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Urban visualization tools : opportunities for developing visual computer support for public participation… Alkire, Laurence Masa 2000

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U R B A N V I S U A L I Z A T I O N T O O L S : O P P O R T U N I T I E S F O R D E V E L O P I N G V I S U A L C O M P U T E R S U P P O R T F O R P U B L I C P A R T I C I P A T I O N P R O C E S S E S B y L A U R E N C E M A S A A L K J R E B . A . , University of British Columbia, 1996. A T H E S I S S U B M I T T E D I N P A R T I A L F U L F I L M E N T O F T H E R E Q U I R E M E N T S F O R T H E D E G R E E O F M A S T E R OF A R T S In T H E F A C U L T Y OF G R A D U A T E S T U D I E S (School of Community and Regional Planning) We accept this thesis as conforming to the required standard T H E U N I V E R S I T Y OF B R I T I S H C O L U M B I A September 2000 ©Laurence Masa Alkire, 2000 In presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an advanced degree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make it freely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensive copying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of my department or by his or her representatives. It is understood that copying or publication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my written permission. X3gffij8iKg§uX%ffX School of Community and Regional Planning The University of British Columbia Vancouver, Canada Date 4 October 2000 DE-6 (2/88) Abstract This thesis examines the potential for developing and using urban visualization tools in planning practice. The thesis asks the questions: are visualization tools effective additions to public participation processes and how could this type of tool be made more effective? Informing an audience of community members of potential changes to the urban environment is one of the most difficult tasks in planning. Visualization technologies have the potential to be a catalyst for discussion, constructive debate and decision-making in community participation processes. Presently communicating visual information is problematic because of the wide range of visual literacy and skills within any community. Visual simulation tools can be an 'accessibility aid' and thus facilitate discussion and increase understanding of proposed change. Visualization tools could also be used to present information from GIS and other database sources. The thesis reviews literature and on-line information on urban planning projects that have utilized computer visualizations. The literature review consists of two parts: first, a review of theory and second, a review of papers on projects that have involved computer visual simulation of urban environments. Personal and email interviews were conducted with individuals using and developing computerized planning support tools. Four case studies are evaluated and suggestions are made on their effectiveness. The opportunities presented by visualization tools include: • Increased ability to offer background information and information on demand to participants in a public process. • The Computer can be used to generate more photorealistic images than traditional graphic methods. • Increased information and visual capabilities potentially allow more complex issues be covered within a public participation process. • Visualization tools allow quick production and modification of perspective images. The thesis identifies the following constraints of visualization tools: • Computers are not well suited for direct use in public processes. The machines are designed for one user and public processes involve communication between many people. • Information in a community process needs to be easily accessible. Many participants in neighborhood planning processes are not comfortable with using computers. • Computers are not always reliable in 'live' situations. It is risky to rely on a machine as technical problems are common. The thesis concludes that the most beneficial visualization tool to a community consultation process is not the most technically advanced tool. The preferred tool is the one most sensitive to the needs of the process. Future development should focus on the informational needs of public consultation and using readily available technology to meet these needs. Leaving major technical development to the private sector and focusing on applying existing technology is a better focus for planning researchers interested in participatory computer tools. i i Table of Contents Abstract ii Table of Contents iii Figures and Illustrations iv Chapter One 1.0 Introduction 1 1.1 Objectives 5 1.2 Methods 5 1.3 Structure of Thesis 7 Chapter Two 2.0 Use of Computational Tools 9 2.1 Information Revolution 10 2.2 Ethics 15 2.3 Applied Ethics 17 2.4 Using Technology 23 2.5 IT and Planning 24 2.6 Conclusions 28 Chapter Three 3.0 Urban Visualization 30 3.1 Public Process 33 3.2 Evaluatory Framework Examples 37 3.3 An Evaluatory Framework 41 3.4 Case Study One 44 3.5 Case Study Two 51 3.6 Case Study Three 61 3.7 Case Study Four 68 3.8 Summary 79 Chapter Four 4.0 Research and Development 84 4.1 Top-down or Bottom-up 85 4.2 Rational Discussion 87 4.3 Equipment, Labour and Data 89 4.4 Structured vs. Unstructured 91 4.5 Interaction 93 4.6 Virtual Environment and Photos 95 4.7 Data Enhancement 96 4.8 Data Analysis 97 4.9 Conclusion 98 Chapter Five 5.0 Conclusion 100 5.1 Why Visualization Tools 100 5.2 Pursuing R and D 102 5.3 Opportunities for the Near Future 103 5.4 Concluding Statement 106 Bibliography 107 iii Index of Illustrations and Figures Figure One: Decision-making scale 32 Figure Two: Transit Study scale 50 Figure Three: N E C scale 60 Figure Four: U C L A scale 67 Figure Five: CommunityViz scale 77 Figure Six: Comparison Chart 83 Image One: Hong Kong Airport model 7 Image Two: Transit Study Sarriples 44 Image Three: N E C elements Of neighborhood 51 Image Four: U C L A Urban Simulator 61 Image Five: CommunityViz 7 68 Image Six: Virtual Ryoaji project 104 Image Seven: Virtual Reality Studio 105 Text B o x One: The Internet 24 Text B o x Two: V R M L 27 i v 1 Chapter 1 1.0 Introduction This thesis examines the opportunities presented by computer visualization technology to planning practice, the planning profession has, as have all management professions, increasingly integrated digital technology for the purpose of better managing, processing, and displaying information. A comprehensive study of the state of Virginia's planning agencies notes that planning staff consider "keeping pace with technology" an important goal to pursue1. The adoption of new ways to store and archive data has rapidly occurred. Database management systems are widely used by agencies to make permit tracking easier, streamline approval processes and share information between departments and agencies2. Whereas data management applications of computational tools have been quickly integrated into planning operation, the use of computer tools in analytical processes has not seen rapid integration. Regarding this situation Klosterman comments: The diversity of analytical tasks which planners perform, the relatively small market for public sector software, and the expense of developing and supporting commercial software means that planner's analytical tools will continue to lag far behind those of other professions such as transportation engineering and other areas of government.3 1 Nedovic-Budic, Z (1998) "The impact of GIS technology" in Environment and Planning B vol. 25, pp. 681-692. 2 Sussman, R and Dynes, S. (1998) "Information Technology and the Amalgamation of Planning Activities at the New City of Toronto" in Plan Canada vol. 38, No. 5 3 Klosterman RE (1998) "Computer Applications in Planning" in Environment and Planning B Anniversary Issue 1998 p 34. 2 This thesis addresses the potentials for developing and using urban visualization tools. It identifies how this type of tool could be strategically developed and effectively used in community participation processes. Communicating potential changes to the physical environment to a community audience is one of the most difficult tasks in planning. Residents are wary of any proposed changes to neighborhoods, since they want to protect quality of life, property values and the residential character of neighborhoods. Nevertheless there is an increasing awareness within these communities about the negative consequences and difficulties of the North American urban form. Residents have become used to a life based on auto dependence and abundant space for each household. Some consequences of this orientation have included traffic congestion, air pollution, and a generic sprawling and ultimately alienating environment. Thus urban planning agencies are increasingly motivated to clearly communicate alternative options to communities. Some of these concepts include: complete communities, transit villages and neo-traditional development4. It is difficult to articulate ideas about new ways of living. Communicating how a new built form would look and feel is a problem. New visualization technologies are a possible aid in this process as visual examples of different options could act as a catalyst for discussion, constructive debate and decision-making. Communicating visual information is often a problematic process. Within any community there is a wide range of visual literacy and skills among its 4 Duany, Plater-Zyberk, Kreigerand Lennertz (1991) Towns and Town-making Principles. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Graduate School of Design. members. On the one hand there are visual arts professionals, architects, engineers and urban design specialists who are used to interpreting drawings and diagrams and their implications to the environment. On the other hand there are planners, engineers and community members who have little or no visual design training. Visual simulation tools could be the 'accessibility aid' that facilitates discussion by increasing understanding for members of the community to the effects of proposed changes. Furthermore, visualization may provide a gateway to data not normally accessible to the public. By using a clear visual presentation method, information from GIS and other city databases could be made more easily understandable. Ultimately the use of urban visualization tools in community processes has the goals of including more information in decision-making, analyzing information more effectively, and facilitating the resolution of development debates. Of course visual aids such as models5 and artistic renderings are already used in community processes. These are usually presented as three-dimensional images of what is possible. However there is limited interactivity with these models and the possibilities of modifying the image do not exist. Thus the great advantage of computer modeling is interactivity. The amount of interactivity is subject to the strengths and form of the tool. It can range from suggestions from the audience that can easily be incorporated into an image by computer professionals to a fully interactive model or simulation that is controlled by the audience. This thesis explores the range of interactivity, from full hands on to limited feedback that exists among computer models. 4 Suggestions are made on where the greatest potential for use of such computer tools now exists. Information technology is both a cause of and a potential solution to, new problems in this era of growing complexity. Information overload contributes to an inability to maintain clear goals and make decisions in a context of a growing 'data smog1 (reams of information with little real utility). Additional work and intellectual effort is created by rapidly evolving and increasingly complex operating systems and software. The result is increased user stress to keep up with change. Like it or not, using technology is increasingly becoming a core skill in professional planning practice. One social planner made this point in a Globe and Mail opinion piece: Does this mean that, in the words of Kurt Vonnegut, 'Things are bad, they're going to get worse and they're not ever going to get better again'? If social planners continue to waste their efforts raging against the dying of the light, yes, it does. If, on the other hand, we embrace the information revolution and incorporate into our planning strategies that revolution's infinite possibilities for education and organization, for access to the homes of the citizenry, we may surprise ourselves yet.6 This thesis identifies and evaluates the visualization possibilities of the information revolution. It is hoped that this evaluation of the various options will develop into a strategic and pragmatic perspective on the topic. This thesis intends to provide a balanced evaluation of the innovations made 5 The Quest Model produced by UBC researchers is one recent example. See 6 Burwell, Lyle (1998) "Its time to embrace the technological revolution" in the Globe and Mail Sept. 18,1998. 5 possible by rapidly advancing computer graphics capabilities and thus aid researchers in making choices in the using these tools. 1.1 Thesis Problem statement and objectives This thesis examines how computer visualization tools could be incorporated into the planning process of community consultation. Effective communication with communities is an important topic for planners. Visualization tools have the potential to address some of the issues involved in improving communication. The thesis goal is to highlight strategies for future research into developing and applying visualization tools. The questions that drive this thesis can be stated as: "Are visualization tools effective additions to public participation processes?" and "In developing computer visualization tools how could this type of tool be made more effective?" 1.2 Methods Three research techniques are employed in this thesis: a literature review, online research of precedents and interviews with researchers. Literature Review The literature review consists of two parts: First, a review of theory and an examination of the implications of information technology and second, a review of current writings on projects involving computer visual simulation of urban environments. The topic of information technology has generated much literature. Numerous magazines, most notably, Wired, keep the public informed of even the most 6 minute changes in the computing world. A comprehensive review of this literature is beyond the needs of this thesis. Focus is placed on much cited material such as Mitchell7 and Negropointe8. These sources provide an overall discussion of advances in information technology. Some planning literature discusses the effects of information technology on society. Castells9 recent trilogy is the most prominent of these. This general literature is reviewed to bring perspective and context to the specific goal of examining information technology as a tool in planning. The second part of the literature review deals with specific projects that have used computer based visual tools in public planning processes. There are numerous examples of planning schools and research agencies developing computer-based visualization for community consultation. The approaches are widely varied and the research very current. The four case studies chosen from the literature represent the spectrum of approaches currently being undertaken in this research field. On-Line Research Computer technology is a topic that lends itself easily to extensive Internet research. Since many of the projects discussed in reviewed papers resulted in the construction of digital models, actual viewing of these models or renderings from these models is possible on line. There is also many examples of simulated urban spaces not specific to planning projects. These have been produced for 7 Mitchell, William (1995) City of Bits: space, place and the Infobahn. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press 8 Negropointe, Nicolas (1995) Being Digital. New York: Alfred A. Knopf 9 Castells, Manuel (1996) The Rise of Network Society. Oxford: Blackwell educational, commercial and recreational purposes and in most cases have higher production values and are more innovative than those developed strictly for planning related projects. Imaoe 1: Image produced to market the Hong Kong Airport ©2000 HK Airport Authority Interviews Personal and email interviews have been conducted with individuals using and developing computerized planning support tools. These individuals have been asked their opinions on the opportunities and constraints of developing computer support tools for planning. These individuals included members of the City of Vancouver IT and communication departments and individuals working in the private sector10. 1.3 Structure of Thesis Chapter 2 reviews the enormous impact of digital technology on society. Technology has changed the operation of and communication within organizations. The use and integration of digital technology in the planning 1 0 Personal interviews conducted in fall 1999 with Martin Crocker, City of Vancouver (COV) IT services, Catherine Clement, C O V communications coordinator, Sean Rafuse, Programmer, Bayleaf Technologies. E-mail interviews conducted in spring 2000 with R Klosterman, Professor, 8 profession and by social activists is examined. Chapter 3 consists of four case studies of urban visualization tools developed for use in public participation processes. Chapter 4 identifies the opportunities and constraints of developing urban visualization tools. The chapter suggests strategic ways to develop a visualization tool. Chapter five summarizes the research and identifies the key findings of the process. Future directions for research are articulated. University of Akron; R Langendorf, Professor, University of Miami; D Martin, Professor, University df Southampton; R Kellet, Professor, University of Oregon. 9 Chapter 2 Using Computational tools The information revolution is upon us and it is changing the way cities are managed. New opportunities to communicate, through e-mail and shared database resources, are now available to planners who use information to manage urban areas. Capitalizing on these opportunities could potentially create unparalleled flows of information in cities: between residents, governments and other agencies. This would increase the capacity to execute all sorts of economic, social and environmental endeavors; activities intended to make cities more livable. For planners, information technology (IT) can be a catalyst for change and create a work environment where innovation can occur. These changes can go beyond speed increases to service delivery and automation of existing processes. One simple example of innovation is the concept of services and information being provided in multiple languages through voice messages, literature and other media produced by metropolitan authorities. For increasingly cosmopolitan and complex city regions innovations like this are necessary for the well being of the urban system. It is critical for planners to understand the nature of changes brought on by information technology in order to recognize the opportunities and avoid the pitfalls of integrating these new tools into planning practice. This chapter attempts to provide some insight into the social changes of the information revolution by reviewing theoretical and popular literature on the topic. A discussion of the historical context of the information revolution is followed by a 10 more detailed analysis of the implications of this technology. Much of the literature on the effects of technology has emphasized the positive. The following section hopes to balance the hyperbole of this literature with other books and papers with more critical analysis of the implications of new technology. A section on the ethical use of technology is included. A conscious understanding of both the positive and negative aspects of information technology is helpful in making balanced decisions on the proper use and design of information technology tools. The chapter concludes with a section identifying some of the new tools that have been integrated into planning practice and a discussion of key points brought up in the chapter that are useful to the process of developing, integrating and using visualization tools in planning processes. 2.1 The Information Revolution Three technological revolutions have marked global human history1. The Neolithic era (8000-12,000 BP) agricultural revolution was precipitated by the discovery that vegetation can be domesticated and selectively cultivated. The revolution began in Mesopotamia and took thousands of years to move from the Tigris and Euphrates to the various cultures living around the Mediterranean. Societies that switched from hunting and gathering to a life based on a systematic production of food became sedentary and reorganized with a more complex division of labour. Specialists in spirituality, knowledge and organization 1 Michel!, W. and McCullough, M. (1995) Digital Design Media New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold. p. 1-3 11 emerged2. Administrative bureaucracy (the roots of the planning profession) was created to control production and distribution. Prehistoric anthropologists have elaborate theories on the basis of this new power to control. Prominent Anthropologist Witfogel asserts control over the technology of waterworks was key to maintaining social control: The effective management of these works [irrigation systems] involves an organizational web which covers either the whole, or at least the dynamic core, of the country's population. In consequence those who control this network are uniquely prepared to wield supreme political power.3 Organizing human activity was the key to this revolution and the result was people gathering in large settlements and cities. The industrial revolution took 100 years to occur (1750s to 1850s) and rapidly changed modes of production and living. Industrialization resulted in rapid urbanization and the creation of modern metropolitan regions. Urbanization massively disrupted how people lived and thus often led to brutal new living arrangements: [TJhese pestilential human rookeries are... where tens of thousands are crowded together amidst horrors which call to mind what we have heard of the middle passage of the slave ship. To get to them you have to penetrate courts reeking with poisonous and malodorous gases arising from accumulations of sewage and refuse scattered in all directions and often flowing beneath your feet; courts, many of them which the sun never penetrates, which are never visited by a breath of fresh air, and which rarely know the virtues of a drop of cleansing water.4 2Morgan, LH. (1878) Ancient society. New York: Henry Holt and Co. Republished in Classics of Anthropology 1985. Tucson: University of Arizona Press. 3 Karl A. Wittfogel. (1957) Oriental Despotism: a comparative study of total power. New York: Yale University Press. 4 Mearns, A. (1883) The Bitter Cry of Outcast London: An inquiry into the Condition of the Abject Poor London: James Clarke, p. 4 12 The need for planning urban infrastructure and public programs was created as public health was in danger. The power of human physical labour was devalued as machine productivity became more effective at harnessing generated energy. The Information Revolution has occurred even more rapidly and is based on the use and manipulation of information. The ways in which information is processed and used has changed and devalued the intellectual effort necessary to perform simple creative tasks. Computing resources now replace humans in many intellectual activities and perform these tasks more efficiently and effectively. Just as the Industrial Revolution replaced human muscle power by energy consuming machines, the Computer Revolution is replacing human brain power by information-processing machines... Bank clerks have already been replaced by automated tellers and file clerks by database management systems. Information workers of less mediocre attainments are next... This includes designers. We are very close to the point at which the average designer may have nothing left to sell that is worth anyone's money to buy.5 Developing computer systems potentially threaten many occupations by rendering useless many intellectual skills. However, contrary to this threat, the economies of Western Nations have seen robust economic growth and wealth generation. Castells6 states that the flows of information creates new work, new skills and thus occupational displacement is more than made up by new activities. As with the previous two revolutions the economic, social, cultural and material basis of society is being restructured by information technologies. The means of distributing the collective effort of humans have changed. This rapid 5 Mitchell and McCullough (1995) p. 3-4 13 change is further accelerated by the collapse of socialist state societies. Capitalism is now the only organizational method of national economies7. Capitalism is resulting in wealth generation that is not tied to natural resources and place. The result of this is increased international liberalization of tradeflows and the growing power of transnational corporations. In the new economy producing a physical object has less and less economic value. Now value lies in the identity of an object and by extension power to generate wealth lies in the power to modify that identity. Castells identifies this new society as: A network-based social structure is a highly dynamic, open system, susceptible to innovating without threatening its balance. Networks are appropriate instruments for a capitalist economy based on innovation, globalization and decentralized concentration; for work, workers and firms based on flexibility, and adaptability; for a culture of endless deconstruction and reconstruction; for a polity geared towards the instant processing of new values and public moods; and for a social organization aiming at the suppression of space and the annihilation of time.8 Increasingly the economies of Western cities are based on processing and manipulating information. Communication technology is far more important than it has been in the past as a result of 'dematerialization' of western culture. Communication infrastructure is increasingly mediated by digital technology. The current buzzword is 'convergence'. The goal of Motorola and other communications conglomerates9 is to gather and distribute information by one communication standard and have one digital device process it. All this Castells, Manuel (1996) T h e Rise of Network Society Oxford:Blackwell 7 Waterman, Peter (1999) "The Brave new world of Manuel Castells: What on Earth (or in the Ether) is Going On?" in Development and C h a n g e Vol. 30 p. 357-380 8 Castells (1996) p. 470 9 Thompson, Clive (1998) "Keith Kocho has seen the future of the Internet and it is Television" in Shift. Vol. 6, No. 6 14 technological hype is seen on the streets of'new economy' cities like Vancouver, where the cell phone is now ubiquitous. The affluent populations of these cities have become highly 'tech literate'. The standardization of the world's accumulated knowledge into a digital format has been occurring since the end of WWII and has accelerated most rapidly in the last 20 years. Technology permeates all areas in modern western life, and this drives many of the societal processes that planning agencies now deal with. Understanding how the information revolution changes society provides insight into which digital tools could be used by planning professionals. At its most basic level planning deals with the ongoing process of maintaining the 'common good'. This is a vague concept based on developing and building a community with social capital and cohesion10. The transition to an information society does not necessarily facilitate this goal of collective improvement. An information based economy creates uneven wealth often concentrating it in the hands of a few. Media articles11 have attacked an information-based society as accelerating the gap between rich and poor. Castells12 has characterized technology as accelerating time and space and creating a pattern of economic global activity consisting of disassociated electronically connected pockets of wealth and power. In contrast are pockets of poverty, no longer limited to a simple north -south dichotomy, but existent everywhere: "A new division of labour has emerged on a global scale: a division based not on product (Lancashire 1 0 Jenson, Jane (2000) "Social Cohesion: The Concept and Its Limits" in Plan Canada. Vol 40 No. 2 1 1 Adbusters Magazine (Adbuster's Media Foundation) is an entire magazine devoted to this discussion. 15 cotton, Sheffield steel) but on process (London and New York global finance, Berkshire and Westchester back offices, Leeds and Omaha direct telephone sales)"13 Both of Castells 'worlds' are dependant on the new information economy. Places of poverty are now the places of material production and suffer from the negative consequences of these activities: Polluted air, water and living conditions reminiscent of the early Industrial Revolution. Articles, movies14 and books have documented the Dickensian conditions of developing cities. A recent Globe and Mail story on Juarez, a Mexican border town, and major location of maquiladoras, export-processing zones created by trade liberalization characterizes the city as: "overcrowded, ramshackle shanty-towns cut into rock and dirt, gunfights are routine. Even in well-heeled restaurants, where assassinations are not uncommon, diners are advised not to sit with their backs to a door or window"15. Information technologies such as the tools discussed in this thesis are basically tools that sophisticatedly use and manipulate symbols. In the end the tools are only important because of the heightened value of information processing in wealthy western countries. 2.2 Ethics and information Technology 1 2 Castells (1996) 1 3 Hall, Peter (1996) Cities of Tomorrow Updated Edition Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, p.404 1 4 Director: Michael Glawogger (1999) Megacities documentary film Twelve stories from 4 "Megacities": Bombay, Mexico City, Moscow and New York 1 5 John Stackhouse (1999) Globe and Mail Thursday, December 9, R1 16 Using sophisticated information technology to communicate with a community has both positive and negative repercussions. On one hand, much of the population is familiar with gathering information through new digital technology. This affords planning agencies the opportunity to become media savvy and use all the skills that are valued in the new economy such as effective use of communication devices and effective packaging of messages. On the other hand, it could be said that planners are perpetuating the status quo by extensive use of these technologies. The new tools are not inclusive and are foreign and even disliked by large portions of the population. The Internet is a phenomenon of the educated and middle class, not of a group disenfranchised from power. By using these tools to connect with citizens, planning agencies are unwittingly furthering the split between the haves and have nots and giving more access to those who already have a disproportional share of public decision making power. Planners cannot ignore the changes induced by information technology because there seems to be little that planners or anyone else can do to alter these powerful global forces16. Information technology is key in facilitating trade liberalization and the movement towards a world that has increasing disparities of wealth: "Information technology has powerfully boosted the (world capitalist) system, contributing to increasing rates of profit, accelerating internationalization, and engendering a new policy agenda on the part of governments, to foster capital accumulation at the expense of social redistribution"17 1 6 Blais, Pamela (1998) "The Shape of the Information City: Understanding the impacts of the information revolution on city form." in Plan Canada. Vol. 38, No. 2 1 7 Hall, Peter (1996) p 403 17 The protests in Seattle and other grass roots resistance movements are reactions to this sentiment. But one irony to emerge from the "Battle of Seattle" was that those lashing out against the forces of globalization were using communication devices such as cell phones to mobilize collective action. The technology that has facilitated a globalized liberalized economy also allows effective dissident action. Understanding the changes to city and socio-economic patterns is basic to the efforts by planners to capitalize on the opportunities presented by information: technology tools and the mitigation of their impacts. For the purposes of this thesis the idea of fully utilizing the strengths of computer tools must be tempered with the idea of making the tools inclusive. This accessibility is required to fulfill the ultimate purpose of connecting the.public to the decision making process. 2.3 The Ethical Use of Technology The roots of the planning profession are in public health efforts and pursuit of the common good. It is worth exploring conflicting worldviews about using technology to help develop a perspective on using technology in planning practice. There are two standpoints in the ethical debate about developing information technology. The MIT academics' Negropointe19 and Mitchell20 are proponents of one. They have;an optimistic belief that change to the information 1 8 This is a menu site for Salon stories on WTO protests. 9 Negropointe, Nicolas (1995) Being Digital New York: Alfred A. Knopf 2 0 Mitchell, William (1995) City of Bits: space, place and the Infobahn. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press 18 network society is an unstoppable positive force. They base their thinking in the rationalist philosophy that has marked the age of Western science. Recently rationalist philosophy has come under criticism as the detrimental aspects of the modern era are being recognized. Heim 2 1 articulates this second viewpoint in a chapter of his book Virtual Realism. This viewpoint suggests that a society interlinked through the medium of technology is distracting from the real, physical world and that this could act as a force that erodes and destroys real community. This could be labeled a 'humanistic' way of viewing the world. Those holding a humanistic philosophy have the belief that community cannot be built without traditional meeting places that allow social bonds to be built on patience and time spent together. This is a: sharing that cannot be virtual because reality arises from the public spaces that people share physically - not the artificial configuration you choose but the spaces that fate allots, complete with the idiosyncrasies of local weather and a mixed bag of family, neighbors and neighborhoods. For many, the 'as-if community' [created on-line] lacks the rough interdependence of life shared 2 2 The planning discipline is very sympathetic to a humanist philosophy, probably more so than the other built environment disciplines such as architecture and engineering. Planning at its essence deals with community. This can be seen in the ideas the planning literature encompasses: bioregionalist and regionalist23 thought and Jane Jacobs' 2 4 discussion of the importance of interdependence and nature of community. Planning's focus on the collective spirit leads to its uneasy 2 1 Heim, Michael (1998) Virtual Realism New York: Oxford University Press 2 2 Heim (1998) p. 42 2 3 Van Andruss ed. (1990) Home!: a bioregional reader Gabriola Island, B.C.: New Society Publishers. Mumford, L. (1938) The culture of cities. New York: Harcourt, Brace and company 19 relationship with information technology. The information revolution can easily facilitate erosion and destruction of traditional social networks and does not replace them with anything better. This has lead to a backlash. A computer scientist cited in Heim's book, tragically one of the Unabomber's victims, identified this ugly spirit: One portion of our population is building computer systems- the software cathedrals of this era- while another portion grows increasingly alienated from computers. This situation holds the greatest danger of a cultural collision.25 The intellectual roots of rationalism are found in philosophers such as Hegel and Descartes26. Rationalist thought leads to a culture that values technological progress and achievement above all in the collective efforts of society. Heim states: Hegel applied the Christian notion of Divine Providence to the recorded events of civilized history to show a rational progression. Hegel's elaborate encyclopedias and multi-volume histories of Western civilization affirmed a hidden evolutionary will driving purposely towards a single culmination 2 7 The relentless pace of improvement in the information technology industry is the manifestation of this evolutionary belief. Faster versions of hardware and software are produced every year regardless to the actual needs of most users. These improvements are made under the assumption that progress is inherently good (and receives the most economic rewards) and it is the most important attribute of the information revolution. Waste caused by obsolete equipment for example is one ethical question that receives little consideration in the quest for 2 4 Jacobs, Jane (1961) The death and life of great American cities. New York: Vintage Books. 2 5 Heim (1998) p.33 20 improvement and speed. Rationalists like Leibniz and Descartes pushed computation and mathematical physics ahead of ethics and feelings. Their faith in progress relied on the reduction of thinking to systems of rational logic28. The goal of faster and more powerful is easily measured and understood and thus is a goal that is much easier to market and sell. The people leading the agenda of economic and social change brought on by information technology are the intellectual descendents of modernist philosophy. Mitchell and Negropointe write about computing with the same optimism that the proponents of freeways and international style architecture had in the 1950s and 1960s. The rhetoric is familiar: technology frees people from the mundane and the constraints of time and space and thus improves life. In contrast, counterculture thinking and 1960s activism included the negative consequences of modernist progress in the discourse. The most important idea to emerge is the understanding that a consumption-focused culture threatens the continued existence of humans. Second, specific to planning, rationally planned urban environments do not always turn out as intended. Instead many master planned spaces became problematic parts of the landscape. One local example is the Granville transit corridor and Pacific Centre Mall. The combination of restricting traffic and lack of any draws to pedestrians (because an inward facing mall lines two city blocks) is a master planned dead space in Vancouver's downtown. The negative consequences of master planning can also be seen in social housing initiatives. The call for the projects to replace shabby but ibid p. 40 ibid p. 38 21 functioning neighborhoods was made in the name of progress and public well-being. However the social engineering efforts built quickly proved unlivable and lead to social disintegration. In Chicago public housing... the general view is that all the residents of the projects are "public wards." Moreover, the standardization and restrictive rulings that govern the projects almost totally eliminate all those overt signs that families customarily depend on to present themselves to the outer world.2 9 These modernist projects can be seen as analogous to some of today's efficiency driven information innovations. One particularly annoying example is automated telephone systems. These phone trees cause an unbelievable amount of stress and time loss for users in the name of efficiency. William Mitchell articulates his belief in the march of progress in City of Bits with sweepingly grand statements about constructing the infrastructure for the new digital age. Just as Baron Haussmann had imposed a bold spider's web of broad, straight boulevards on the ancient tangle of Paris, and as nineteenth-century railroad workers had laid sleepers and steel to shrink the windy distances of the North American frontier, these post-whatever construction crews were putting in place an Infobahn and thus reconfiguring space and time relationships in a way that promised to change our lives forever.30 The analogy of fiber optics to freeways hints that if this academic were active two generations ago he would have been advocating freeways. City of Bits glorifies the unfettered and wide reaching communication strengths of the Net. Mitchell calls the keyboard his cafe, a venue to do greetings, talk to students, answer questions, gossip and flirt. He states Gerald D. Suttles (1968) The Social Order of the Slum: ethnicity and territory in the inner city. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ^Mitchell (1995) p. 3 22 "[traditionally, you had to go someplace to do this sort of thing- the agora, the forum."31 Mitchell states physical forums relegate people to particular peer groups and stations in life because location, appearance and mannerisms set your destiny. He sees the Internet as essentially egalitarian and thus eliminates these constraints because users are disembodied from place and physical appearance. This is an idealistic interpretation of the communication forum for two reasons. First, those with access to the egalitarian world of the Internet are not representative of the population. Most of the traffic on the Internet occurs in the first world32 with the majority of that occurring within the United States. This is not a very representative World Wide Web. Within countries with high Internet use the pattern of access is not representative either. The users are predominantly middle class and wealthy. Within this group young males have become the most active and adept user group. This may be changing rapidly but it is still holds true that the nubile young women you meet in a chat room is more likely a male teenager in their bedroom. Mitchell33 and others34 discuss how gender, consistency of behavior and just plain truthfulness are not set on line. Accountability for actions on line is sketchy at best and thus the chances of creating meaningful and stable relationships are reduced in anonymous online forums. There are very few ways to instill 'netizens' a sense of civic duty. The reality of who is using the Internet raises some important questions about using computational tools in public processes. First, how do you create 3 1 ibid p. 7 3 2 Reynolds, R (1998) "The little network that grew" in Shift Vol 6, No 6 3 3 ibid 23 true inclusivity using equipment that is accessible to the people that have traditionally held power in society? Second, Given the anonymity of users on the Internet does on-line interaction really build community? 2.4 Using Technology to Connect Communities Community based political organizations have a love-hate relationship with information technology. While opposing information technology induced changes to the global economy some of the most innovative and creative uses of information technology have been executed by progressive organizations. Some of the first developers of the Internet were idealistic community oriented groups attracted to the unfettered free speech and accessible "do it yourself qualities of the medium. The 'alternative' press was one of the first things to flourish on the Net. Beyond fetishes and worship of pop culture (Celebrity death pools and gossip sites) the opportunity for uncensored serious political discourse was rapidly utilized. One of the first on-line 'zines, Bad Subjects35 originated at Berkeley. With a direct political action attitude the site applies social theory and discourse to everyday life. In the book published on the site, the editor states " alternative communities can indeed exist in the belly of the consumer-capitalist beast"36. Projects like Bad Subjects set the precedent for many sites with smart 3 4 Rushkoff, Douglas. (1994) Media virus!: hidden agendas in popular culture. New York: Ballantine Books 3 5 3 6 Bad Subjects Production Team (1998) Bad subjects: political education for everyday life New York : New York University Press p. xv 24 political commentary. Glossy sites such as the Onion, Utne Cafe and Salon Magazine37 now exist. The increased free-flow of information has yet to free Mumia or stop the MIA but new tools such as email lists had a part in getting 50,000 people into the streets of Seattle. The network society does not have to be a one sided one. The same flows of information that have accelerated consumption can also be used to share progressive ideas and mobilize collective action. All this on a communication network originally designed for military use.38 Text B o x 1 How d o e s the Internet work? The basis of the net is packet switched technology. Any file sent on the net is broken down into data packets. These are small packages of data sent independently of one another to any specific location. The structure of the net allows information to travel through different routes to reach its location. This design is a safeguard against nuclear attack. The first packet switched network was the ARPANET developed by the US Department of Defense to allow high-level researchers to share computer facilities in 1969. Email was introduced in 1972. 2.5 Information Technologies and Changes to Planning The information revolution already has and will continue to change how planning agencies operate. Management of all activity, business or public has increasingly relied on computers. Computational tools will enhance the ability to tackle complex planning questions that involve large data sets or many variables. Powerful new information management systems increase the options planners have in shaping and displaying accumulated information about urban regions. Furthermore, digital communication systems, local and wide area networks, the 3 7,, 3 8 Reynolds, R (1998) "The little network that grew" in Shift Vol 6, No 6 25 web and email, allow planners to widely share and disseminate analysis and findings. To date, planning tasks involving administration and file management have been the most automated. Examples include the POSSE system developed by the City of Edmonton: POSSE calculates fees, accepts payment, prints the permit, and automatically schedules follow-up activities including inspections... Staff receiving planning, development, or building permit applications use POSSE to immediately determine zoning, restrictive covenants, existing uses, and warnings which affect the subject property and nearby properties39 The automation of these tasks is the manifestation of Mitchell's forcast that simple intellectual tasks will be conducted faster and more efficiently by machines. In fact the integration of the POSSE system at the City of Edmonton has eliminated 29 staff positions while at the same time increased the speed and consistency of service4 0. In Edmonton, the speed of turnaround on permits that used to take days to issue now can be done in minutes. But beyond these clerical tasks other new innovations are now taking place. Castells 4 1 commented that the information society is experiencing a compression of time and space. The introduction of around the clock service in many sectors is the demonstration of this compression of time. The way people now perceive their day has changed as the amount of information a person can receive on demand at any time has increased. People are beginning to expect all sorts of services, from food to banking to entertainment, to be available all 3 9 Caldwell, R, Mines, J and Fraser, D. (1998) POSSE: "Moving from the paper world to the electronic world" in Plan Canada Vol 38, No. 5 p 13 4 0 IBID p 16 26 day. These new expectations are also expected of urban authorities as residents become more accustomed to a world where time of day does not matter. City authorities need to adjust to these expectations because the new economy, with its irregular patterns of work, is creating a population that needs 24-hour service delivery to fit in with their lives. The change in the perception of space is also occurring. Delivery of government services into homes is possible. One example of this potential is the secure payment of fines option at the City of Vancouver Website42. Another interactive feature on Vancouver's site is on the animal control page. There are thumbnail sketches and biographical information of animals waiting for adoption at the City pound. This feature is one of the most popular on the City's site and is credited to being a major factor in the pound being able to fulfill its no kill mandate43. Further expansion of service and information delivery is a priority for the new unified City of Toronto planning agency. Toronto planning staff notes that the Toronto Website currently has potential, but with further work over the next few years it could become a "real workhorse".44 Presenting in a clear and forthright manner how decision-making occurs at the city is problematic. Information on current plans, bylaws and zoning, the supposed basis for decisions by municipal authorities, is very inaccessible data. Easier ways to access this information is possible through technology. GIS data on current development, existing zoning restrictions and other planning rules 4 1 Castells (1996) 4 2 4 3 Personal Interview. Martin Crocker (City of Vancouver IT Services) October 1999 27 could be visualized using three-dimensional technology. "Exciting new 3 D CAD and GIS technologies will be used by planners and designers to visualize, analyse, test and communicate concepts and plans to constituents in ways never before possible"45. Presenting information in this manner on the Web would have a powerful effect. The potential to do this is not that far off as virtual reality modeling language VRML is rapidly developing. The main barrier to advanced services is the speed of telecommunications equipment. The speed of communications lines will make a big difference in changing the Web from a text based medium to one with multimedia capabilities. Text box 2 VRML: Pronounced ver-mal, and short for Virtual Reality Modeling Language, VRML is a specification for displaying 3-dimensional objects on the World Wide Web. It as the 3-D equivalent of H T M L Files written in VRML have a.wrl extension (short for world). To view these files, you need a VRML browser or a VRML plug-in to a Web browser. VRML produces a hyperspace (or a world), a 3-dimensional space that appears on your screen. And you can figuratively move within this space. That is, as you press keys to turn left, right, up or down, or go forwards or backwards, the images on your screen will change to give the impression that you are moving through a real space. The new VRML 2.0 specification was finalized in August, 1996. It is known officially as ISO/IEC 14772. (Source: The time is approaching in the development of new information tools for planning where efforts need to focus on real needs. In the past it was obvious where operational gains could be made. But now planning specialists need to identify the profession's needs and creatively think about how computational tools could aid in tasks. "A shift is occurring from the early days of technology -when technicians were more in demand than professionals - to planners and designers themselves being able to take advantage of very powerful tools and massive collections of integrated data"4 6. The long term implications of any new technology are not immediately understood. Finding appropriate ways to use 4 4 Sussman, R. and Dynes, S. (1998) "Rewiring the Megacity: Information Technology and the Amalgamation of Planning Activites at the New City of Toronto" in Plan Canada Vol 38, No. 5 p 20 4 5 IBID p. 20 28 new technology is as important a task as building the technology. The technology is available and now the task is for planners to use it to fulfill planning goals. 2.6 Conclusions: Implications for developing visualization tools To summarize the key issues of this chapter: • A technological revolution is occurring. Many ways of doing things will not withstand the changes brought about by this unalterable fact. Examination of previous technological revolutions show that technological advancement and social change are one and the same. Planners have the choice to be reactive or proactive to the changes brought on by this process. • Technology is not inherently good or bad. It can be used in an ethical manner. It is up to planners to identify ethical and conscientious ways to use new technology. Planners as professionals with the goal of maintaining and building community have a particular interest in trying to achieve this goal. The rational modernist planning of the 1950s and 1960s is a lesson to the profession on bad application of new technology. • How information is exchanged and used is changing among the citizens of the western world. In 'new economy' cities like Vancouver there are highly computer literate populations. The size of this population will continue to grow, but right now is concentrated in middle class professionals. • Accessibility is a major issue with new technology. Ensuring that a broad cross section of society, or the majority who want access can have access is a problem that must be dealt with creatively. This is a key issue of ethics and must be dealt with to achieve intended outcomes. • The technological resources (hardware and software) already exist. The development of planning tools now has as much to do with identifying creative ways to apply technology as it has to do with developing new tools. People with planning backgrounds are needed as much as technology experts. • Creative ways to use information technology have been developed and are used by groups interested in social change. It is up to planners to identify these methods and think about how they apply to planning practice. Sussman and Dynes (1998) p. 21 29 The communications infrastructure that the Internet runs on is increasingly able to support multimedia capabilities. This development needs to be taken into consideration when developing visualization tools. In the future, delivery of community services on the Internet will be a very effective way to reach audiences. 30 Chapter 3 Urban visualization In North America neighborhood-scale planning and design is evolving toward a system of negotiated priorities and agreements between stakeholders (government, citizens, land owners and developers) to develop mutually acceptable plans. Planning literature increasingly focuses on the communicative aspects of planning practice. Planning theorists, such as John Forester, identify planning as an interactive communicative activity1. The skills of communication, consensus building, mediation and negotiation are now essential components to planning practice. As the planner's role involves facilitating communication it makes sense to develop computing tools that aid the communicative process. Computer based tools could help make public consultation a more cooperative process that creates consensus and aids in reaching decisions. Currently there are a number of research projects at universities and other institutions developing visualization tools for urban planning decision-making. This chapter looks at four such systems in detail. Each of these systems visualizes planning information differently. There are differences in the equipment used, in the type of information produced by the systems and in how the tools are intended to be used in a community process. These differences exist because research into planning visualization tools is in a preliminary phase. In comparison with other professions dealing with the built environment (such as architecture and engineering) computer tools for planning practice are not well developed. Klosterman, a researcher long involved in developing computer 1 Forester, John (1989) Planning in the Face of Power Berkeley: University of California Press. 31 applications for planning characterizes the state of research as being "exciting in prospect but disappointing in practice." 2 He believes the wide range of tasks planners perform, the qualitative nature of many of those tasks, and the lack of a market for public sector software has limited the development of planning software beyond rudimentary proto-types. In comparison, architects have a wide range of tools to help visualize their work. Well developed CAD packages for architecture have evolved to a point of similarity that the operation between systems does not differ substantially. The four case studies examined have very different approaches to supporting the community decision-making process. These visualization tools could be classified as Decision Support Systems (DSS). DSS research involves many types of computer tools, not just those visualizing environments. To date DSS "research has focused on problem solving rather than on supporting the modeling process" 3 However, creating visual capabilities in DSSs is increasingly being researched. Visual capabilities in a DSS tool provide the potential for more effective and interactive exploration, design and analysis of decision situations. Malczewski, a geographer at the University of Western Ontario defines a spatial decision support system (SDSS) as "an interactive, computer-based system designed to support a user or group of users in achieving a higher 2 Klosterman, R E (1998) "Computer Applications in Planning" in Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design Aniversary Issue, 1998, pp. 32-36. 3 Wherrett, JoAnna Ruth "Decision Support Systems, Environmental Models, Visualization Systems and GIS" at Land Use Division, MLURI, UK 32 effectiveness of decision making" 4. Malczewski believes that these systems are useful in "solving a semi-structured spatial decision problem". Composition of Decision Unstructured Semi-Structured Structured Decision Decision Decisbn Fig. One: Scale measuring the amount of support offered by a DSS Computerized Decision Support Systems can help decisionmakers solve problems that are located between structured and unstructured decisions. A completely structured problem is one that follows a set of rules or a clear routine that can be solved by automation. An unstructured problem cannot be tackled with a computational tool and must be dealt with by decisionmakers. Debates about neighborhood planning and development are difficult and involve human variables but they should not be approached as completely unstructured problems. If the neighborhood planning process is thought of as a semi-structured problem there is the opportunity for a decision support system to be useful. Any tool that increases the quality and clarity of information and contributes to increased overall participation in a community is a positive addition to the process. A computer based spatial decision support system should increase access to usable data, help in visualizing and analyzing information and 4 Malczewski, J . "Spatial Decision Support systems" at 33 enhance dialogue. It is also important that the system be user friendly so it is actually used. This chapter evaluates four case studies. To accomplish this the chapter first presents criteria on which to evaluate the studied tools (sections 3.1, 3.2, 3.3). Each visualization tool is then evaluated under the stated criteria (sections 3.4, 3.5, 3.6, 3.7). Observations and conclusions conclude the chapter (section 3.8). 3.1 Computer Support for Public Participation Processes Public participation processes are not simple. Competing financial interests, clashes in values and beliefs and mutual mistrust of stakeholders all make public consultation a difficult and time consuming process. It is very easy for any public forum to become a process based on debate and conflict where participants put forward and fight for particular viewpoints. Conflict over land development exists for very good reasons. Financial stakes are high making disagreements over future uses of land difficult problems to resolve. Residents, with good reason, are likely to mistrust any changes of use to local communities and treat the suggested new use as a threat. People are likely to negatively react to proposed change out of fear of the unknown, even if new uses are intended to improve everyone's quality of life. Computer decision support tools can help provide information on proposed change and contribute to the process of neighborhood planning. Providing easy access to information is important in community processes as attendance at 34 community meetings is voluntary. One cannot expect attendees to be briefed with basic facts and issues. The amount of information involved in land use decisions is complex and diverse. People need to be informed about issues during the course of discussion. Computerized decision support and visualization systems offer a way to enhance the learning and discussion process. Each individual arrives at a community meeting with a personal perception of the effects of change, visualization tools offer a chance to create a shared and visible image of the future. With visualization, discussion can move beyond vague statements of position towards decision-making and hopefully more rapid and successful resolution of conflicts. Langendorf, a University of Miami academic who has used various computer tools in charette situations, states: Computer aided visualization may render information understandable, credible and useful to diverse groups- groups that previously may not have recognized the relevance of such information or lacked the confidence to use it [furthermore] Computer-aided visualization increases participation within homogeneous and heterogeneous groups alike [and] increases the number of alternatives considered 5 Visualization tools potentially could clarify issues standing in the way of consensus. Visualization can even raise otherwise unforeseeable issues. Ultimately the reason for using computational tools is to make neighborhood planning a more public process and constructively include participants in developing a future vision of their community. 5 Langendorf, R (1995) "Information use in design decision-making" in Environment and Planning B vol. 22, p. 327 3 5 Visual aids such as sketches and models are regularly used in public consultation processes. The City of Vancouver's long term visioning projects in the Dunbar and Kensington-Cedar Cottage neighborhoods use artist's sketches of alternative development to communicate concepts to residents6. Visual examples convey information that would be difficult to express in words. However there are some drawbacks to visual aids. Research has found that highly detailed physical models seem to attract and generate criticism7. The more detail the model has the more criticism it invites. These models place citizens in a spectator position with no way to manipulate and interact with the model. Participants thus assume their role is to either accept or reject the proposed project. This spectator role often evokes a strong critical reaction to design features. Removal of these offending features gives the appearance of participation but those features are not replaced with any negotiated solution. In these situations the use of models tends to lead to less favorable results for the public. This can be attributed to the low quality of participation that surrounds the visual aid. Other research suggests that finely detailed models are intimidating to the public. Even when people were urged to participate in the modification of physical models they are unwilling to do so8. Computer models and computer graphics software offer the advantage of much easier image manipulation and modification. Computer tools increase the ability to change an image and allow 6 City of Vancouver (1998) Dunbar Community Vision. Approved by Council Sept. 10,1998 pp. 46 Goodfellow, D. (1996) Collaborative Urban Design through Computer Simulation at Senior honors thesis: University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada 8 Canter, D. et al. (1988) New Directions in Environmental Participation Newcastle upon Tyne: Athanaeum Press Limited, p. 58 36 for the quick correction of perceived 'mistakes'. This could make working with models a less intimidating task. Graphic conventions, such as plan and elevation views, used by architects to present new projects are abstract concepts that are not well understood by non-professionals. Research into visual aids suggests that perspective works best in spurring on design discussion and engaging people in participatory processes 9 Generating and manipulating multiple perspective views quickly and effectively is far easier on a computer than by conventional methods involving drawing or model building. Thus computer tools offer the ability to visualize the issues raised and the solutions articulated during a charette process. Working with the visualization tool towards a joint goal could help create an atmosphere where people are working together and not just as isolated individuals. This could help move discussion beyond just criticism. Public participation should strive to be a collaborative effort and involve rational discussion: Rational discussion is a cognitive enterprise, a dialogue of discovery, an innovative process of inquiry through which you seek greater knowledge and critical understanding of a subject by proposing developing and evaluating ideas about it 1 0 By increasing the amount of easily accessible information available, spatial decision support systems could aid in creating a forum where rational discussion occurs. Visual models that frankly articulate opposing views could help clarify the points of contention. Generating different views of alternatives allows for 9 Stanley King (1989) Co-Design: A Process of Design Participation New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold p.5 1 0 Howard, V and Barton, J. (1990) Thinking Together: Making Meetings Work New York: William Morrow and Co. p. 17 37 visual skills to be used to recognize meaningful alternatives. Thus new insights could be found during the problem-solving process. Caution needs to be exercised when using computer models. Visual aids "speed learning, aid in retention, and simplify complex concepts so they can be more easily grasped. There is one caveat to that statement: Proper AV presentations accomplish those goals; poor AV presentations confuse, bore, distract and retard learning"11. If applied incorrectly computer tools could detract from the quality of discussion. The visual tool could distract from debate or, even worse, be a method to intimidate an audience with dazzling graphics selectively displaying information. A decision support system should take a background role in public discussion. The novelty of the visual aid should not lead the process. If circumstances call for the visual aid to be taken out of the process "Be prepared to sacrifice the media to the message"1 2. The use of new tools sometimes upstages the intended message. This is especially true in the rapidly changing medium of computing where novelty attracts user interest. As long as computer tools have a game-like feel created by instant feedback and rapid manipulation of large amounts of data effective communication delivery is endangered. A conscious user of communication technology would downplay the technical aspects for the sake of the message. 3.2 Examples of Evaluatory frameworks 1 1 Burleson, Clyde. (1990) Effective Meetings: T h e Complete G u i d e New York: John Wiley and Sons p. 135 12Howard and Barton (1990) p. 133 38 With the introduction of new technology there is debate over its merits and usefulness. Thus there is a need to assess the implications and effectiveness of new tools. A study conducted by Nedovic-Budic assesses the impact of implementing GIS technology into planning practice13 The researcher discovered that GIS has achieved the status of a necessity in planning practice by land managers and local governments. The acquisition of a GIS package is undertaken by most agencies regardless of formal evaluation or studies into the organization's procedural needs. If an assessment into the effectiveness of the GIS system is undertaken by agencies, it is usually limited to a cost/benefit analysis and a simple look at functionality (such as ease of storage, ease of access, the ability to distribute and potentially sell data). More abstract assessments concerning the computational tool's contribution to increasing analytical ability or operations are rarely undertaken. Comparing the GIS system to traditional manual methods are also not done. Computerized visualization tools are not seen to be nearly as essential to planning practice as GIS. Thus uncritical and unselective adoption of visualization tools is unlikely. The slow adoption of visualization software provides an opportunity for evaluation while tools are still in the development stage. Some researchers have developed criteria to evaluate computer applications in planning. Nedovic-Budic14 believes research into the evaluation and assessment of information technology and management information systems are important in assessing computer tools for planning. She lists six categories 1 3 Nedovic-Budic, Z (1998) "The impact of GIS technology" in Environment a n d Planning B vol. 25 pp. 681-692. 39 of indicators that should be reviewed to assess the quality and performance of an Information System (IS): • System quality: Performance characteristics of hardware, software, database management and manipulation. • Information quality: Characteristics of the system's outputs such as accuracy, relevance, usefulness, format and timeliness. • Information use: Examination of planning functions that benefit from use of technology. Has the tool substituted or automated tasks formally done in other ways? • User satisfaction: How satisfied are users with the tool? • Individual impact: Does the information generated by the tool actually impact the decision-making process? • Organizational impact has the tool increased the performance of the organization in fulfilling its goals? Several of these suggestions are useful for the purposes of this thesis. Different indicators are used to measure the technical quality of the system, the quality of information produced and the effect of this information on decision-making. A survey of "visual impact assessment" by JoAnna Ruth Wherrett of the UK Land Use Divis ion 1 5 suggests the following criteria for simulations assessing landscape alterations: • Representativeness: a simulation should represent important and typical views of a project. • Accuracy: the simulation should strive to be representative of the reality of the completed project (a difficult feature to fulfill) 1 5 Wherrett, J. R. "Visual Impact Assessment" at 40 • Visual clarity: detail, parts and overall contents have to be clearly recognizable. • Interest: a simulation should hold the attention of the viewer. • Legitimacy: a simulation is defensible if it can be shown how it was produced and to what degree it is accurate. Wherrett states that "Visual simulation is only descriptive; it does not release the planner from the difficult task of evaluation nor does it provide an evaluation in itself in a publicly based evaluation approach"16. Visualization tools are only an aid in the process of decision-making. The criteria mentioned in this study deal with the quality and accuracy of the visual product and makes clear that a visual product's legitimacy is based on users' understanding how it is produced. The study emphasizes that image quality should be high if the visualization tool is going to help in a process. There are three key measures to developing a framework for evaluating visualization tools. The first is the technical aspects of the tool. These are the hardware and software issues that allow the tool to operate. What sort of equipment is needed to generate images and are these images static or dynamic? A dynamic example is a "fly or walk through" while a photo-like image is static. The second measure for evaluations concerns the quality or usefulness of the information product generated. Is the qualitative or quantitative information generated useful and accurate? What sort of analytical tasks can be accomplished using the tool? Is the visualization to scale or are measurements approximate? Are the images, textures and surfaces representative of what will be built or are not meant to be taken literally? The third measure for evaluation 41 involves how easily the tool can be integrated into aplanning process, the tool's operational effectiveness. Does the tool contribute or distract from a public participation process? Does the tool create new opportunities in a public neighborhood planning process. Does this tool improve public meetings by enhancing data, improving communication or helping in visual communication? Does it help overcome barriers to creating consensus? No matter how good the information looks a tool is not effective if the community consultation process is not improved. 3.3 An Evaluatory Framework This paper's evaluatory framework incorporates some of the previously suggested indicators as well as developing a number of new ones. The four case studies are evaluated using the following framework: Description of Project Each case study includes a project history, key researchers, and the present status of the project. System description The technical components of the system are identified including: • The hardware and software needs of the system • The method of displaying information. Examples included printouts, overhead projection or a monitor. 42 • The price of hardware components (processor, RAM, specialized graphics cards, display devices) and software. • How information is processed for use in the visualization system. This describes the data entry and programming needed to create an information product from the system. Information product use Evaluation of the information products of the system including the images, data and analysis products. • Quality and form of the information product • What features does the displayed information include? Is the visualization static or is it a dynamic model? • Does the information product include interactivity? What sort of interactivity do users have? How do users interact with the information product? • How is the information used in analysis? The information product could be used to aid design, for visual impact assessment, spatial assessment, or to help develop policy guidelines. • How much and what sort of data is the visual product based on? Is the visualization an accurate spatial representation of GIS data or is it intended to be used to assess aesthetic characteristics? 43 Use and trial testing to date Discussion of use or trials of the system. This section describes and discusses the observations of tool use in community participation processes. Researcher's comments on the project Researcher's self-reporting on the success, strengths and weaknesses of their system. • Researchers comments on the form and function of their tool. • Were researchers satisfied with the tool's information product? • Do the researchers consider the tool a useful addition to the public participation process? Assessment of the Project Conclusions on the effectiveness of each tool including: • General comments on the projects and observations • Perceptions of the technical efficiency of each system. • An evaluation of each tool's role in supporting decision-making. Do some tools support more analysis, evaluation and decision-making on-board the computer (a more structured process) while others rely on decision-making made within group discussion (a more unstructured process). • Are database management and analysis tools included with the package? Are these functions effective? 44 • How participatory is the tool? What sort of interactions do users in a public consultation process have with the system? Is this an effective level of interaction? • Does the tool seem like a valuable addition to the process of public participation? • What are the opportunities for future development of each tool? 3.4 Case Study One Transit Villages: Assessing the Market Potential through Visual Simulation^7. Image two: Three images generated for the market study Descrprion of rroieci Researchers: Robert Cervero, UC Berkeley Department of City and Regional Planning Peter Bosselmann, UC Berkeley, Department of City and Regional Planning Project: This project was designed to assess the acceptability of higher density transit oriented development centered around rail service to residents of the San Francisco Bay area. The researchers were motivated by a desire to provide Cervero, R and Bosselmann, P. (1998) "Transit Villages: Assessing the Market Potential through Visual Simulation" in Journal of Architectural and Planning Research. 15:3 (Autumn, 1998) pp. 181-193. 45 examples of transit centred development. They found that visual images of potential urban environments were lacking in other studies assessing resident acceptance of higher residential density. Computational tools were used to produce photoslide images. These photoslides were used in a public consultation process to simulate walks through four different density and amenity mixes. The visual simulations provided examples of a wide range of environmental choices. Images of four different densities- 12, 24, 36 and 48 dwelling units per acre (dua) were generated showing development of land around a transit station. The lowest dua number was the minimum density needed to support transit service. The public participation portion of the project took place in the spring of 1994 and the paper this case study is based on was published in the fall of 1998. No other information on the project's status is known. System characteristics The images for the four simulated neighborhoods were created using computer modeling and animation techniques. The model was designed as a kit of exchangeable components. The mix of components could be altered to illustrate different densities and amenity levels. The model included permanent components depicting constant factors such as street widths and the rail station. The parts of the kit were created by digitizing drawings. The images were completed with elements such as trees, facade and surface texture, people and cars to give the impression of photorealism. The angle and intensity of lighting 46 was constant for all images. Images were stored as digital files and transferred to color photoslides via a film recorder. The researchers did not respond to inquiries on their project. The estimated technical requirements to run this project are: Hardware: An entry-level P C computer (approx. $1000 CDN). A digitizer and scanner are needed. Software: Commercial modeling software (example FormZ $1200 CDN to purchase, about $200 yr to lease). Image editor (Photoshop $800 CDN to purchase, much less to lease). All equipment is easily available commercially. The simulated structures and objects were produced by texture mapping photos onto shapes in a modeling program. Within the modeling program these 'pieces' can be moved to create desired composite images. Static renderings can be taken at desired perspectives. The images could be processed and finished in Photoshop and transferred to photoslide. Information product use This simulation is a slide show representing a walk through a transit village to a rail station three blocks away. One simulation was produced at each density. The simulations consist of a view from a front and back window of a typical residence, images presenting views when walking along two residential streets to a shopping plaza and finally a view of a public square fronting the rail 47 station. The slide sequence were used in conjunction with a paper survey asking questions about participant's preferences. Use and Trial Testing The photoslides were used in eight different sessions involving over 170 Bay Area residents aged 18 and over. Each of the four sequences of slides was shown twice to participants, in a random order at each session. The slide show and questionnaire took approximately 45 minutes to complete. After participants had viewed the slides of each simulated neighborhood they were asked to rate each neighborhood on a scale from +3 (highly desirable) to - 3 (highly undesirable) with 0 being indifference. The lowest density neighbourhood (12 dua) received an average rating of +.24, 24 dua -.45, 36 dua +.03 and 48 dua: - .1. Researchers did not comment on participant reaction but results suggest that participants did not have trouble interacting with the visualization. The ability to use or be comfortable with computers was not an issue with this technique. Participants may have had problems with the quality of the images, but that cannot be substantiated. Researcher Comments According to the researcher the results "confirm the central hypothesis of the research: people are willing to accept higher densities in transit-oriented neighborhoods as long as various amenities, perhaps most noticeably a 48 neighborhood park, are provided"18. The acceptance of more density is dependant on amenities such as outdoor cafes and seating and commercial stalls. The 24 dua neighborhood was least preferred and this may have been because the amenities offered did not offset the level of density. Too much density was also disliked as the provision of open space offset density increases to a threshold of 36 dua, after that ratings went down. The researchers suggested that starkness and unrealness of the environment produced by computer may have contributed to negative perception of the images. This is a technical problem that could be partially addressed by improving abilities and skills in producing images. Improved software may also allow the production of more photorealistic images. The researchers comment that the information product could have been produced to show a more diverse range of architecture. The same simulated buildings were used at both higher and lower densities. This variable would not remain constant in actual development as higher quality architecture may be used in higher density development. This was not done in this simulation in an effort to control as many variables as possible between the neighborhoods. In future simulations attractive architecture could be an additional amenity that comes with higher density. The researchers see visual simulations as a new way to test market potential of different built forms. The results of this study differ from those of earlier market studies that relied solely on verbal and written inquiries. The researchers believe visual images "provide a much richer context for probing the 1 8 ibid p. 191 49 market potential for transit village development, not only because they are concrete and graphic, but also because they allow for a much wider array of choices to be conveyed" 1 9 . The researchers suggest that this technique is a useful addition to public consultation efforts as it extends planner's abilities to convey what added density will look like. Assessment of the Project This project is a cost effective and simple technique to visualize the urban environment. Using surveys in conjunction with images is an easy way to create interactivity. Participants do not need training or computer knowledge to participate therefore accessibility issues are avoided. The technical needs of this visualization system are no greater than what presently exists at most universities and research institutions. The expenses of this program are limited to labour costs and purchasing any needed software. The effectiveness of the model is dependant on the skills of the modeler and the limitations of the software. Currently the 'starkness' of the images cannot be overcome, since it is a limitation of the technology. This tool's information product is a set of static visual images. There is no other data produced by the system. It is intended for visual assessment of the appearance of a compact community. No on-board computer analysis of data takes place. Thus in a continuum from structured to unstructured decision-making, this is a decision support system that falls at the unstructured end of the ibid p. 193 50 spectrum. Comparatively, within decision support systems this system relies very little on the computer and the decision-making power lies within the participant's discussion. The computer system does not contribute any increased ability to access site data during the decision-making process as the system is not connected to a spatial database or to any sort of data analysis program. Unstructured Semi-Structured Structured Decision Decision Decision Figure Two: Case study one is a relatively unstructured DSS This tool's major strengths are its ease of use, its cost effectiveness and the bypassing of accessibility issues. A series of well done "snap-shots" have the potential to communicate almost as much visual information as a complex animated walk through computer model. Additional efforts to render photorealistic images may give this system advantages over dynamic walk-through models as it is much easier to give a few static images the detailing necessary for photorealism than it is to have that level of detail in a dynamic interactive environment. The system does not include any interactivity within the computational tool. However, depending on the context in which the images are used in, interactivity can be built into the participation process. Additional materials such as surveys and questionnaires can be provided with images. 51 This system could quite easily be developed and improved. It would be a simple process to place the generated images on the Internet with supporting surveys written as on-line forms. Images could be printed out and handed to groups working in a charette situation. These images could be used in group work as a base for sketch overlays. Computer models are relatively easy to modify thus a skilled operator could alter the images depending on discussions coming out of a design charette and present the revised images to the group. This could be done within a limited timeframe. This tool does not exploit many of the resources now available through increased computing power, but it is a 'rough and ready' way to give planning agencies a semi-interactive computer visualization technique. 3.5 Case Study Two Net Energy Communities (NEC)20 jo* Cm ii 1 Ml Hwnhtg fttttoi 1, 8 ,! ! Redo Rosier hot 1:4-15 i : ! t * l M J i K s n w l K 4 l « c « 3 street AfScfiei-" &14L»IV.TCIICC Image Three: Sample page from the N E C Elements of Neighborhood Database 20 Net Energy Communities website at 52 Description of Project: Principal Researchers: Ronald Kellet, University of Oregon, Department of Architecture Cynthia Girling, University of Oregon, Department of Landscape Architecture Project: The researchers note that neighborhood scale planning and physical planning has moved from a 'top-down' rules based, technocratic process to a 'bottom-up' approach based on negotiation of priorities and agreements 2 1. The charettes and public meetings are situations where negotiations take place. This project has developed a set of support tools for this environment. All components of the suite of tools have not been developed. Some components have been developed and tested in community 'charette' processes in Oregon communities. The NEC program is still developing and testing the tools. System Characteristics The system consists of hardware, software, information processes, protocols and templates for adapting the tools to projects. Support (a small team able to set up and coordinate use of the tools) is also an important system component. Hardware requirements are standard desktop (starting at $1000 cdn) and lap-top (starting at $2000 cdn) computers. At the core of the system are three types of commercially available software: GIS (MacGIS) software for spatial data manipulation, modeling and visualization, a multi-media database (FileMaker 53 Pro) for illustration and information retrieval and a spreadsheet (Microsoft Excel) for automated calculations. The specific tools are: Site modeler This tool provides all participants equal access to information about the site. The community provides development goals and base site data. NEC compiles, cross-references and supplements this information and creates a set of project specific descriptions, maps, diagrams, air photos, videos, photographs and "suitability" models. This model is updated throughout the working process to reflect the current state of discussion. Mapping information can be produced from GIS overlaying techniques and these maps can display the information necessary to aid discussion. Maps can be linked to other gathered data such as videos of site features. Maps can be printed out to be underlays in hands-on planning and design studies. Elements of Neighborhood This tool is a multi-media database providing a lexicon of design elements organized by categories of land use, intensity and design type. The design elements are examples gathered by the NEC team and are documented as an aerial view, movies, scaled site plans and design drawings. Each example is measured for indicators of planning, design, energy performance, environmental impact, and financial investment. The tool is accessed as a hyperlinked Kellet, R. and Girling, C. "Informing Public Participation in Neighborhood Scale Planning and Urban Design" at 54 database on a laptop computer taken to a charette or as printouts on 10X17 sheets. Scenario Modeler This tool brings site information and developed design alternatives together. The modeler works within the GIS program and is guided by the land use suitability models of the Site Modeler. Development scenarios are built by assigning selections from Elements of Neighborhood to the site. Scenario Calculator This tool compiles quantitative data and evaluative measures on the developed alternatives. The results are summarized using spreadsheet functions and calculations into a series of reports that can be used for comparison. This tool has a very similar information product as the UBC Quest modeling system 2 2 . Information Product Use The various components of the N E C system are selectively used in the public consultation process. The Site Modeler's maps and information provide background data on the site. The Elements of Neighborhood database provides information on examples of development alternatives. The Scenario Modeler visualizes information developed in the design process as a GIS map. The Scenario Calculator provides computer-aided analysis of the design alternatives. Use and Trial Testing 55 To date the system has not been used in its entirety. In 1997 the Site Modeler component was developed using information gathered from a charette in the western Oregon City of Corvallis. The area involved covered approximately 10 square kilometers. The model included information on physical, natural, cultural and political attributes of the site. During this process NEC tools were not used. The charette provided the information on process needed to build the NEC prototype. The Elements of Neighborhood database had 25 examples built as part of this effort. The City of Eugene sponsored a series of public meetings and charettes in two areas of the City in November and December of 1998. Three community workshops were held in each area and the goal was to produce a nodal development pattern, a compact urban form that is pedestrian friendly, mixed use and containing a well connected system of spaces. The Elements of Neighborhood tool was used as part of this charette process. It consisted of 76 measured and illustrated examples of open spaces (12), housing (30), commercial (10), industrial (2), civic (4) and street (18) related landuses. The examples came from the Eugene, Corvallis and Portland areas in Oregon, the DuPont and Seattle areas in Washington and, Davis, California. The contents of the database were made available to the participants in digital and print form to assist in visualizing and understanding the principles and building blocks of nodal development 2 3. 2 2 Envision Sustainability Tools is distributing the Quest modeling system at Center for Housing Innovation (1998-99) "City of Eugene Nodal Development Design Charrette at 56 Researcher Comments NEC researchers are still in the preliminary phases of developing this tool. Research is directed towards minimizing the technical requirements of the system and focusing on developing the least hardware and computer programming intensive parts of the system. Kellet states 2 4 W e have come to see our mission in life as making 'faster and lighter' public domain tools that are less expensive to apply than the proprietary visualization tools out there. So to oversimplify what that means - we invest more heavily in the re-usable but less programming intensive parts of the tool set - the illustrated database, for example and less in higher cost parts. The NEC tools were developed for display on a laptop computer or by LCD projection, however after trial use it was discovered that a 20" monitor was preferable to an LCD display. Scale of use presented challenges as computers are designed for a single individual thus the structure and navigation of the database needed to be continuously reorganized depending on the size of the audience. The researchers state that decision support tools can significantly effect the quality and acceptability of a public process: "Without improvement in the knowledge, tools and techniques through which communities measure and compare the environmental costs and benefits of competing alternatives, opportunities to influence future development toward more sustainable : Ron Kellett (2000) E-mail. May 30th 57 alternatives will be missed" 2 5 . While professionals may have knowledge of best practice examples, non professionals do not. Thus documenting examples and providing an easy way to access comprehensive information is a valuable exercise. Imagery and numerical information such as lot and building sizes, density, parking spaces, development costs, energy usage, and environmental impacts, can help workshop participants make more informed decisions about alternatives. The researchers found that participants contributed in different ways. The designers participated by diagram, plan overlay and sketch; engineers and planners by numbers and diagrams. Others participated by speaking, writing and demonstration. Thus the need for multiple ways to communicate information is key to this system. Another feature the researchers suggest as valuable is providing quantitative analyses within a design charette. Complex quantitative analysis to estimate long-range impacts of design decisions could aid the process. The researchers noticed many challenges between the fit of the computer tool and the public participation process. Public participation and negotiation is fundamentally a social, open ended and interactive exchange. The computer must not be the center of the process. When at the center the tool is distracting and leads to passive roles for participants. Thus "digital tools for these purposes need to perform less at the center and more at the edge of work sessions" 2 6 . It is Kellet, R. (1997) "The Elements of Neighborhood: Design Information for Participation in Neighborhood-scale Planning" presented at ACADIA '97 University of Cincinnati Oct. 3-5, 1997 2 6 ibid p. 6 58 suggested that the computer tools are best utilized by a skilled operator working alongside the process, recording decisions and supplying information. The researchers recognize that the components need be adjusted to fit into the specific process it is used in. The tool must be adjusted for time constraints, limited resources, the type of data involved and how 'hands-on' the process will be. Assessment of Project This comprehensive system includes visual modeling, visual data on examples, and analysis of choices. It is a very ambitious approach and involves a lot of development work. The hardware and software requirements of the system are not large and are readily available. The software is commercial and the necessary computers are standard at most universities. The laptops for charette use are a relatively small additional expense. The technically difficult aspect of the system is the gathering and organizing of information. Creating an extensive GIS database for the Site Modeler involves much field research and follow-up maintenance to keep information current. The Elements of Neighborhood database would require a lot of work to build, but much less data maintenance would be required. Also new types of media could be added to a multimedia database if necessary. The use of both digital and paper methods to present information deals with access issues. 59 There is very little information on the development of the Scenario Modeler (site visualization tool) and the Scenario Calculator. The two tools are more difficult to build as they require more software development skills. These tools analyze data, not just present collected materials, thus much work would have to go into design, development and testing of the functions and products of these tools. The Elements of Neighborhood database is a valuable and much needed tool for public participation processes. Visually communicating best practices is a valuable resource and potentially could resolve many disputes. Examples could be a more successful way to communicate design alternatives than generating different visualizations for the development site. For example, the time and effort involved in photorealistically modeling a swale for water drainage would be very large. Having a visual example on a multimedia database could be more useful and more informative to participants. The researchers propose merging components of the Elements of Neighborhood database with data from the Site Modeler to produce visualizations. Using modeled components placing the 'pieces' into a scene to generate an image is very similar to the technique used in the first case study. However creating pieces in the Elements database that could be used interchangeably in any scenario would be difficult as good design is context specific and what would be quality high density development on one site is not necessarily a good design solution for another site. This feature sounds difficult to make coherent and visually effective. 60 The existing components of the NEC tool enhance the amount of quality data available to a community process. Thus the tool's role presently is as a support device as no analysis of design or building of alternatives takes place on the computer. Therefore on a spectrum from unstructured to structured the NEC tool leaves the decision-making process more within the group discussion. Unstructured Semi-Structured Structuied Decision Decision Decision Fig. Three: The N E C tool lies on the unstructured end of the D S S spectrum The researchers emphasize that computer tools can act as a distraction in the community participation process. The researchers state that the tools should be operated at the fringes of the process and not be a focal point. Another interesting point raised is that computers are designed for a single user, making the design of the graphic user interface (GUI) a problem for multi-participant processes. It is difficult for multiple participants to use a computer together. The NEC project has emphasized the development of the Elements of Neighborhood database. This tool is easier to develop than the other planned components as it is built within a well developed off the shelf software product. The focus on the database de-emphasizes the computer in the community decision-making process. A comprehensive multimedia database of design alternatives is a valuable contribution to planning efforts. This database could be developed on the web and act as an international planning resource. Planners 61 could easily download appropriate case studies for display and use in public processes. A well documented database of best practices could be more valuable than a sophisticated interactive visualization tool. A visualization tool is only as good as the data and design it includes. Technically a multimedia database on the web would not have as great bandwidth requirements as a web based interactive visualization tool. 3.6 Case Study Three The Virtual Los Angeles Project27 Image Four: Two views generated in the U C L A Urban Simulator Description of Project P r i n c i p a l R e s e a r c h e r s : William Jepson and Scott Friedman, UCLA Urban Simulation Team P r o j e c t : This project's long-term goal is to create a visual database of the entire 4000 square mile Los Angeles basin. The objective of the project is to create a model that could be used by civil engineers, urban designers and planners in problem-solving and decision-making. Various locations in the Los Angeles area are 2 7 Jepson, Bill "The City (Urban) Simulator at 62 being modeled for clients in response to their particular needs. The researchers are developing these commissioned models to be compatible and thus fit into an overall model of the basin. The Urban Simulator is a user interface for viewing and interacting with the developed 3D environment. It is designed to be intuitive and easy to use. 3D models are combined with aerial photographs and street level video to create realistic looking urban neighborhoods. The model is built to a level of detail that includes plants, street signs and graffiti. The goal is a photorealistic model c connected to spatial information that can be accessed on demand. System Description This model was created using technology developed for the defense and virtual reality industries. The methodology includes integrating CAD and GIS with visual simulation. The modeling is done on professional quality Silicon Graphics workstations. MultiGen modeling software is used. Information for the database is gathered from digitized city engineering maps, numerous site visits and generated plant, tree and foliage libraries. Ultimately this model is intended for the Virtual World Data Server 2 8 , a high performance real-time virtual world and synthetic environment database server. The server is designed to efficiently store and retrieve large amounts of data (>1 terabyte) and provide multiple concurrent real-time 3D sessions. Server configurations are being optimized to allow for the large amount of data to be 63 accessed by client computers in real time. However the storage needs for the Urban Simulator are very high. The primary space need, 85% of the database, is for textures. Compression techniques for texture are being studied, but gains in both hardware graphics support and compression formats are needed. Until then users who remotely access the database need very high-speed Internet connections. Remote use of the system also depends on the client computer being able to support high speed and high resolution graphics (high memory, high processor speed and specialized graphics card are necessary). The system and its development is expensive. Substantial computing resources and highly skilled computer developers are required. Information Product Use Users of the Urban Simulator can dynamically walk or fly through the modeled urban areas. Users can pick objects in the scene to access hyperlinked data, some of which can be located externally on the Web. Different design options programmed into the system can be viewed and compared with a mouse click. Temporal changes can be studied by viewing different manifestations of a site over time. For example, the foliage maturation could be viewed. The product is intended to display and allow evaluation of many alternative environments. Neighborhoods can be shown as they currently exist, and after new construction and development. Historic reconstructions can be produced to show past uses of a site. The developers believe "the system we Jepson, B. and Friedman, S. "A Real-Time Visualization system for large scale urban 64 have developed is extremely valuable at placing new development into the existing built environment so that it can be evaluated in its actual urban context"2 9. Use and testing to date The urban simulation team has a contract with the city of Los Angeles to create virtual models of the Hollywood Boulevard and MacArthur Park areas. Each of these models is approximately 35 blocks in size. Parts of South Central Los Angeles have been modeled as have parts of Las Vegas. Although it is often commented in the research material that the system is a valuable planning aid for professionals and laypeople, there is no mention of any trial use in public participation projects. Only vague comments on use are made: "We have found that designers, architects, developers and consultants are able to identify real problems (which they were completely unaware of) and remedy those problems long before the first hole on a new development is dug" 3 0 . Researcher Comments The researchers defend the cost effectiveness of their method and product stating "the methodologies that the team employs have reached a level of cost efficiency where we consistently have a six to twelve month backlog of work, so clearly the process is economically viable." 3 1 environments" at http://www. Aud.ucla /~bill/UST.html 2 9 ibid p. 9 3 0 ibid p. 9 3 1 ibid p. 2 65 Commercial uses suggested by the researchers include developing a three dimensional navigation system that can track vehicles moving through the real world and display their location on the simulator. This could be used in emergency response management to track vehicle locations and the exact location of emergency beacons. The simulator could also be an intuitive three-dimensional interface and index for spatially distributed information. Building plans could be entered into a system giving maintenance people information beyond drawings and schematics. Transit planning, training and management functions could be developed for the simulator. Assessment of Project The research focus is directed toward optimizing the tool and not toward creating ways to use the tool. The researchers have effectively integrated various computing methods: GIS, CAD, Modeling programs and Urban Simulator System written in SGI GL language. The focus of the available research papers deal with the technical aspects of the system. This is a cutting edge project pushing the technology envelope. The researchers are toolbuilders and thus leave it to others to determine how to use the simulator in a community process. The researchers state: "the technology described in this paper provides a framework for researchers and consultants to build appropriate models and provide the mechanism via the visual simulation to allow the inclusion of the 66 community in the planning and urban design process". 3 2 They make no comment on how to use the tool to do this. This research approach is only possible for a well-funded agency. The technical quality of the product is far more sophisticated and visually appealing than any of the other projects. This project is a researcher's dream; build what you want and figure out what to do with it later. The researchers do not address any issues of computer use in community processes; for example, the solitary nature of user interfaces. The research also does not address user trust in the information displayed. The tool could limit group input into generating creative alternatives and options as all options displayed by the system must be developed by programmers in advance. The video game quality of the interface could distract from the displayed information. This system is a specialist system for researchers interested in solid geometric modeling and the possibilities of high-end graphics workstations. These packages, whilst often achieving a high degree of realism in modeling urban environments, tend to be limited to operation on single machines running expensive proprietary software, hence restricting access 3 3 It seems that the information product generated by this research group is used or intended to be used for commercial purposes. In this context the novelty of the interactive interface is a positive attribute. The focus on commercial viability is 3 2 Liggett, R S and Jepson, B. (1995) "An integrated environment for urban simulation" in Environment and Planning B, vol. 22, p. 302 3 3 Smith, A. , Dodge, M. and Doyle, S . "Visual Communication in Urban Planning and Urban Design" at Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis, University College, London 6 7 probably necessary to keep the project funded. The project is not oriented to developing processes for using their device. However the technology developed in this program may trickle down to more community oriented projects. For a single user, this tool is very interactive as there is instant feedback on design changes. The models are designed to be easily manipulated. Vivid instant visualization of design changes is possible. This tool has more computer based decision-making support than the previous two case studies. Users rely on the system to show what the various options would look like. All experimentation with different options takes place on-board the computer. Background data is accessed via the visualization display. There is no discussion of analysis functions such as those that calculate the environmental, energy or social impacts of the various design options. The system relies on users to assess the repercussions of alternative choices. Thus the tool lies closer to the structured decision-making end of the spectrum but still is a support tool. Composition of Dec ieion Unstructured Semi-Structured Structuied Decision Dacisbn Decision Fig. Four: The U C L A simulator involves the computer in decisionmaking Future development of this system includes increasing the area covered. Web access is being pursued. However there are several constraints to distributing 3D geometric models on the Web. 68 The first major restriction is that models need to be developed in accordance with the limitations imposed by a low bandwidth environment. If dissemination is to be effective, the home user with a modem and line rental charges, should not be overlooked - this effectively means that load times need to be efficient.3 4 State of the art systems will always have limited accessibility. This sort of tool needs to be developed but practical use in community processes is presently limited. 3.7 Case Study Four CommunityViz™ Community Planning and Simulation Software35 Image Five: Screen shot of the CommunityViz Townbuilder function 34 : 35 ibid The Orton Foundation homepage at 69 Description of Project Research Institution This multipurpose tool is produced by the private not-for-profit Orton Family Foundation. The Foundation was established in 1995 and is supported by the profits generated by the Vermont Country Store chain. The Foundation's mandate is to put resources towards developing ideas, tools and other resources to aid members of small and rural communities who are actively grappling with planning issues. Project CommunityViz™ is a suite of software tools being developed by the Orton Family Foundation designed to assist communities with spatial decision-making and analysis of land-use scenarios. The software suite that makes up CommunityViz™ is an integrated set of extensions for ArcView GIS software. The software is intended to help users view, project, analyze and understand potential changes to their community. Users can analyze and forecast the consequences of land use planning decisions through three-dimensional exploration and build alternative scenarios. The software suite supports similar functionality as existing market software but links the functions together. Visually the same products could be produced using GIS and a modeler or CAD software. The advantage of this software is integration between components, with changes in one component of the software registering in the other components. When working in any one of the tools, additions, changes and deletions to data are reflected automatically in the other two components. 70 The software is currently in beta testing. Pilot projects are taking place in various communities in Colorado and Vermont. The price of the software package and support are not available yet. The general release is planned for the first quarter of 2001. System Characteristics: Hardware Requirements • Minimum processor speed: 400MHz Pentium III with Windows NT • 32MB graphics card • 256MB of RAM, and at least 20MB of hard disk space. Actual disk space requirements may be greater depending on the community being modeled. Software • CommunityViz software extensions. • ESRI ArcView software (government price 1000.00 US) and Spatial Analyst extension ($2500.00 US) 3 6 . CommunityViz has three components: Scenario Constructor This component performs impact analysis on land use data. It is intended to allow non-technical users to sketch out land-use scenarios. These scenarios are 71 measured against the community's objectives and constraints. The Scenario Constructor's GUI is the Scenario view. ArcView's GUI is expanded with a customizable framework for defining land-use decisions. The following categories are included: • Indicators: The objectives or desired outcomes that are sought in the decision making process. • Alternatives: The various options developed. • Attributes: Measurable characteristics for comparing alternatives. • Variables: The assumptions made when assessing potential solutions. • Constraints: Policies and requirements that all viable alternatives must satisfy. • Analysis: How well an alternative fulfills the objectives and satisfies the constraints. Within this framework, Scenario Constructor updates and tracks the categories as the user experiments with changes to the land-use layout and the underlying assumptions. TownBuilder 3D This component is an interactive, real-time 3D environment. Users create and manipulate a representation of the site and explore different land-use alternatives. The source data comes from ArcView themes or layers. Any of the US Environmental Protection Agency (1999) "Environmental Technology Verification Report: Environmental Decision Support Software ERSI ArcView 3.1 with Spatial Analyst and 3D Analyst Extensions" at 72 information appearing in the Scenario Constructor extension 2D view can have a corresponding 3D representation in TownBuilder 3D. TownBuilder 3D includes a model library containing a generic set of buildings and features. Other customized buildings and features can be stored in the model library and included in the visualization. Dynamic directional fly-throughs of the simulated site are possible. Policy Simulator This component predicts and examines the possible long-term effects of proposed land-use alternatives or policy actions by utilizing adaptive agent-based modeling. Adaptive agent-based modeling is a relatively new modeling technique that simulates the behavior and interactions of many individuals or agents. It is a modeling system that takes into account that the behavior of any agent in a complex system is dependant upon the actions of the other agents in that complex system. Researchers at the Santa Fe institute describe agent-based modeling as more effective in some circumstances: the modeling of some phenomena, particularly, ecological and social phenomena, requires agents whose behavior is not simply dictated by local, state-determined interaction. In a society empowered by language and hyperlinked by information channels, which in turn impacts planetary ecology, agents have access and rely on accumulated knowledge which escapes local constraints... It has also been shown that agent simulations which rely on shared social knowledge, can model social choice more effectively.37 Agent-based modeling is a more accurate representation of individual decisions 3 7 Rocha, L. (1999) "Complex Systems Modeling: Using Metaphors from Nature in Simulation and Scientific Models" at http://wvvw.c3.lanl.aov/~rocha/complex/csm.html 73 in an environment. The developers of CommunityViz believe that the behaviors and interactions of individual households and persons (such as where they will shop and where they will work) are more accurately represented by this method than by modeling methods with predictive possibilities based on what the aggregate might do. Information Product Use The Orton Foundation's goal is to create a tool that enhances the collaborative planning process. The information product is a navigatable 3D TownBuilder image of the site, 2D base maps in the Scenario Constructor and charts of the analysis completed by the Policy Simulator. According to the developer CommunityViz version 1.0 is geared toward professionals. Versions of this software intended for use by the average citizen will be available within three years38. According to available research, the system has not been used directly in a public consultation process but has been used to generate presentation material. The developers at the Orton Foundation are generating examples of using the system by analyzing and visualizing test site GIS data. The developers present the data and completed analysis as a fly-through visualization with the corresponding analysis screens. Actual use and modeling is not completed by participants. The target audience is limited to viewing various predefined options already included in the model (example: density A and density B). Smith, S. (2000) "Consensus Anyone" in Cadalyst at 74 Use and trial testing The beta version of CommunityViz™ is still being tested. Limited information is available on its use in pilot projects. One pilot project was undertaken in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. The Steamboat Planning Commission requested a FAR (floor-to-area ratio) demonstration from the Orton Foundation. The project determined the size of houses that could be built under different zonings in the test area. Two scenarios were created for a residential block in Steamboat. A mouse click increased or decreased house size between the two densities. The Orton Foundation demonstrated the results of this project with a fly through visualization of the block. This simulation was evaluated by an audience of planners from the City and County and set the stage for another project that anticipates and models the effects of urban growth in an area west of Steamboat. This modeling takes into account traffic and infrastructure costs and compares it to other forecasts. Steamboat is currently building a new community hall with a resource center outfitted with CommunityViz for use by both planners and citizens. Researcher Comments Materials available on this project put a very positive spin on using computerized support tools in public processes. No academic papers exist yet on the system. The preliminary state of development is emphasized in the materials. As a result of pilot projects, researchers are developing templates for 75 open land analysis, traffic impacts, and other frequently encountered issues. Another suggestion is to translate a community development code —a written description of intent— into a 3D visualization. The researchers state that the tool is intended for use in small rural communities. Assessment of the Project This tool attempts to increase the planning functionality of the ArcView GIS system. Urban visualization capabilities and data analysis functions are developed for this GIS software. A skilled GIS operator is needed to run this tool. The developers' state at this point the tool is being developed for professional use. This tool is useful for community processes because it orients available data towards community planning questions making it more useful for planning professionals. The information product could be used by planners to present visualizations and data analysis to communities. The quality of the information product is dependant on the availability of consistent, complete and valid GIS data. Agent based modeling may be a more accurate social science modeling technique but results only are as accurate and complete as the underlying GIS data. The software supports the ability to "create" data if minimum data requirements are met. However, as with any model accurate data is needed to create an accurate simulation. 76 The policy simulator has many similarities with the outcomes mode of the UBC Quest model39. The Policy Simulator is based on local GIS data and thus has a more local scale than the regional Quest model. The system visualizes GIS data in a three dimensional form making the model spatially accurate. However available images show very low levels of visual quality. The ability to include custom buildings is possible, but there is no mention of supporting textures that would help give the images some photorealism. The system is built on ESRI ArcView software with Spatial Analyst extensions. Researchers at the Virtual Terrain Project were not very positive about the abilities of the current version of Spatial Analyst to model terrain and environments. They state40: • Doesn't run reliably. It has numerous hangs, crashes and inexplicable error messages. • Doesn't pick objects reliably - even in their own examples, picking of 3d objects was very broken. • The ability to transfer graphic files from and to Spatial Analyst was limited to very few file types. CommunityViz's strength is in organizing, analyzing and displaying GIS data for community planning purposes. In its present form use within a community planning process would be problematic. Despite the Orton Foundation label as a community process aid, the tool is still a specialist system needing operators with knowledge of a GIS environment. Even the majority of planning professionals do not have this skill. Envision Sustainability Tools at Virtual Terrain Project (1999) at 77 Future development of the system is intended to make operation of the system easier for community members. However the system does not include any design training or access to a database of precedents for a site. When designing a site, the quality of design has a large impact on the energy use and livability. Design training is not something that can be provided by a tool. These are learnt skills acquired from working through designs and learning how to deal with issues, understand precedent and recognize context. These qualitative skills can not be supported with a computer. These skills would also be very difficult to teach in a computing environment as graphics work on a computer is a time consuming process. This system is intended to be a comprehensive planning decision support system. The tool stores, analyzes and creates a visual product. The whole decision-making process is completed on-board the computer and not within a group discussion. Mediating so much of the community consultation process within the machine makes this system the most structured decision support tool of the four surveyed. Composition ot Decision Unsfruclured Semi-Structured Structured Decision Decision Decisfon Fig. Five.CommunitvVizrias relatively more involvement of DSS If CommunityViz is to be used directly by community members in the future then participants will have to learn many computer skills. Public 78 participation processes are voluntary, thus depending on users to learn or have these skills is a barrier to participation. Also expecting users to design an urban environment with this tool presumes that everyone has a fundamental understanding of how to make design decisions, a good grasp of policy and management issues, and a lot of time to manipulate the software. This is asking a lot of a participant in a voluntary process. Most of the same objectives as the NEC project are addressed by CommunityViz developers. The CommunityViz developers are much farther along in building working tools. The Scenario Constructor packages GIS data in a format specific to urban questions. This is a very useful extension if a community has a base of GIS data. The visualization component of the software has the strength of being spatially accurate and easily manipulated. However the visual quality of the simulation is very low. This is a barrier to using the tool to illustrate alternatives to community groups. The abstract nature of images decreases the effectiveness of the system to illustrate choices. These visualizations however may be helpful to planning professionals. The tool has a very broad range of objectives. Thus developing a tool to effectively meet these objectives will take time. Making a tool simple to use but works directly on top of a GIS system is difficult. Visualizing GIS data directly in real time is also a very difficult feature to develop. If tool development continues the result could be a very comprehensive decision support system. 79 Developing this system for the Internet presently is not useful nor feasible as the system is proprietary software and is meant to run on locally gathered GIS data. The bandwidth requirements for such a system would be very great. 3.8 Summary of Findings from Case Studies The four case studies are illustrative of the range of approaches being applied to developing the use of computers for public consultation processes. The UCLA urban simulation team uses advanced high speed machines to run US military inspired software to build, as closely as possible, a virtual urban environment. This approach is exciting to those interested in cutting edge technology as it focuses on the development of technology. If development continues the simulation will become as impressive as time and money allow creating an interactive urban environment that is potentially no harder to use than a video game. The CommunityViz tool also depends on advanced computing functions. This project differs from the UCLA project, as it is focuses on expanding GIS capabilities, a technology already widespread in planning practice. CommunityViz organizes GIS data for use in community planning. Its visualization capabilities advance GIS display methods. 3D Visualization is a sought feature for GIS packages41. CommunityViz offers this feature but the visual quality is quite low. Both systems aim to extensively exploit the increased power of computers. However there are disadvantages to relying on computer tools to 4 1 Higgs, G. and Martin, D. (1997) "The use of GIS with address-based information in planning" in Town Planning Review, vol. 68, no. 4 80 mediate public processes. Tools' use are restricted to people with computer skills. Also it is sometimes problematic to run computers in a live situation where guaranteed performance is necessary. Computers are notorious for crashing or freezing up when dealing with large quantities of data, which is necessary when dealing with graphics. The development approaches of the NEC tool and the Berkeley market study are oriented to finding new ways to use and apply technology in the process of community input. NEC designed a set of tools based on observations of charette processes and identifying where technology fit into the process. Only certain components have been developed. These components make use of existing technological opportunities that can easily fit into community processes and downplay software and developing new technology. These opportunities are in data enhancement and organization to help a community define options for future change. Components of the NEC tool remain unfinished because readily available computer resources could not be found to fit the goals of the project. The primary goal of the Berkeley market study was not to develop computing technology. Instead the goal was a visual market survey. Using computer software is the most effective way to produce materials for the survey. Both case studies were process focused and only used computers to support the production of needed information. Computers were only used when it was decided they provided an advantage over other methods. 81 Structured/ Unstructured Each case study was assessed on a scale of structured to unstructured contribution to decision-making. The scale is intended to give an impression of the type of information generated by the tool. CommunityViz and the Urban Simulator rely heavily on computing resources to produce information intended to have much influence on the decision-making process. The two systems analyze data and provide a work environment where the design process is meant to occur. The NEC tool and the market survey leave the decision making process within group discussion. The tools are intended to enhance data access. The tool's visualizations allow decision-making and design to take place within group activities and discussion. This method could lead to less complete information utilization and thus fewer alternatives may be considered. However, group members may feel a higher level of ownership over the decisions. Technical barriers to participation are also avoided. The Community Process - Top-Down or Bottom Up? The research philosophy differs between tools. The UCLA project suggests improved quality of service comes from increased ability to use computers to perform tasks. This could be labeled a top down approach where tools are built by experts, then applied to the community. This approach is akin to modernist planning methodology, where urban environments were programmed based on codes and technical abilities and not by observing use and social needs. This methodology leads to cutting edge tools but there are 82 many questions regarding the effectiveness of this approach in meeting the objective of improving the quality of public consultation. The second philosophy, used by the NEC project, focuses on observing community processes and identifying how computational tools could aid this process. This method is definitely more focused on improving the quality of community processes. This methodology is more likely to notice real needs and develop practical qualities in tools. However non-computer specialists are developing the NEC tool thus there is potential for the strengths of computing resources to be underutilized. Researchers must decide how to balance the research goals of technical excellence and functionality when developing their project. To summarize, none of these tools are yet developed enough to be a definite asset to the community consultation process. All have strengths, but none make a strong enough case to warrant their immediate application into community consultation processes. To briefly characterize each of the case studies, the Urban Simulator is a computer graphics project with an urban planning theme; the CommunityViz project is developing a comprehensive urban planning focused GIS tool with visualization capabilities; the NEC project is a set df support tools developed by observing the informational needs of the community process; and the Berkeley visualization project creatively uses existing computer functionality to meet planning goals. O C O o a : uj CL CC . g o -CD — - E *; -O T3 Q . <»' S ^ co ^ Q . _ to O "o <u .E e g J?, ° 10 it: to 3 O . 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O t_ o < < =j _3 CQ ^ o _ i Z) ID CO £8 84 Chapter 4 Future Research and Development The previous chapter's four case studies illustrate the current state of computer visualization research for community participation processes. Those projects are still in a preliminary development state and have just started trials and testing. However, academic research in this area has been advocated for many years. The UCLA researchers state the genesis of their project occurred 30 years ago: In the early 1970s researchers at the Graduate School of Architecture and Urban Planning at [UCLA], under the direction of Peter Kamnitzer proposed the creation of an Urban Simulation Laboratory... Two pilot projects were developed... Because of the limits of the existing computer technology and enormous costs of the technology at that time, neither project became fully operational nor did the envisioned laboratory materialize. However, these projects demonstrated the feasibility of such a simulated environment. Kamnitzer's vision forms the basis for recent developments in this area at UCLA. 1 Initiatives to develop computer systems to support planning have long existed. In the past constraints consisted of a lack of powerful, affordable computing power, access to user-friendly software and a small pool of skilled personnel. Recently these constraints have been reduced. The number of current tool building initiatives is proof of this. This section addresses the potentials of tool development. Each of the case studies approached the development process differently. The varying approaches resulted in products that clearly show the potential of information technology. The case studies provide some precedents to be analyzed for 1Liggett, RS and Jepson, B. (1995) "An integrated environment for urban simulation" in Environment and Planning B, vol. 22, p. 291 85 success and weaknesses. Hopefully this section identifies some realistic and obtainable research goals, and points out a strategic approach to developing visualization tools. This section first discusses how philosophical approaches influence tool development and then suggests strategies for developing tools for public participation processes. 4.1 Developing Tools from the Top-Down or the Bottom-up Chapter Two discussed ethical approaches to information technology and indicated that the approach one takes toward developing a technology influences the form and functionality of the product. The modernist approach places trust in rational scientific problem solving as the way to achieve progress. It is a top-down strategy that guides the development of the UCLA urban simulator and, to a lesser degree, the CommunityViz tool. The underlying assumption is that better public consultation tools derive from increasing capabilities and computing power. The first research priority is the advancement of the tool, the second is the application of the tool to planning processes. This methodology thus leads researchers to attempt creating community processes that fit the needs and strengths of the new tool. This is analogous to the efforts of modernist planners to fit people's lives into new structures resulting from new building technology. The approach used by the NEC developers and Berkeley researchers is more along the lines of the humanistic philosophy mentioned in Chapter Two. The humanist approach develops tools to work within already existing participation processes. Advancing the tool's technical quality is a secondary 86 issue, since a more effective community process is the ultimate goal. A physical planning analogy to this method is the C M H C Neighborhood Improvement Program 2, where small built interventions added vitality and improved the quality of life in existing neighbourhoods. Practice has shown that a top-down approach doesn't work for building urban environments thus this approach is unlikely to work for building community participation tools. Community planning and public consultation needs techniques that aid in achieving consensus. In recent years numerous public processes have attempted a bottom-up approach. Examples include the BC NDP government C O R E process which brought together diverse stakeholder groups concerned with the future of BCs resources. The City of Vancouver has also tried applying this approach in its neighborhood visioning efforts. Consultation and consensus building were attempted and many 'interactive' initiatives, such as working groups, community surveys and community presentations were pursued 3 Computer support is possible for many of these interactive components if tools are developed sensitive to the process. A visual tool that dazzles an audience does serve a purpose. Such a tool is a worthwhile marketing aid in the private sector. However a visualization tool for public processes should not merely support preconceived notions of how a community should look. Public consultation is not about selling a concept to the public. Instead, the goal is to discover what the community thinks is best for 2 Lyon, D. and Newman, L. (1986) The Neighbourhood Improvement Program, 1973-1983: a national review of an intergovernmental initiative. Institute for Urban Studies: University of Winnipeg. 3 City of Vancouver (1998) Dunbar Community Vision. Approved by Council Sept. 10, 1998 pp. 46 87 itself A tool intended to aid reasoning and create group knowledge and understanding needs to be developed. 4.2 Developing a tool for Rational Discussion The primary goal for any visualization tool should be to aid the process of rational discussion. In public consultation rational discussion is constructive collective conversation concerning the future for a neighborhood. In this context the strengths of an interactive visualization tool will become apparent as people make use of the tool in problem solving. Rational discussion is an idealistic and time-consuming process and is not the standard practice for community land use discussions. Instead conflict is the norm, with people contesting development in their community at hearings or council meetings. These quasi-judicial processes are not appropriate venues for interactive visualization tools. For example, the City of Vancouver's Standing Committee on Planning and the Environment4 is a forum set up to deal with land use issues. It is structured in a formal manner wherein decisions are made by Council on petitions brought to the meeting by landowners, people with special interests and staff recommending particular actions by Council. The presence of a visualization tool in this environment could confuse the process everi further and be used as evidence to argue the strength or weakness of a particular standpoint. This is misuse of computer mediated tools since they have no authority on which to base decisions. Visual modeling is an artistic representation of the situation, not 'scientific' fact. If a visualization tool 4 City of Vancouver Standing Committee on Planning and the Environment Meeting. Thursday 2pm May 18, 2000. 88 is used as evidence in a quasi-judicial proceeding it is a coercive force that does not aid.fair resolution of a land use issue. It is being used to artificially strengthen one point of view. This conclusion is strongly stated by Nedovic-Budic: Contrary to the common assumption about the technological progress, adoption of new technologies does not always offer benefits to society, and may in fact contribute to intensifying some of the existing societal problems... Instead of enhancing the democratic process, the visualization and imaging capability of the new technology can be used to promote particular views of the world, to reinforce power in controlling the access and use of information and other resources to create new cultures and communities and to invade privacy5 A series of community planning meetings or a community charrette process has potential to act as a forum for rational discussion. Effective everyday reasoning proceeds by challenging, changing and perhaps abandoning your opinions and assumptions while thinking through a problem6. This is what visioning is about, not about getting everyone to accept a preconceived notion that planners are presenting to the group. Nevertheless, planners do have preconceived notions, based on research and training. Planners are often better informed about public issues but ultimately they are public sector employees and their job is not to know what is best for others but to work in the best interests of a community. When using a visualization tool in a process of rational discussion any image generated during the process is not the design solution, it is merely the product of group discussion. Thus visualizing alternatives is an incremental process of developing images showing the progress of a consultation process. 5 Nedovic-Budic (1998) "The impact of GIS Technology" in Environment and Planning B vol. 25, p. 689 Howard, V and Barton, J. (1990) Thinking Together: Making Meetings Work New York: William Morrow and Co. 89 -Generated images can be the substance on which to build more forward movement in the process. 4.3 Strategies for development- Equipment, Labour and Data Equipment, labour and data management are the three major expenses of developing and operating a visualization tool. In the case studies the UCLA project required high-end graphics work stations to develop and run its system. The CommunityViz project requires equipment that planning agencies with GIS capabilities typically have. The other two systems require hardware typically available at most planning agencies. The case studies provide evidence that efforts to develop computer aided visual capabilities would require very little equipment investment thus this expense is not going to be a major restriction to planning agencies acquiring a visual tool. Trained personnel is the greatest constraint to developing visual capabilities. Labour costs for programming and extensive modeling is high. Code-writing by programmers is expensive labour and requires guidance by team leaders who understand the final use of the product. This effort and expense is only worthwhile when producing proprietary software. The market for public software is not large enough to warrant this effort as cost recovery is unlikely to happen in the public sector. The cost of employing animators competent in the use of high end modeling software is also very costly. These skills are in high demand in the private sector. In 1997 s a graduate (albeit an exceptional one) from the highly regarded animation program at Sheridan 90 College in Oakville was hired by a Hollywood Studio at an annual salary of 115,000 US"7. In contrast, a December 1995 survey conducted by Progressive Architecture showed that, in the United States the average starting salary of an architectural graduate was 22,125 US 8. This pay gap is very large and even more striking given that, in many ways, architecture students are more highly trained designers. It is unrealistic for a public sector planning agency to compete for skilled animating professionals. Investing considerable resources into labour for an unproven tool with no likelihood of recovering development costs is not prudent. Architecture students are trained to recognize the needs of the built environment. Thus it makes sense to pursue these students when developing visual tools for planning processes even if this results in not developing sophisticated dynamic real time models. Much off the shelf visual software can be quickly learnt and utilized by urban design trained professionals to develop visual aids for the planning process. Case studies one and two are proof of this. It takes days to learn the skills necessary to produce photomontages and visual databases whereas skilled animation takes months or years. Acquiring and maintaining data for use in a computer aided public participation process also requires large labour input. The expense does not involve skilled labour but the many hours needed to acquire data. The UCLA developers found the data gathering phase of the project the most time 7 MacLeod, D. (1999) "The Electronic Horsepower Lunchbox" in Canadian Architect. Vol. 44, No. 2 p. 16 8ibid p. 16 91 consuming and are looking at ways to streamline this process9. Visual aids that utilize available data already in a GIS or other archives will substantially reduce the development costs. Creating a visual tool with reusable parts such as the 'pieces' of the transit marketing survey or the elements of the NEC database reduce overall data development and operation costs. 4.4 Strategies for development- Structured vs. Unstructured Support Each of the case studies was assessed on a continuum from structured to unstructured decision support tool (see figure 1). This comparison was meant to evaluate the relationship of each tool to the decision making process. NEC research on community decision-making concluded that computer tools are most helpful at the boundaries of a process and thus should be used to enhance available data and supply visuals. The NEC researchers state: Tools that are most valuable are those that do not intrude on the conversation but help participants see, remember, analyze, measure, compare, collaborate, communicate and so on, with each other, better (clearer, faster, more accurately, more efficiently, with greater complexity...) than they would otherwise be able. Digital tools for these purposes need to perform less at the center and more at the edge of work sessions.1 0 During development a researcher must decide where to center the process of decision-making, within group discussion or inside the computer. The 9 Jepson, B and Liggett, RS (1995) "An integrated environment for urban simulation" in Environment and Planning B Vol. 22 p 297 1 0 Kellett, Ronald (1997) "The Elements of Neighborhood" presented at ACADIA University of Cincinnati October 3-5 1997 p6 92 characteristics of a Decision Support tool that lies on a more structured (computerized) end of the spectrum include: • A decision-making process that follows a rational set of rules. In a computer decisions are made by algorithms based on researcher assumptions. • More factors and variables are included because a higher level of data integration is possible through computational calculation. • The computerized decision-making feedback loop is much faster. This creates a video game feel that some people (usually younger) find appealing but others do not. • With a structured tool there is more reliance on machinery, and if it fails the process is crippled. A robust system is needed when relying on a machine. However in situations with large amounts of data and high memory needs computers are notorious for being neither quick nor reliable. • The Interface (GUI) of the tool becomes a key factor in maintaining communication during the public process. There is a need for the GUI to be well designed so that everyone is able to use it and participate. Unstructured decision support tools leave decision-making more within group discussion: • After the process the working group may feel a higher level of ownership over decisions and be more motivated to achieve set targets. • There is little or no need to train individuals on how to use a computer. • The opportunity for active participation, to the degree that all participants feel comfortable is possible. • Calculating and analysis is slower, less sophisticated and deals with less data. 93 4.5 Strategies for Development- Interaction The best process and not the best tool is once again the key issue when developing the interactive qualities. A computer tool should not distract from the process: To be useful in design charette venues, information and tools must serve audience sizes and working formats that may vary from auditoriums to groups working around a table. Those most valuable do not intrude but "fit" the place and the process alongside the many drawings, scales, calculators and reference materials one finds already at the table or in the room of public workshops.11 The type of interactivity a tool possesses is important. Even if participants don't mind, or even enjoy, using the computer tool it can still distract from a process by becoming a means in itself and not a contribution to the community process. CommunityViz and the urban simulator have sophisticated functions whereby the user gains immediate visual feedback on decisions. This ability to quickly manipulate, change and receive feedback creates a 'video game high' that only a certain percentage of people, mostly male and computer literate, enjoy. The attraction to simulator type games is not realism, but the illusion of being able to control an environment. A million video games have transformed the third dimension into a commodity, and a commodity is a thing to be consumed. Teenage boys voraciously conjure up and manipulate interactive three dimensional worlds...These are not environments to be savoured but ones to be nuked, ravaged, consumed , and abandoned. Adolescent fantasies have redefined the very essence of architecture12 1 1 Kellett, Ronald (1997) "The Elements of Neighborhood" presented at ACADIA University of Cincinnati October 3-5 1997 12MacLeod, D (1999) p. 15 94 Virtual three dimensional worlds are decision-making atmospheres that allow choices to be made without real negative feedback. Virtual worlds are an escape from reality, thus the question is posed of this environment being the proper place for people to learn about consequences of their decisions for the built environment. There is a fundamental place for modeling and simulation, but the entertaining atmosphere created by a simulation may drown out the message. A public process is successful if participants feel that they have some ownership of a decision. Thus a process needs to allow everybody make the available information personally meaningful. When dealing with many people uncomfortable with computers, the information needs to be taken off the computer and presented in a form that people feel comfortable with. This could be a base map, or still images overlayed with trace, or printed tables and charts. Other interaction can take place with surveys and questionnaires, formats people are more familiar with. There will be a day when the majority of participants feel comfortable interacting with a computer however that day is not yet here. Until then, more tactile interfaces are needed. This may seem limiting given the potentials of computing but the overall goal of drawing people into the discussion needs to come first. Good interactivity comes from understanding and being sensitive to the needs of community participation. When issues arise during the process facilitators need the presence of mind to deduce how computers could support the situation. For example, is this a question that GIS data will answer or could a visualization or a generated shadow study be helpful? With this approach ease 95 of software use is not a problem. Instead a skilled operator can mediate between the machine and the community group. The skilled operator could be thought of as the best possible GUI, able to understand complex questions and find information that fits the process. 4.6 Strategies for development - Virtual environments and Photo-realism Computers now have the impressive power to mimic reality. Popular movies rely on this to create spectacle. However even with special effects budgets in the tens of millions of dollars there are key elements of real lighting and movement that cannot be captured. Thus there exists image 'starkness'13 discussed in the transit study. The barriers to creating a realistic dynamic environment that has smooth motion and realistic lighting are great. The ability to dynamically move through a model is a major step towards realism. This step involves much more computing effort and power than building static images. There is a lot less information to deal with when creating photographic simulations. The trade-off of developing tools with no motion is strategic. Photography is a well understood visual medium that conveys a lot of information. A dynamic environment can potentially be disappointing or a novelty. The use of static techniques makes it easier for the medium to take a backseat to the message. Cervero, R and Bosselmann, P. (1998) "Transit Villages: Assessing the Market Potential through Visual Simulation" in J o u r n a l of Architectural and Planning Research. 15:3 (Autumn, 1998) p. 187. 96 4.7 Strategies for development - Data enhancement Visualization tools have the ability to quickly clarify and create understandings about large amounts of data. An image can be a navigation device to spatial data. Objects in an image can be linked to more data. The UCLA tool has capabilities to link data and the CommunityViz tool a three dimensional representation of a GIS database. GIS databases can contain much information thus using visualizations to make this information available to a community is a positive step. The NEC site modeler tool performs this function more indirectly by having a support team compile information for presentation, then modifying that information for the needs of the group during the process. The developers do not worry about an interface like the builders of CommunityViz. They do not expect people to have direct access to the GIS database. CommunityViz makes a compromise, its interface makes GIS information more accessible and useful for urban planning purposes but the tool still cannot be used by participants. Seemingly efforts that focus on process instead of building accessible interfaces produce better results because skilled users are still relied on to access CommunityViz GIS data. A user-friendly 3D interface for GIS will be available in the near future, but it will not be built by planning researchers, it will be built by industry. When the day comes that a widely available and well tested 3D interface exists then it is time to build planning specific extensions and templates for the tool. Multimedia authoring software and databases have matured to the point where they can be easily used to fulfill planning goals. The NEC Elements of 97 Neighborhood database is an example of a tool that is easy to construct but serves a needed function in community planning. Making this tool effective does not have to involve highly skilled technicians. Developers need to have planning backgrounds and be able to identify which projects should be documented and then gather the proper materials to tell the story of the project. This tool could have a great impact on public processes as well as planning education, where concepts could be easily and comprehensively displayed to students. An Elements of Neighborhood database on the Web would be a phenomenal tool. This would be relatively easy to do, as web based database management software and expanded multimedia capabilities are currently rapidly developing. Thus movie clips could easily be included in the database. Format and information design does not have to change for the Web as browsers display information in the same fashion as other multimedia software. 4.8 Strategies for Development- Data Analysis Data Analysis functions are intended to show participants the long term consequences of various planning options. These tools are tempting to incorporate into a decision support system as they provide a direct answer about the impacts of certain choices. However this type of functionality is predictive and based on extrapolation and estimates. Data analysis functions are the most likely to reflect the biases and assumptions of the researcher. Modeling the future can easily be attacked as quasi-science. It is something that cannot be taken too seriously as modeling cannot foresee all variables. Predictive 98 capacities run the risk of increasing the gimmicky 'god-game' feel of a system and not contribute to a tool empowering participants to participate in the future. Developing this function should have a lower priority than other aspects of a visualization tool- such as improving access to site data and precedents and creating images of alternatives. These features help participants come to conclusions and decisions for themselves. Data analysis is an important element for a tool or public process but should occur later on in the development process after support tools have established a role in community participation processes. 4.9 Conclusion All the case studies had strengths that should be emulated in future tool development. However the methodology of the NEC researchers are the most conducive to building useful and effective computer support for community planning. To summarize how visualization tools could be effectively used in a community process: A visualization tool should be able to present collected or archived data about a site. Existing tools can do this and a skilled operator working alongside a process can provide necessary information on demand. Alternative visualizations of a site can be developed with existing modeling and image editing software. Revising the images over the course of a process could aid rational discussion by visualizing various suggestions. Everyone in the process should be challenged to revise images into a form that satisfies the group's established goals. These images are a way to keep track of the processes' progress. This is presently possible in the Townbuilder component of 99 CommunityViz. However these 3D images lack visual quality. The 'kit' of modeled parts in the transit survey would be the quickest, cheapest and most photo-realistic way to achieve this function. Interactions with software should be mediated through a skilled user since computing is not yet a commonly held skill. Planning agencies and research institutions could finance visualization and decision support systems now or wait for simulation technology to improve. Ways to produce interactive and realistic 3D environments are being vigorously pursued by the private sector. Public sector users could wait until easier ways to create 3D environments are available then adapt them for planning purposes. The technology will mature and build itself and affordable ways to generate dynamic 3D environments will emerge. Until then existing software can be more extensively utilized to generate images. Extensive image creation and editing software exists so there are established tools for planners to work with. Studies on decision support systems14 suggest they have a limited ability to help in the decision making process. It is human interactions that are the most important aspect of the process. Computers can aid the process by displaying accurate information and clarifying that information. Computer tools that make decisions on the future for people don't create ownership of a decision and create a passive atmosphere. It is not possible to make the right decision for people, if an alternative is not mutually accepted there is no way to execute that version of the future. Malczewski, J . "Spatial Decision Support Systems" at 100 Chapter 5 Conclusion This thesis examines the state of planning research on computer visualization tools for public participation processes. Visualization tools have the potential to be worthwhile aids to planning practice and thus are worth evaluating. The main goal of the thesis is to highlight strategies for research and development of visualization tools. Chapter 2 reviewed literature relevant to using information technology ethically in planning efforts. Four visualization tools were evaluated in Chapter 3. In Chapter 4, as a result of this evaluation, the key objectives in conducting research were identified. In this chapter, first the utility of visualization tools in planning processes is discussed. Second, the most productive development approaches are identified. And third, the potential for future research is indicated. 5.1 Why use Visualization Tools? In recent years neighborhood physical planning processes have become more participatory. Planners have less technical power to rationally zone areas on the public's behalf. Participation, or at least protest, has become a part of the planning process as people seem to want more involvement in making decisions. In this new relationship flows of information are much more important. John Forester's analysis1 of the power of information, and of 'misinformation', in planning is an apt description of a planner's role in the new political environment. 1 Forester, John (1989) Planning in the Face of Power Berkeley: University of California Press. 101 Visualization tools have the potential to help create a free flow of information between the public and government agencies. Some of the opportunities presented by increased use of visualization tools include: • Increased ability to offer participants background information required to make informed decisions and the ability to offer that information on demand over the course of a participation process. • In comparison to traditional graphic methods, the ability to offer images with high degrees of photorealism. Computational methods could give participants a better impression of the implications of decisions. • Increased access to information and more visual capabilities could allow unforeseen issues to be dealt with in a participation process. • Visualization tools offer the ability to work in the graphic format of perspective which is easier to produce and modify on a computer. There are also certain constraints inherent to using computers and these could hinder a participation process: • Computer interfaces are designed for one user and a public process is intended to facilitate communication between many people. Thus computing methods are not well suited for direct use in public processes. • Only in the last decade have personal computers become common. Thus many participants in neighborhood planning processes are not 102 comfortable with computers. There is a younger generation that is comfortable with the conventions and use of computers but participants range widely in age. The information produced by a computer needs to be accessible to the majority of an audience. • Computers are not necessarily reliable in 'live' situations. Highly interactive computing situations involving large amounts of data and graphics create a computing environment susceptible to crashing and hanging-up. It is risky to directly rely on a machine in a public process as there is always a need for time to deal with technical problems. 5.2 Pursuing Research and Development Making a tool beneficial to a community consultation process is the primary challenge in visualization tool development. The most technically advanced tool does not necessarily get the best results. The preferred tool is the one most sensitive to the needs of the process. A research and development approach that studies the informational needs of public consultation and then looks to computer tools to aid that process is a better approach than developing a tool to the limits of available technology and then designing a process for the tool. The financial rewards for developing commercial information technology are so lucrative that new advances occur almost daily. This ferocious approach to development applies to new display methods and 3D environments for games, entertainment and other uses. When developing software for the public sector 103 the rewards for development efforts are not financial. The private sector ethic of development at any cost is not as prevalent and planning researchers are unable to tap into substantial resources to complete projects. Evidence of this situation are seen in past attempts to develop planning specific software that has for the most part ended with rudimentary proto-types because the effort and financing needed to take a project to completion were not available. Leaving major technical development to the private sector and focusing on the application of technology may be a better focus for planning researchers interested in adding computer tools to public participation processes. Planners perhaps should leave visualization tools for others to build and focus on opportunities for their public participation process use. Currently the best opportunities are in creating photorealistic static images and creating multimedia databases to aid in the informational needs of public processes. 5.3 Opportunities in the Near Future The major opportunities of the near future involve sharing planning tools over the Internet and developing ways to use the Internet to support public participation efforts. Some planning researchers are trying to create on-line environments where people can use characters or 'avatars' to cooperatively design. The Virtual Ryoanji Project is an example of this. It is a joint effort between the Department of Urban Engineering at the University of Tokyo, Sony Corporation and the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis of University College London. The tool is intended to be an urban planning support system that allows 104 a number of people, who may have different concepts, tastes and viewpoints, to gather and cooperate in creating a single space on the computer2. The project is based around designing of a virtual stone garden. Participants are able to place various stones in the virtual space, thus introducing the concept of virtual design. Image Six: Two screen shots from the Virtual Rvoanii project The Virtual Ryoanji project relies on the VRML language discussed in chapter two to create dynamic interactive models on the Web. VRML is not the most sophisticated web format for interactive modeling but it is non-proprietary thus very cost effective to use in development. Using proprietary software is expensive and also relies on purchase of software to view the product, in contrast to the open standard of VRML. VRML, now in version 2.0, makes relatively efficient sized files and can be used across platforms. VRML can also be used in creating photorealistic urban environments. The company LivePicture is beta testing their Virtual Reality Studio software3, allowing VRML 2.0 objects to be easily placed within photos to create simulated scenes. Photos could be 2 Smith, A. , Dodge, M., and Doyle, S. "Visual Communication in Urban Planning and Urban Design" at''abstract.html Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis University College London 3 MGI Software at httpV/www.mgisoft.cxjnVweb/realitystudio/index.asp 105 placed on the web and V R M L objects can be chosen for the scene, creating a web based comparative design tool. Image Seven: Virtual Reality Studio Image with VRML Phone Booth Beyond experimental projects like Virtual Ryoanji aimed at building innovative interactive online design environments there are simple and pragmatic ways to increase visualization capabilities for planning agencies by using the Web. Creating an on-line Elements of Neighborhood database has major potential. This would be a great international resource that would fulfill many positive planning functions. Planners sharing approaches to urban design problems will find this is an excellent way to use the strengths of the Internet. It creates an easy to access resource for people all over the world dealing with the problems inherent to urbanization and creates a record of projects attempting to create livability. Communication within communities can also be pursued on the Web. A Web site with supporting information could be produced alongside any public consultation process, and material like photorealistic images developed out of the public consultation could be distributed this way. 106 5.4 Concluding statement More computing power is not the solution to the problems inherent to public participation. It is a tool that can help in efforts at connecting communities. Nedovic-Budic discovered in assessing the impact of GIS technology that, "The promises of technologically based democratization and empowerment are not fulfilled as immediately as needed or hoped"4. This failure of new technology to meet hopes and expectations should not be seen as a failure of new tools to perform planning tasks. Instead future development should focus on practical and strategic ways to use tools in an ethical manner. Failure to look at ways to apply new technology will cripple the process of technical improvement. Observation and feedback are needed to shape tools into effective contributors to the planning process. Computing power that integrates seamlessly into existing processes should be researchers' goal. One day creating dynamic visualization models will be a relatively simple task and a form that most people are comfortable with. When this time comes the tool should be integrated into the public participation process. 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