Creating a Green Vision
Community mapping in a digital age.
By James L. Sipes, Asla
Image Courtesy of Common Ground Community Mapping Project
Online mapping is a popular way for citizens to share information with each other during the community planning process. Online
mapping allows for sharing data across organizations, platforms, and formats
and makes information easy to access and modify. Many earlier online mapping
systems had limited data input/output options and did not permit new data to be
mapped. Users could pull up existing information but could not add to it or
make modifications—a frustrating situation for those who wanted to provide
input. Some of the more complex, computer-generated mapping programs are
interactive, meaning that users can explore alternatives and ask “what if”
questions in real time as part of a public meeting.
The basic idea behind community mapping is to get citizens involved in making decisions about their neighborhoods. In the old days, public
involvement consisted of workshops where discussions were led by a moderator,
and helpers used flip charts and felt-tip markers to write down what was being
said. But regardless of how well comments were documented, it was impossible to
capture all thoughts and to demonstrate to participants how their input
influenced planning decisions. “Many participants felt that they were not being
heard,” says Steve Mullen, Asla, a landscape architect and principal of Foresee (4c) Consulting. Participants felt alienated from the planning
process and, as a result, were not supportive of decisions that were made.
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