E-Participation in Urban Planning: Getting and Keeping Citizens Involved

E-Participation in Urban Planning: Getting and Keeping Citizens Involved

Maud Donders (Department of Human Geography and Urban & Regional Planning, Faculty of Geosciences, Utrecht University, Utrecht, Netherlands), Thomas Hartmann (Department of Human Geography and Urban & Regional Planning, Faculty of Geosciences, Utrecht University, Utrecht, Netherlands) and Anita Kokx (Department of Human Geography and Urban & Regional Planning, Faculty of Geosciences, Utrecht University, Utrecht, Netherlands)
Copyright: © 2014 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/ijepr.2014040104
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Abstract

This article addresses an often neglected perspective on e-participation in urban planning: the citizens' perspective. Usually, the debate focuses very much on the planners' perspective. In a case study, two issues are analysed: First, what are the motives of participants and non-participants; second, how citizens' perception of influence and equality in the process affect their satisfaction with it. It is concluded that getting more people involved requires addressing three different types of motives, and that e-participation easily scores high on the perception of equality, but that citizens' perception of influence requires particular attention of the planners.
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Introduction: The Need For A Citizen’S Perspective

Public participation in urban planning basically builds on the idea that citizens take part and stay involved in the decisions and decision-making processes. If citizens don’t take part or are dissatisfied with the process, public participation fails (Mickel et al., 2005; van Coenen et al., 2001). Public participation is without doubt an important element of the processes in urban planning (Irvin & Stansbury, 2004), taking into account the citizen’s perspective is therefore essential. Shipley and Utz (2012) analysed the academic literature on public participation pointing out crucial research gaps in this field: the motives of residents needs to be further explored – in particular supported by quantitative research. It need to be investigated how participation can be set up to make it “comfortable and appropriate” for citizens; and the role of e-participation requires particular attention (Shipley & Utz, 2012). Many contemporary discussions focus on the participation tools, as Leino and Laine ascertain: ‘Public participation has forgotten one basic principle, namely that the people are taking part in the planning process because they are interested in a particular issue’ (Leino & Laine, 2011).

This article therefore explores two questions: First, what are the general motives of citizens to participate in urban planning processes; second, how does a process need to be set up to keep citizens involved. These two questions are elaborated empirically with a case study in the Dutch city of Utrecht. The case study involves the analysis of e-participation tools. Since the 1960s and in particular the invention of the internet, e-participation holds the promise of improving participation in many respects in particular because of the low individual transaction costs of both, getting and keeping involved (Becker & Slaton, 2000). The emergence of Web 2.0 applications such as Facebook, Twitter, other social networks and content sharing tools created new opportunities for e-participation (Brandl & Francq, 2008). But e-participation requires quite a lot of engagement of citizens and governments (Loyens and7 van de Walle, 2006). Therefore, the second research question on how to keep people involved in the process looks in particular at e-participation.

To make the inherent notions in this research explicit, the following two assumptions have been applied:

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