Kate Sherren

Landscapes - People - Global change

Tag: Q-methodology (page 1 of 2)

Governing Shale Gas: new book

Matt Dairon, John Parkins and I now have a chapter out on Matt’s Masters work at U of A in Governing Shale Gas: Development, Citizen Participation, and Decision Making in the US, Canada, Australia, and Europe. Our chapter is near the back, chapter 17 of 18: Seeking common ground in contested energy technology landscapes: Insights from a Q Methodology study.  While the book is about shale gas, this case study uses the same concourse as another recent paper, but in sites of shale and wind farm development in southwestern Alberta, and with interviews to bring nuance.

Edited by John Whitton, Matthew Cotton, Ioan M. Charnley-Parry, and Kathy Brasier, this book:

“… attempts to bring together critical themes inherent in the energy governance literature and illustrate them through cases in multiple countries, including the US, the UK, Canada, South Africa, Germany and Poland. These themes include how multiple actors and institutions – industry, governments and regulatory bodies at all scales, communities, opposition movements, and individual landowners – have roles in developing, contesting, monitoring, and enforcing practices and regulations within unconventional oil and gas development. Overall, the book proposes a systemic, participatory, community-led approach required to achieve a form of legitimacy that allows communities to derive social priorities by a process of community visioning. This book will be of great relevance to scholars and policy-makers with an interest in shale gas development, and energy policy and governance.”

New paper on dykeland futures

Graphical abstract for a new paper in Land Use Policy on dykeland futures in Nova Scotia.

Graphical abstract for a new paper in Land Use Policy on dykeland futures in Nova Scotia.

Pleased to have a new paper out in Land Use Policy with former MREM intern Logan Loik on how Nova Scotians perceive agricultural dykelands in the face of climate change. Bay of Fundy dykelands are Canada’s only UNESCO-listed agricultural landscapes because of their origins in the 1600s with French settlers.  These structures protect little active farmland today, but governance is still in the hands of the farming sector. They are more often used for recreation, or to protect residential, commercial or transportation infrastructure. Climate projections suggest considerable effort and expense will be required to raise all dykes to the levels necessary to withstand sea level rise and storm surges, but it may be that decommissioning some dykes and restoring coastal wetlands may be more resilient. We asked 183 Nova Scotians to sort statements about dykelands, wetlands and coastal governance. The dominant discourse from this Q-method study was supportive of maintaining dykelands for recreational, cultural and flood protection reasons; the next most prevalent was pragmatically supportive of wetland restoration for efficiency purposes. Results suggest challenges for the process of managed realignment, as well as climate adaptation in cultural landscapes more generally, but also some new analytical opportunities for large-n Q-method research.

New energy Q paper in Environmental Sociology

Our national energy project implemented Q-method interviews in Alberta, Ontario and New Brunswick, where participants sorted a concourse of statements about energy beliefs, preferences and tradeoffs. A new paper in Environmental Sociology, Identifying energy discourses in Canada with Q methodology: moving beyond the environment versus economy debates, led by University of Alberta colleague John Parkins, discusses the five emergent discourses and their implications for advancing complex energy debates. It will be interesting to see how these discourses align, or not, with the large n (p-set) national sorting survey of the same statements that was implemented online last year. The abstract follows:

Drawing inspiration from the literature on social imaginaries and cultural models, this study explores contending perspectives on energy and sustainability, moving beyond a simplistic understanding of support or opposition to specific energy developments. With a comparative study in three regions of Canada, we use Q methodology to identify five key discourses on energy issues: (1) climate change is a primary concern, (2) maintain the energy economy, (3) build on the resilience of nature and local energy systems, (4) markets and corporations will lead and (5) renewable energy sources are the path forward. We find several under-examined perspectives on energy and society – one discourse that attempts to balance growth in the energy economy with environmental concern and another discourse that promotes the resilience of natural and local energy systems. We also find a proclivity towards science, ingenuity and technological innovation as a strategy to resolve contemporary challenges in the energy sector. This study helps to elaborate energy policy conversations beyond the common environment versus economy tropes. The study also reveals opportunities to forge common ground and mutual understanding on complex debates.

Hard at work

Energy team at work in Folly Beach

Energy team at work in Folly Beach

Fun with freeware

What am I doing today? I’m re-interpreting Q-method output for my dykeland study because of a late discovery about how PQMethod identifies ‘defining sorts’. Q-method uses statement-sorting (or photo-sorting, viz Milcu et al. ) to understand the public discourses that exist around a given issue. I seem to be doing quite a lot of it of late with students and colleagues, but this is the first time that I’ve been the analyst. Near-ubiquitous freeware program PQMethod does an outstanding job of providing statistical output that is easily interpreted, but it is important to dig into the manuals to understand the steps it takes along the way. Once factor analysis identifies various discourse ‘types’ based on sorting on a forced-normal distribution, PQMethod helpfully identifies ‘factor-defining’ sorts, which you can use to characterize each one. These are the individuals who sorted similarly, driving that particular ‘archetype’. Using the demographics of these defining sorts to be reflective of a discourse is particularly useful when you have a lot of sorts, which is a new use of Q-method which is not entirely consistent with the rationale behind its design. PQMethod identifies as ‘defining’ those sorts where: (1) The factor explains at least half of the common variance, that is, the factor loading for that particular respondent on a particular factor must be at least half of the variance explained by all factors pulled out of the model for that respondent; and, (2) the loading must be significant at p < .05. However, it also includes in that mix those for which the correlation (the loading) is negative, that is, the complete opposite. Perhaps for a qualitative interpretation of the factors this would be irrelevant, but I designed my concourse of statements such that scores could be derived to summarize perspectives on a range of themes. As folks like me push the method and the software to places it was not intended to go, it behooves us to be careful that we fully understand the tools we are using.

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