Roving Focus Groups: Collecting Perceptual Landscape Data In Situ

Dennis B. Propst, Maureen H. McDonough, Christine A. Vogt, Dori M. Pynnonen-Valdez


Although focus groups are adaptable to unique situations, experts warn that the physical environment in which discussions take place should (a) be free from distractions, (b) be neutral, and (c) permit participants to face each other. In 2004 and 2005 the authors experimented with roving focus groups in the rural landscape of Michigan (USA). As they moved along in a vehicle, participants discussed features that contributed to and detracted from rural landscape character. Results from a follow-up survey supported focus group themes. Such a congruence of results provides confidence in the procedure and expands interpretation of the concept, rural character. Qualitative procedures are rarely used to evaluate landscapes. In this study roving focus group results provided reliable and valid policy-relevant criteria at sufficient detail for planning purposes. The authors demonstrate the technology used to record the focus groups and discuss the pros and cons and ways of improving this procedure.

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