Infrastructures for participation:institutional and technical considerations for new forms of participation in urban development

Weise, Sebastian (2016) Infrastructures for participation:institutional and technical considerations for new forms of participation in urban development. PhD thesis, UNSPECIFIED.

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The proliferation of Internet-connected mobile and situated digital devices combined with the ubiquity of online collaboration and interaction exposes the need to review the ownership models for data and digital infrastructures that increasingly perform as politicised resources in everyday life. Viewing geography as an important aspect to the socio-cultural context within which potential new forms of ‘bottom-up’ online participation are performed, this thesis analyses the practices surrounding the ownership of, as well as the participation in urban planning through the various information communication technologies (ICTs) encountered in decisions affecting the material context of cities. In two ethnographic studies of information systems in municipal planning, technology-supported citizen participation is analysed. First, participation records for 597 citizens in a three-year planning process in Lancaster (UK) are used to reconstruct the geographic patterns of participation in relation to places. Then, through 21 participant interviews, the genealogy of municipal planners’ establishment of an infrastructure for participation is outlined and associated practices of participation analysed. Finally, as a critique of possible technical interventions, the challenges of linking various actors’ practices through geospatial technologies are scrutinised in two cases from Helsinki (Finland) and Aarhus (Denmark). From each study recommendations for design interventions are drawn. The findings suggest that ‘local’ participation draws on the materiality of various places. We find that formal participation processes and infrastructures used accounted poorly for the spatial constellation of material context and local actors who exerted a low influence within established formal participation process. To develop technical interventions that support distributing ownership of participation to various local groups within established institutional practices, human computer interactionists need to carefully consider established rules and roles used in both domains, the formal institutions and the many informally-organised actors involved. It is suggested that planners’ role shifts beyond that of a mediator towards that of a facilitator for local actors’ ownership of participation processes, wherein the need for economies of scale and technological compatibility in applying technical interventions may perform as boundaries for sustainable technical interventions. It suggests the scope for third parties to aid this process.

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13 Apr 2016 09:50
Last Modified:
12 Sep 2023 00:18