This area of my research program examines the development and use of collaborative web-based geographic information technology (the Geoweb) for community planning. The region of Acton, east of Montreal, has been selected as a pilot location for a three-year project, supported through a partnership with several Quebec government agencies. The main goals of this project are to establish the value of volunteered geographic information as a data source, determine how the Geoweb can be used to facilitate citizen participation in land-use decision-making, and evaluate the role of government in supporting or constraining the development of the Geoweb.
I have developed several initiatives to examine the value of volunteered geographic information as a data source. One of these involves working with the Acton community economic development agency (CLD) to use the Geoweb for a participatory community asset mapping project. Citizens add points and descriptions of assets, such as vacant industrial land, commercial opportunities, and tourist attractions to an online map. This information is then used to support an online marketing campaign designed to attract outside investment in local businesses.
To determine how the Geoweb can be used to facilitate citizen participation in land-use decision-making, I am working with a community-based watershed monitoring agency, the Corporation de Développement de la Rivière Noire (CDRN) and two teams of McGill undergraduate students. Together we have developed a Geoweb portal to facilitate the collection of citizen-gathered water quality and erosion data. Students work with CDRN and citizens to collect field data, then upload this data to the Geoweb portal where it is overlaid with provincial water quality information. This resulting map is used by CDRN to raise awareness of local watershed management issues and support lobbying efforts for government action. This joint project with CDRN is just one example of how the Geoweb is being used to leverage citizen input to achieve broader community development objectives.
This project touches on many interrelated themes – community development, environmental management, e-government, and digital activism. It is at the cutting edge of GIScience, demonstrating new ways in which geospatial information and tools can be used by non-experts to impact decision-making. I am currently developing research that will take a longer-term view of the Geoweb, critically investigating factors that contribute to its sustainability in community and government contexts.
Please contact me for more information on this research project, or take a look at the parent project site “The Participatory Geoweb for Engaging the Public on Global Environmental Change” directed by my supervisor, Dr. Renee Sieber.