Public Communication in Urban Planning: Growing Role of Online Applications for Citizen Participation

Public Communication in Urban Planning: Growing Role of Online Applications for Citizen Participation

Łukasz Damurski
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-4719-0.ch010
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In most European countries, urban planning is a domain of public administration and as such should be a subject of transparent, democratic decision-making procedures. It bares the growing need for public communication, especially in the context of the rapid development of Information and Communication Technology (ICT). The Internet strongly influences public decision-making systems, including urban planning. This chapter looks for particular patterns and standards of public communication in urban planning in Poland and Germany by comparing online participation tools and by analyzing three complimentary aspects of e-participation in planning: “transparency,” “spatiality,” and “interactivity.”
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Urban Planning and Public Communication

Planning may be generally described as deliberate human action aiming to bring particular order in the space (Zipser, 1983). To fulfill this task, specific power steering spatial processes is needed. And here we reach the institutional aspect of planning.

In democratic countries planning power is exercised by the elected authorities who represent the community and who are obliged to provide spatial order and well-being of their citizens. Those authorities create appropriate institutions and procedures to carry out the duties of spatial management. And the institutions produce and disseminate public information related to planning. If we present it in the light of classical theory of public communication, we will have the source (planning institutions), the message (planning information) and the audience (local communities) (Olliver, 2010). The only missing element here is the channel of communication. And it cannot be defined without empirical research, giving a good reason to conduct the study presented in this paper.

When applied to spatial decision-making, public communication becomes a process of exchange of information between all the actors (individuals, groups, institutions, companies) interested in the land-use of particular area. The final result of this process is changing the knowledge, opinions and attitudes of all the senders and recipients (see Pawłowska, 2008). And of course, there have been a wide and long-lasting discussion on the ideas of participatory, collaborative or communicative planning (Healey 1997), on the concepts of self-organising cities (Alfasi & Portugali, 2007), on empowerment and dissociation (Albrechts & Denayer, 2001). All this discussion forms a very important background for this research, but it definitely exceeds the capacity of one paper. Therefore let us sum up all those issues with the words of a famous German planner and communication expert, K. Selle: “planning and development in the city and region is communicating. The vehicle called «planning» does not move without communication” (Selle, 2005, p. 393).

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