance for waterside walking activities. Several associations have been created, and then grown, to take charge of and/or manage the development of these activities. Public authorities have been able to delegate their prerogatives and/or co-manage a boom with consequences in several areas (regulations, responsibilities, etc.). This approach implies a study of public action and seeks to understand the way in which management, for example of hiking, is the product of multiple forms of interaction between a wide variety of actors. It involves identifying the public action tools used to comprehend walking activities on the one hand and, on the other, proposing an analysis of the organized action formed around the management of these activities by producing interaction between both public and private players. Analysis will also focus on the tangle, superposition of public policies and the implementation of a governance for these activities and the management of waterside areas.       

The third dimension focuses on the social and cultural aspects of developing these activities. Particular emphasis will be placed on the study of their evolution and practice modalities. The role they may have had in the structuring of territories, heritagization processes and their effects may be the subject of in-depth study. An analysis of the conflicts of use involving walkers, hikers, cyclists, horse riders and, more generally, users of waterside paths can be conducted by analyzing the forms of management envisaged.   The aim is also to focus on the conflicts of use generated by changes in practices and occurring between sports actors and traditional or professional users of waterside areas, as well as on the innovations likely to produce conflictual situations (waterside events, for example). Attention may also be given to the short, medium and long-term processes which have led to the structuring of new practice spaces and territories’ use of these activities to valorize their identity, heritage and, more widely, aspects linked to their development.

Comparative approaches concerning the three dimensions will be considered.

Although not limited to the following, approaches related to sociology, history, anthropology, ethnology, law, management science and marketing will be appreciated, as will, more especially, multidisciplinary ones. 

Submission guidelines

Submission deadline: 15th May 2020


  • May 15, 2020: proposal of articles with a title, an abstract of 400 words maximum, 5 keywords as well as the name of the author and a biography of 5 lines maximum to be sent to Michaël Attali <[email protected]> and Yohann Rech <[email protected]>.
  • 15 June 2020: validation of proposals
  • October 30, 2020: final articles transmitted according to the editorial rules of the Society and Leisure to Michaël Attali <[email protected]> and Yohann Rech <[email protected]>.


Michaël Attali is a professor at the University of Rennes 2. Director of the Laboratory “Violence, Innovation, Politics, Socialization and Sports” (VIPS2), his research focuses on the dissemination processes of physical activities in time and space. https://perso.univ-rennes2.fr/michael.attali

Yohann Rech is a lecturer at the University of Rennes 2. His works focus on analysis of the organization and management of sport leisure spaces and tourist sites. https://perso.univ-rennes2.fr/yohann.rech

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