Facilitating Knowledge Sharing in E-Governance: Online Spatial Displays as Translating Devices

Facilitating Knowledge Sharing in E-Governance: Online Spatial Displays as Translating Devices

Jarkko Bamberg (University of Tampere, Finland) and Pauliina Lehtonen (University of Tampere, Finland)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61350-083-5.ch008
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This chapter introduces a case study that aimed at developing practices of neighborhood participation by utilizing information and communication technologies. A participatory action research project organized a citizen panel in the neighborhood of Tesoma in the city of Tampere, Finland. The panel tried to find meaningful ways for residents to influence the development of their neighborhood. The central aim was to articulate and mediate their local knowledge to administration that traditionally leans on technical-rational knowledge. The case study suggests that interactive online spatial displays have potential to facilitate meaningful exchange of information by three mechanisms of translation: 1) by giving access to information from viewpoints familiar to the residents, 2) aiding the translation of technical-rational information of public administration for citizens with illustrative visualizations, and 3) giving residents multimodal means of producing input to administrators and planners. Interactive online spatial displays, such as interactive maps and simulations, are considered to work particularly well as translating devices supporting these mechanisms.
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Citizen participation at a neighborhood level is often perceived to take place in specific events that are arranged within planning processes and particular stages of decision-making. However, participation at this level is entangled with questions that rise from actions of everyday life. Therefore, reflecting on insights from complexity theory, we want to take a broader view of neighborhood participation and extend it to various practices that include continuous as well as sporadic interaction and collaboration between institutional and neighborhood actors, particularly between city government and residents.

One of the central questions of governance is how to provide settings and arrangements for meaningful interaction between local experiential knowledge and knowledge based on technical-rational information (Fischer, 2000). However, drawing on an approach that sees knowledge as being tied to practice (Cook & Yanow, 1993), we consider that dissemination of knowledge to the use of governance is not a straightforward matter. In addition, often knowledge that could be available is not used because it is situated in periphery from the viewpoint of decision-makers and public administration (Yanow, 2004). This means that much of the knowledge potential resides in different practices scattered around the city. If knowledge is understood from this practice-based approach as knowing, as a situated capability to act, there is twofold potential in information and communication technologies (ICTs) such as the Internet and geographic information systems (GIS)1 to facilitate participatory arrangements in e-governance. They can 1) support building collective competences to act, and 2) facilitate interaction between different actors that are members of various different social worlds but do not share them all together2. In this chapter, we focus on this potential. Hence the crucial question: How can ICT be utilized to increase interactions between different actors in governance of cities? The question has to be discussed while acknowledging that at the same time knowledge is not directly accessible but needs to be translated from the practices that created it.

The chapter opens up the above question by way of a participatory action research project, which aimed at developing ICT-mediated participatory practices with a citizen panel. After opening our conceptual framework consisting of insights from theories of practice-based knowing and complexity, we introduce our case study with a citizen panel in Tesoma neighborhood in the city of Tampere, Finland. Then we move on to consider how neighborhood participation can be understood as various interactions between citizens and administration where different kinds of information and knowledge merge. This leads us to discuss how the citizen panel discovered ways to apply interactive online spatial displays to support interaction and knowledge sharing between citizens and administration.

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