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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Public participation GIS : a proposed model for community organisations Holley, Alison M.


The concept of Public Participation GIS (PPGIS) arose, in part, as a result of GIS and society research initiatives which were conducted during the 1990s. During that same era, various researchers began to introduce GIS applications within local neighbourhood settings, and document their efforts in peer-reviewed journals. PPGIS proponents viewed the technology as empowering for community groups seeking entry into the public policy decision-making arena, whereas detractors believed PPGIS was marginalising for organisations which lacked the capacity to use such technologies. By the latter half of that decade, the term PPGIS was used to refer to myriad grassroots GIS efforts which heralded from all over the globe, with the noticeable exception of Canada. An important consideration in this thesis is why there is a paucity of PPGIS initiatives in Canada. In order to further understand the complexity of this issue, I examine a number of frameworks used for conceptualising, implementing, and evaluating PPGIS initiatives, which are derived from research in the United States (US). Several inner-city case studies are presented in order to illustrate various methods undertaken by US researchers implementing community-based PPGIS projects. I then propose a generic model for PPGIS initiatives, which is comprised of three phases, including: (1) capacity assessment for a PPGIS, (2) design of a PPGIS prototype, and (3) sustainable PPGIS. Research indicates that restricted access to public data, in the Canadian context, may be a primary reason for the relative absence of PPGIS efforts in that nation (c.f. Klinkenberg 2003). Given that most PPGIS initiatives have yet to reach a level of sustainability in the US, it is quite probable that similar efforts in Canada will not succeed beyond a rudimentary level. In such instances in the US, an Internet Map Server (IMS) has frequently been deemed appropriate to suit the geographic information needs of community organisations. An IMS does not, however, represent a fully participatory GIS; rather, in this instance, an external "host" provides the "client" with information, via the Internet. As such, I conclude my research with recommendations for future Canadian PPGIS endeavours, which are based upon the proposed PPGIS model and evidence provided in the thesis.

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