Nost, Eric, Morgan Robertson, & Rebecca Lave (2019, October). Q-method and the performance of subjectivity: Reflections from a survey of US stream restoration practitioners. Geoforum, 105, 23-31. (Link: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.geoforum.2019.06.004)

Abstract: We present results from a Q-method survey on a key question in water governance and reflect on Q-method as an approach that quantitatively distinguishes qualitative subject-positions. The survey was conducted with the Q-TIP platform, which we designed for the study and is now open to all researchers (https://qtip.geography.wisc.edu/). Our study asked how stream restoration should be evaluated in state regulatory programs. Streams are dynamic and multi-scalar geomorphological, chemical, biological, as well as socio-cultural systems and it is not obvious what good restoration means or how it should be assessed. Across the stream restoration community we found four different priorities, each of which differently characterizes the feasibility of assessing outcomes. These four perspectives were that metrics of success should: (a) be rigorous and site-focused; (b) be simple and easy to implement in the field; (c) capture complexity; (d) reflect innovations in watershed planning, ecosystem functions, and stakeholder inclusion. These subject-positions on assessment do not, however, map cleanly onto informant profession or background, and a single informant can hold more than one view. Despite relatively limited uptake in geography, Q offers the promise of a critical quantitative approach to researching subjectivity in a way that is compatible with poststructural understandings of identity. We use our case material to show that methodological rules of thumb limit Q’s potential, but we demonstrate unconventional approaches. Drawing on the process and results of our survey of stream restoration practitioners, we argue that Q-method can help in the task of representing subjectivity while respecting its complexity.

Eric Nost <enost@uoguelph.ca> is in the Department of Geography, Environment and Geomatics, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada.

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