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    Community Futures: Web Tools to Empower Public Participation in Urban Development

    Create10 - The interaction design conference

    Edinburgh Napier University, UK, 30 June - 2 July 2010


    Dan Wandrey, Kyle Larkin and Ryan Spicer


    The benefits of broad-based community involvement in urban design and planning are widely documented. This approach helps to increase community member satisfaction, enhance the sense of commitment in citizens, create realistic expectations of development outcomes, and build trust (Altschuler, 1970; McClure et al. 1997). However, these benefits do not come easily. Channels for community participation are written into many city laws, but this process can be complex enough to discourage even the most committed community advocates. The analog methods employed in current neighborhood planning processes to gather community feedback result in singular, static, and irregular interactions with the public. Rather than focusing on citizens' evolving needs, these two-dimensional snapshots often cause public discussion to flatten into polarizing “pro” and “anti” positions, and many community members who could provide valuable insight simply stay silent. These antiquated techniques ineffectively utilize digital technology as a means for broader community involvement and collaboration. Technical expertise alone is inadequate for solving community design problems and the involvement of private citizens helps to ensure that effective and relevant strategies are created. A truly participatory planning process requires a mutual respect for the skills and knowledge citizens provide - community history, local knowledge, cultural values and understanding. As this conference theme suggests, systems that make visible transitions across time, place and information spaces are incredibly valuable. How might we advance the use of online tools as a means to connect with people over time and space to produce new, deep and continuing insights to inform the design process?


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