July 10-13, 1996
National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis (NCGIA)
University of Maine, Orono ME

Concept Overview

Increased public involvement in the definition and analysis of questions tied to location and geography is the domain of Public Participation GIS. The goal of the concept is to overcome the limitations of present GIS technologies and to address barriers in the institutional settings within which GIS is practiced. A public participation approach would situate GIS analytical tools within an expanded framework of communication and discourse, opening opportunities for public participation across the processes of problem definition and problem resolution.

This participant-driven framework would be capable of representing diverse views without forcing premature resolution of contradictions, inconsistencies and disputes as they arise. This approach facilitates the meaningful introduction of appropriate forms of spatial information and related technology for widening public participation in the policy process. Technologies chosen or developed to support this approach would be designed to document and record the problem resolution process, allowing evolving priorities and problem definitions to be tracked by all participants. In terms of national needs, this approach would attempt to incorporate public knowledge from multiple sources into decision frameworks now primarily in the hands of expert managers of data-driven technologies.

Workshop Overview

The National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis (NCGIA) will host a 3-day workshop to gather a small group of specialists to examine the development of a public participation GIS concept. An objective would be to identify principles, concepts, technologies and information requirements for the meaningful integration of GIS-related applications for serving public participation and dispute resolution processes. By example, the research would address questions of how to incorporate diverse stakeholder viewpoints (e.g., citizens, taxpayers, public interest groups, disenfranchised parties, government, private sector, etc.) by utilizing emerging information infrastructure and appropriate technologies suitable for multi-party communication and decision making. The process orientation of this approach would not strive toward general agreement among participants, but rather would afford a forum for effective expression of views which enhance fair, efficient and wise outcomes. Current approaches to addressing these situations include:


By examining selected case studies, the proposed workshop will attempt to:

This proposed research would situate GIS-related technologies more effectively within their social and public context. The workshop will contribute to establishing a research agenda and/or report which examines opportunities for developing an adaptable suite of analytic tools, communications technologies and participatory processes that will:

The composition of this workshop is intended to be interdisciplinary, involving representatives of various academic disciplines (geography, planning, public policy, political science, spatial information science, computer science, among other fields) as well as government and the GIS industry.

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