Computer Support for Discussions in Spatial Planning
1. IntroductionSpatial planning deals with the problem of distributing the limited resource "space" among different uses and users. It can be highly challenging to find a balanced land-use pattern, for example in urban agglomerations. Different interest groups such as residents, industry, and ecologists will claim different desirable land-uses for a given area. Spatial planning is also about locating unwanted land-use such as waste facilities. In this case, interest groups (e.g. city councils, neighbourhood organizations) and individuals will fight nearby locations. This situation is known as the NIMBY problem: “Not In My BackYard!”In democratic societies, decisions such as those in spatial planning are made by political representatives in cooperation with public administration and residents. The final decision will usually be based on a number of consecutive prior decisions, or choices, which are made by different groups of stakeholders. At any of these decision levels, there are two important methods to reach a conclusion: consensus finding, or voting. Both will be preceded by more or less intensive discussions and argumentation. The ultimate goal of discussions is to achieve sustainable development by integrating the objectives of diverse stakeholders. Thus, we argue that discussions are a crucial element of spatial planning procedures and are to be integrated with planning and decision support techniques.Discussions will have diverse formats in different planning projects. For example, the number of participants may vary from only two to hundreds and more; participants may get together or stay separated in space and/or time; discussion may be un-moderated, or moderated and structured. Nevertheless, discussion contributions (statements, messages, arguments, articles) in spatial planning will commonly contain a spatial reference. This does allow to link discussion support to spatially enabled decision support techniques as argued in this chapter.In section 2, we will review general theories on argumentation and introduce major concepts of computer-supported cooperative work. Next, geographically referenced discourse will be analysed in more detail leading to the argumentation map model (section 3). Section 4 develops use cases for GIS-based discussion support, and section 5 presents some existing applications. Finally, we will speculate about future developments in computer support for discussions in spatial planning (section 6).