Media Coverage of 3D Visual Tools Used in Urban Participatory Planning

Media Coverage of 3D Visual Tools Used in Urban Participatory Planning

Thibaud Chassin, Jens Ingensand, Florent Joerin
Copyright: © 2023 |Pages: 32
DOI: 10.4018/IJEPR.318085
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The opportunities provided by adopting digitally-generated visual tools in urban participatory planning are compelling. These visual tools can promote interactions between authorities and citizens and among citizens. However, the urban participatory practices of these tools are often described from an academic perspective, which leads to a lack of knowledge from the practitioner's outlook. This study investigates practices of 3D visual tools in applied urban projects. The applied projects were recovered from media coverage. The objective is to describe participatory projects and their adopted 3D tools with a contextual and technical lens. The findings demonstrate that 3D visuals are mostly adopted for communication with a realistic representation and limited interaction in the later stage of the project where negotiation margins are insufficient at a small and medium urban scale. A better understanding of applied practices can help to introduce guidelines that support practitioners in designing approaches that benefit from the full potential of 3D visual tools.
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The involvement of citizens, i.e., local experts, in urban development helps to tackle several issues specific to planning by conveying dwellers’ judgments, feedback, or wisdom (Arnstein, 1969). However, engaging the population in complex topics during the development of an urban project is challenging (Alawadi & Dooling, 2016; Mostert, 2003), and the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) in participatory approaches does not resolve all issues (Afzalan & Muller, 2018; Brown & Kyttä, 2018; Chassin et al., 2019). The authorities need to determine if the aspects under negotiation are accurately understood by the participants, in addition to guaranteeing that their provided feedback is meaningful and related to the urban issue. In this regard, visual communication is often favored, because of its efficiency in conveying information including better memorability and easier understanding of complex issues (Al-Kodmany, 1999; Christmann et al., 2020; de Oliveira & Partidário, 2020; Metze, 2020). For instance, visual tools could promote the immersion of future users (i.e., affected inhabitants) in a soon-to-be-built urban project in order to understand its challenges. Otherwise, this understanding could be laborious, even impossible, due to the several complex aspects of urban design: lengthy timeline, large spatial scale, numerous design parameters, etc.

Since the late 1980s, the technological breakthroughs in the movie and video gaming industry have provided digitally generated 3D visual tools that are increasingly detailed and realistic. This progress promotes, on the one hand, visualizations that are accurate and robust enough to portray urban projects (Chowdhury & Schnabel, 2020; Newell et al., 2021; White et al., 2021), and, on the other hand, a skilled population that is accustomed to experiencing these 3D representations. The recent maturity of these visualizations and their benefits for urban (and landscape) participatory planning has been acknowledged in the scientific literature (Al-Kodmany, 2002; Hayek et al., 2016; Lange, 2011), and numerous prototypes have been implemented to engage the population (Alatalo et al., 2017; Chassin et al., 2018; Onyimbi et al., 2018; Velarde et al., 2017; Yu et al., 2020). These prototypes borrow several features that are well-defined in the scientific literature, such as Public Participatory Geographic Information System (Nummi, 2018; Sieber, 2006), geo-questionnaires (Haklay et al., 2018; Lafrance et al., 2019), and emotional maps (Pánek, 2016). The support of 3D representations in these features that are usually implemented in 2D shows a handful of improvements, such as a better understanding of the complex aspects specific to projects that have a spatial extent (Voinov et al., 2018), the creation of a common language (de Oliveira & Partidário, 2020), or the creation of a visual common understanding of the project shared by all the participants (Land et al., 2013).

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