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THE SCIENCE OF SCENERY

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    The Science of Scenery

    Scenic quality, and understanding human preferences for scenery, may be analysed scientifically. It may seem surprising, even sacriligeous, to apply science to scenery but the scientific approach can be applied to this area as to any other area of human enquiry.

    In laying the foundation for future development of studies of scenic quality, a scientific approach is essential – what might be termed the science of scenery. The purpose of pursuing the science of scenery is to place the measurement and prediction of scenic quality on a sound scientific foundation, thus providing understanding of what generates scenic quality, contributing to an explanatory theory of human landscape preferences, and allowing for the prediction of scenic quality for a given set of characteristics.

    The scientific approach involves the collection and analysis of data, the testing of hypotheses with this data, and the reformulation or further development of explainable hypotheses and theories. The scientific method aims to explain what generated the results that were gained. Understanding leads to application. If we know what generates scenic quality then we can better manage and protect it from despoliation. We can also know and avoid the likely effects of change and development on scenic quality.

    Theory model

    Figure 1 Components in the science of scenery

    Figure 1 identifies the key components to the science of scenery. Guided by a theory of human landscape preferences, landscapes are assessed to provide data which could be analysed, predictive models developed, and the results used to validate and refine the theory as well as a range of other applications. The model comprises the following five stages:

    1. Having an explanatory theory which can be tested;
    2. Testing this through undertaking studies which provide observational data of physical landscapes and which measure their scenic quality;
    3. Analyzing these data to understand the relationships that are present between the measures of scenic quality and the characteristics of the landscape;
    4. Deriving quantified models that enable the prediction of scenic quality for given characteristics;
    5. Comparing the results of the studies, analysis and models with the predictions of the theory to verify, modify, or refute it.

    Over time, with theory validation and the accumulated knowledge gained through many studies, a sound standard methodology will be applied to determine the scenic quality of any given landscape and the likely visual impacts of change and development.

    A key to developing the science of scenery is the adoption of a standard methodology for measuring landscape quality to better enable comparability and transferability between studies and to build a solid body of knowledge. Such a methodology will, through the knowledge accumulated by many studies, provide a sound basis for theory testing and validation as well as for application. Practically it will determine the scenic quality of a given area as well as the visual impacts of change and development.

    This part of the Scenic Solutions website discusses the various components and aspects of the science of scenery. It examines the prevailing theories of landscape quality which attempt to explain why we like what we like. It reviews studies of landscape quality, both in Australia and internationally. This describes the methodologies used by these studies. The site then develops the standard methodology, firstly discussing a number of framework issues and then describing each of the components of the methodology. References to the studies on landscape quality are qrouped together.

    Click on any of the following aspects which are examined in depth:

    Theory of landscape quality
    Studies of landscape quality
    Typologies of landscape studies

    Protocol Framework
    Protocol for landscape studies - independent variable
    Protocol for landscape studies - dependent variable
    Protocol for landscape studies - analysis and mapping
    Landscape resources

    References on landscape quality

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