|M.Sc Student||Karin Talmor|
|Subject||Evaluation of a Web-Based Public Participation System in the|
Planning Process - a Case Study
|Department||Department of Architecture and Town Planning||Supervisors||Full Professor Juval Portugali|
|Professor Emeritus Churchman Arza|
In the last decade there is an increasing awareness of the importance of public participation in urban planning processes, along with rapid development and utilization of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). These have contributed to the establishment of the e-participation field and a growing number of Web-based Public Participation Systems (WPPS), integrating VR (Virtual Reality) and GIS. The research explores ICTs' potential as participation processes facilitators. A WPPS was constructed dealing with the "Yarkon Peninsula" area in Tel-Aviv and offering interactive visualization and communication technologies: 3D geo-spatial Skyline TerraExplorer®, 3D VRML Cortona®, 2D interactive GIS, 2D static maps, movies, a discussion board, and an on-line questionnaire. WPPS is evaluated in terms of- Entrance features: entries/exits, referring pages and system accessibility. Interactivity (participation level): Basic Interactivity ("Person-Computer" - page requests, software/movies download) High Interactivity ("Person-Computer-Person" communication tool utilization). Ease and user-friendly use and Information comprehension.
Research tools applied: an on-line evaluation questionnaire, e-mail and discussion board analysis and web-server activity log-file analyzers.
Findings show thousands accessed the WPPS; half exit immediately, the popular day was Saturday, WPPS was accessed 24 hours a day. Most participants display basic interactivity: page requests declined as a function of the location in the WPPS. A minority of participants displayed high interactivity, using mainly on-line questionnaires. Means of communication were evaluated as enabling opinion expression. Most 'involved participants' were: men, aged 20-39, academic, non planners, familiar with the area, frequently surf a broadband internet. WPPS was evaluated as easy and user- friendly, although a minority encountered technical problems. GIS was the easiest technology to use. Information presented was evaluated as highly understandable: 2D static maps followed by Skyline software were the most understandable means of presentation. 3D software interactivity was regarded by many as aiding understanding. Participants see WPPS as useful public participation tools that should be combined with non-web techniques.
Main conclusions: The strength of WPPS is in information dissemination, as a one-way communication channel, a valuable aspect in participation processes. Such systems should be utilized in participation processes. Nevertheless, utilization as a two-way communication tool is not significant, no profound discussion occurred; technological and human limitations still exist, limiting a full realization of the potential. ICTs cannot be relied on solely in participation processes, but as augmenters of non web-based techniques, contributing to more inclusive and efficient public participation in planning.