Durable Civic Technology: Minecraft as a Tool in Urban Planning Public Consultation

Durable Civic Technology: Minecraft as a Tool in Urban Planning Public Consultation

Lisa Ward Mather (Ryerson University, Canada) and Pamela Robinson (Ryerson University, Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-4018-3.ch010

Abstract

Minecraft is a video game that allows players to interact with a 3D environment. Launched in 2009, Minecraft has surprisingly durable popularity. Users report that Minecraft is easy to learn and understand, engaging and immersive, and adaptable. Outside North America it has been piloted for urban planning public consultation processes. Five years ago, authors conducted research using key informant interviews. This study asked practicing urban planners in Canada to assess Minecraft's potential. Key findings address Minecraft's usefulness as a visualization tool, its role in building public trust in local planning processes, the place of play in planning, and the challenges associated with its use in public consultation. This chapter explores Minecraft's ongoing use, offers reflections as to how this game could effectively be used for public consultation, and concludes with key lessons for urban planners whose practice intersects with our digitally-enabled world, with a particular focus on new application possibilities in smart city planning projects.
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2. Planning, Public Consultation And Digital Platforms: A Review Of The Literature

Public calls to improve the effectiveness and inclusiveness of urban planning processes in North America began in the 1950s and 60s when members of the public argued that the planning process was undemocratic and that commonly used consultation methods failed to direct urban planning in a way that would serve their needs. Many planning scholars agreed. Particularly influential was Sherry Arnstein’s 1969 critique, in which she introduced the “ladder of participation.” Arnstein’s distinction between differing degrees of public involvement drew attention to the routine disconnection between public consultation and decision-making processes, and went on to inform countless discussions about how planning, as a profession, might better work with its public (Lane, 2005).

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