The E-Planning Paradigm – Theory, Methods and Tools: An Overview

The E-Planning Paradigm – Theory, Methods and Tools: An Overview

Carlos Nunes Silva (University of Lisbon, Portugal)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-929-3.ch001


The chapter discusses the relationships between planning theory and the use of information and communication technologies in urban planning. It explores how recent organizational transformations in urban planning, associated with the widespread use of information and communication technologies, are incorporated by different planning theories. It is argued that the way information and communication technologies tools are considered or included by the different planning perspectives is in part responsible for the various forms of e-planning.
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Contemporary urban planning practice is embedded in a complex and diverse social, political and economic urban world. The implementation of e-Planning, the new urban planning paradigm, requires new concepts, methods, and tools, as happened in the past when other technologies were introduced in this professional field. The history of urban planning, since the end of the nineteenth century, reveals a process of continuous change in the prevailing theories and methodologies, which led to an increasingly complex professional practice (Friedman, 1996; Hall, 2002; Peterson, 2003; Silva, 1994; Talen, 2005; Ward, 2004). The Garden City model, in the formula proposed by Ebenezer Howard (Hall and Ward, 1998, Howard, 1902/2001), or the CIAM discourse on urbanism, steered among others by Le Corbusier (Le Corbusier, 1971; Mumford, 2000), had a vision of planning rather different from the rational planning paradigm that followed it as the main planning paradigm and which framed most of the twentieth century urban planning practice. Rational scientific planning, system theory and the following paradigms, namely the political economy perspective of planning, collaborative or communicative planning, and the various streams of post-modern planning put forward different visions of what urban planning is, who benefits from it, and how it should be practiced (Allmendinger, 2002; Faludi, 1973; 1973a; Hillier and Healey, 2008).

Even though information and communication technologies may be seen as neutral technologies, they can certainly be applied to serve different political and social purposes, or to respond to different principles and values (Anttiroiko and Malkia, 2007; Budthimedhee et al., 2002). It is for this reason that the use of information technologies within the rational planning approach has different objectives compared to what happens in collaborative or communicative planning. In the first case, the introduction of information and communication technologies allows planners and planning departments to carry out new actions or to implement conventional practices through new tools, such as geographic information systems, virtual reality technologies, e-participation devices, including public participation GIS applications, among other tools, with the aim of improving conventional decision-making processes. In the second case, the use of similar information and communication technologies tend to be associated with an epistemological turn and in the limit with a change of planning paradigm that goes beyond the basic objective of improving established planning routines.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Digital Literacy: The capacity to make effective use of information and communication technologies.

E-Inclusion: Means equal access, for all citizens, to planning information and planning services through information and communication technologies, independently of her/his ability, age, gender, ethnicity, or economic capacity.

Planning Portal (or Planning Gateway): The access point in the Internet, where information on urban planning issues is available and where online planning services are provided.

Public Participation Geographical Information System (PPGIS): A Web GIS facility that allows the viewing of plan proposals. It enables citizens and other urban stakeholders to participate actively in the planning process.

Information and Communication Technologies (ICT): Include local computer networks, the Internet, electronic mail, digital television, mobile communications, etc.

E-Planning: The application of e-government principles to urban planning or, in other words, the extensive use of information and communication technologies in all phases of the urban planning process, within the framework of a post-positivist planning theory.

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