|M.Sc Student||Burstyn Maya|
|Subject||The Role of the Social Media as a Platform for Public|
Involvement and Participation in the Planning
System in Israel
|Department||Department of Architecture and Town Planning||Supervisor||Professor Emeritus Arza Churchman|
|Full Thesis text - in Hebrew|
In recent years planners have implemented the social media, which is an internet platform that enables multi-participant dialogues, as a platform for public participation and involvement in the planning system. The main goal of this research is to shed light on this emerging field by characterizing the use of the social media for these purposes.
The research questions were as follows:
(1) What are the characteristics of public participation in the planning system in Israel via the social media?
(2) What are the perceptions and attitudes of professionals engaged in the field of classical and online public involvement on the implementation of social media as a platform for public involvement in the planning system in Israel?
The research was conducted under a theoretical framework and pre-defined criteria based on two theoretical models: Shkabatur’s (2011) model for evaluating public involvement and Churchman & Sadan’s model (2003) for evaluating public participation. According to the methodological approach, additional criteria were added. The research included 263 anonymous questionnaires filled out by the public, five interviews with professionals engaged in the field and three interviews with community activists in the social media.
Regarding public participation, this study found that the social media increases residents' participation and exposure to planning content. The exposure to these issues is not related to socio-economic status, except for the fact that the very use of social media requires at least some knowledge and technological skills and more importantly, an internet connection. Most residents who are exposed to these issues usually do not take an active part in this regard, and those who do are usually identified with higher socio-economic status and the actions they take concerning these issues are not significant.
These stand as opposed to the fact that most respondents stated that public participation via the social media have a medium to high impact on the local authority planning policy. While in some cases one might argue that the lack of communication with the local authority is reasonable cause for lack of action, it was found that it is mostly related to the free-rider problem, which is one of the most common problems existing in the public participation field today, as in the past.
Regarding public involvement processes initiated by the authorities, it was found that the use of social media can increase accessibility to these processes due to its ease of use and the flexibility it allows the participant. Greater accessibility enables higher representation, greater influence on decision-making, and greater transparency of the content.
On the other hand, the use of social media platforms for public involvement necessarily excludes certain groups from the process, as some citizens do not have access to the internet and social networks. Also, the unmediated encounter with planners and officials, that occurs in classical public involvement methods, enables transparency of the participation process and a wider discussion among the participants. Therefore, despite its advantages, the social media cannot yet replace the classical methods and should be used as a complementary tool in this process.