How is landscape quality measured?
Many years ago in Australia, researchers tried to measure scenic quality by measuring all the features of the landscape that could be measured - land forms, vegetation, water bodies, land uses etc. They believed that from this information, the scenic quality would be derived. But it never did.
The reason scenic quality cannot be derived by measuring the landscape is that these activities involve the cognitive paradigm - human reasoning and analysis. However scenic quality is an affective quality, human likes and dislikes, our preferences.
Our liking of chocolate does not depend on knowing anything about how the chocolate is made, where it came from, its colour and shape. Rather we taste it and know immediately whether or not we like it.
Similarly our liking of music does not depend on an analysis of the use of instruments, scoring for the orchestra, or a detailed analysis of the score. Rather our music appreciation is immediate and without analysis.
So it is with scenic quality. Our liking of a scene is immediate and without analysis. We know what we like.
Dictionaries reinforce this distinction between the cognitive and the affective in their definition of aesthetics as “things perceptible by the senses (i.e. affective) as opposed to things thinkable or immaterial (i.e. cognitive) (Shorter Oxford, 1973).
Measuring landscape quality thus requires the measurement of landscape preferences - how much we like the landscape. Rating scales (e.g. 1 - 10, low - high) provide an effective means of gauging preferences.
Click here for further details about the measurement of landscape quality