Recent conversations at the NCGIA Initiative 19 specialists' meeting (GIS and Society) and at the annual meeting of the Association of American Geographers have identified a set of questions concerning future development of the tools of spatial analysis in relation to their public context. Similar themes were addressed at Initiative 17 (Collaborative Spatial Decision-Making). The discussions have been directed toward various of partial outcomes, such as the development of more user-friendly interfaces, network access to GIS, use of GIS as a communications medium, data creation based on local knowledge and sketchmap capacity, public access to digital data archives, and the inclusion of groups often marginalized by technology.
An attempt to identify threads which are shared among these concerns is the objective of a meeting planned to be held in Orono in July. The intent will be to assemble about a dozen individuals representing various disciplines and approaches, including specialists in spatial technologies, dispute resolution, cognitive studies, planning, public policy, and representatives of the GIS industry.
The name Public Participation GIS has been chosen to identify this set of concerns for the purposes of the workshop. This choice makes GIS a point of beginning for the conversation, but should not preclude a discussion which might aim toward entirely new technologies and processes. Other attempts to identify the problem have chosen other terms (such as "spatial understanding support systems," cited in Couclelis and Monmonier, below).
The meeting's organizers intend to provide participants with a set of case studies before the meeting as the basis for initial comments. Participants will be encouraged to apply their particular frames of reference to these cases and scenarios, and to provide examples of technologies and projects from their own experience.
At a minimum, a report of the meeting's discussions will be made. The report will review the components of the issue as discussed, suggesting principles which should guide future developments, and naming obstacles or impediments which stand in the way of effective public participation in the technologies of spatial analysis today. It is expected that the meeting will suggest questions for future research and directions for system development.
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