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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Seeing green in cyberspace : dynamic environmental information systems to support planning Morgan, Katherine Elizabeth


This thesis examines an emerging class or category of web sites, termed dynamic environmental information systems (DEIS), and how they might support and enhance planning in general and environmental planning in particular. It describes the current planning context as planning in the face of complexity. Literature from complex adaptive systems theory and communicative planning theory is used to characterize the qualities and strategies suggested for communication in this context of complexity. A DEIS should incorporate diversity, share and build knowledge through discursive interaction, promote learning and change, emphasize the local over the global, and break down barriers between public and private. Two interrelated strategies a DEIS should support are gatherings and group processes, and relationships and relationship building. These factors should both guide and be reflected in the development of an information system to support communicative planning in the face of complexity. Emerging, Web-based information systems offer capabilities and features that can complement these theoretical factors. The features of database support, remote contribution and administration, and integration with other communication systems, media and technologies are examined. With this theoretical case for effectively exploiting new technology for planning purposes, the idea is explored from a practical perspective by undertaking a series of web-site development contracts. This combination of theoretical and experiential understanding of DEIS is used to create a framework to characterize elements of this approach. The framework is used to show readers examples of DEIS in practice and describe the sites in a systematic and consistent manner. Finally, I return to the theoretical factors to summarize the apparent state-of-the art for DEIS in practice. I conclude that this tool does serve to enhance and support the qualities and strategies of planning in the face of complexity and its demand for more communicative processes. This finding is qualified though by recommending further research on marketing to diverse target audiences, learning and change, and the organizational sustainability of DEIS themselves. The implications of DEIS for planners and other environmental change agents are a challenge to the profession to actively engage in developing this tool's potential and helping shape it to serve the goals of planning.

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