Where the lawn mower stops: The social construction of alternative front yard ideologies

Kaufman, Andrew
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The front yard landscape with its trademark lawn has evolved to be woven socially within the fabric of our society. Associated with this phenomena, a rising concern has echoed about the environmental, as well as the social pressures caused by maintaining a lawn. In order to see if alternative front yard ideologies exist, and understand their social construction, a qualitative study was employed in three Midwest communities. This study was an attempt to try and understand what sociological factors may help to explain why people go against normative practices of having a lawn, while their neighbors reflect normative ideologies of having a wellmaintained front lawn. To accomplish this, various sociological theories were incorporated including, Goffman's dramaturgical analysis, Mills' vocabulary of motive, Scott and Lyman's accounts, and Sutherland's differential association. In the Spring of 1999, data from 24 respondents of single-family-detached-houses were collected, 18 of which displayed Lawn Deviance (LD), and 6 of which displayed Lawn Conformity (LC). Results indicate LD respondents will give justifications for not having the conventional front yard; LD respondents will have had associations with people who are also lawn deviants; LD respondents will present themselves as environmentalists; LD respondents will indicate resistance to conspicuous consumption; LD and LC respondents will see their front yard landscape as an extension of their social self. Many differences exist between Lawn Deviance and Lawn Conformity respondents. Lawn Deviance respondents exhibit higher ethical values in association with environmental issues than Lawn Conformity respondents.

This study appears to reveal some interesting insights into the social actions and underlying themes of front yard landscaping within the Midwest communities that were studied.