Fractured States

Question: How can information technologies be used to deal with an increasingly complex human-environment system, particularly with regard to land-use disputes?

Hypothesis: I hypothesize that open source information technologies such as mapping can enable local citizens to mitigate land-use disputes by providing geolocational visualizations of dialogue and values, similar to an interactive version of public forum debates.  I propose a prototype for a tool that would benefit local governments and citizens by providing a platform for visualizing values that are often unquantifiable.

For understanding human-environment relationships, multiple scales of analysis have been explored. GIScience initially tended to focus on spatial environmental data at the pixel level received by remotely sensed imagery.  However, the social aspect has become increasingly important, especially with an influx of web 2.0 participatory tools, marrying the local level survey and census data to visual communication.  Thus, a blend of socially participatory data and spatial planning have become one.  In this way, “a map can facilitate mutual understanding and common agreement about facts, and can be used to develop trusting relationships across a diverse set of participants” (Schlossberg and Shuford, 2005).   Understanding human-environment systems is increasingly critical as we deal with the ill-structured and ambiguous problems of living in a globally connected world.

The research will use both quantitative and qualitative methods.  I refer to the Alternative Futures Analysis, a tool developed in 1990 by Carl Steinitz and now utilized by the EPA, which analyzes multiple layers of information about land-use habits to visually portray how land-use decisions affect a region over time.  In addition to this resource, I would like to use open source mapping tools such as MapBox, TileMill, and OpenStreetMap, to create a design that would allow users to easily edit values into the map and engage in dialogue with their neighbors.  This will allow residents not only to see how their values relate to others within the community, but will also provide a predictive futures analysis on how their values will be represented in the future.

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