ELECTRONIC COMMUNICATION: A TOOL FOR
PUBLIC PARTICIPATION IN THE
MASTERS THESIS SUBMITTED BY PETER M. CAPLAN MAY 1984
This thesis would not have been possible without the advice and guidance of a number of people. I'd like to thank Jonnie Jones as a friend and teacher for her social insight, Dr. David Hill for his patience, and Dr. Dan Schler, who rekindled my academic spirit and showed a great deal of interest and understanding toward my thesis and career. I'd like to express my appreciation to Gordon Appel and Bill Bradley for their contributions toward my professional development and their faith in my ability. To my friend, Theresa Nordholm, a deep felt thanks for the support and assistance in preparing this manuscript.
Finally, to my parents, for whom this study is dedicated, the love of a wayward son, whose desire to succeed could never have been achieved without their trust and loving indulgence.
in Citizen Participation, the public has an opportunity to be involved in the goal forming and decision making process of community development. Various techniques have been devised to facilitate that involvement. Communication is the vital link that enables the public to effectively participate at different points along the planning continuum.
This paper examines the development of citizen participation and the evolution of the various techniques designed to promote active public involvement. It also identifies and explains some of the emerging electronic communication technologies and examines their application to the planning process and their future potential for creating a more informed citizenry.
Finally, some conclusions and recommendations concerning the benefits/advantages versus
costs/disadvantages are discussed in regards to their impact on the future use of telecommunication in the planning process.
Can the public participation element in the planning process be facilitated through the use of the emerging electronic communications technologies? How and by what means?
Purpose of the Thesis
To explore the potential opportunities for expanding the role of citizen participation in the planning process through the use of the various telecommunication technolog ies.
Major Points of the Study
A review of selected citizen participation techniques now being practiced.
An introduction to the emerging telecommunication technologies and how they are presently and can be applied in the future to the participation process and their potential results and impacts.
Organization of the Thesis
Chapter I will be an introduction to the planning process.
Chapter II will focus on the historical development of the particiaption process.
Chapter III will describe various techniques for citizen participation presently being used by planners.
Chapter IV will identify and explain some of the emerging electronic communication technologies and some of their applications now being tried by planners.
Chapter V will explore some of the potential applications of electronic communications with the citizen participation techniques described in chapter II.
Chapter VI will offer some conclusions and recommendations regarding the use of communication technologies and citizen participation.
Methods and Data
Chapter I will be a review of the literature dealing with the planning process and Chapter II will discuss the evolution of citizen participation.
Chapter III will be a listing of those participation techniques now being practiced by planners. A description of how the technique is done, the types of participants and the results from its use.
Chapter IV will explain the latest communication innovations and describe their present applications within the planning process.
Chapter V will be a matrix of participation techniques and those communication technologies suitable for use. Techniques and technologies will be matched up according to effectiveness with a look at reasons why some can and cannot be matched.
Chapter VI will conclude the study with a look at some of the potential impacts related to the use of electronic communication technologies as a part of the citizen participation process.
Limits of the Study
This study will only explore those technologies and techniques that lend themselves to promoting responsible and effective citizen participation. While many variations exist for the implementation of those techniques described, only those means discussed in the cited literature will be offered. Issues related to electronic abuse or fraud will not be covered though issues concerned with privacy will be mentioned.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
I The Planning Process
What are the Purposes ............
What Types of Planning are There? The Comprehensive Master Plan .. .
II Public Participation
Theories of Public Participation Historical Development in the U.S. Citizen Education.................
III Techniques of Citizen Participation
Introduction Matrix ............
Public Information Techniques ....
Open Process Techniques ..........
Focused Process Techniques .......
Educational Process Techniques ...
Representative Techniques ........
Skill Supplemented Techniques .... Mediated Action ..................
IV Communication Technology
Table of Contents Continued
Chapter V Matrix Analysis
Evaluation of Combinations ................... 69
Chapter VI Conclusions to Recommendations ................... 79
What are the Implications
On the Individual ....................... 85
On the Political System ................. 86
Future Scenarios ............................. 88
Appendix, Case Study ......................... 95
Bibliography Additional References
The planning process has become a series of cooperative agreements among a diverse group of players interacting over a period of time. Policies for implementation have been formulated after research has been done to ascertain the collective impact of the various individual activities. It is a planner's responsibility to coordinate those plans that will effect the desired results.
planning involves compromise. It tries to accomodate all parties through equitable distribution of resources. It tries to provide a forum for discussion and a means for redressing their grievances while protecting the rights of others in the use of their property.
More than anything else, planning is a state of mind.
It requires a predisposition toward recognizing the future needs of its clients while maintaining a progressive attitude and understanding of the present problems, and their immediate solution (if possible), as a function of past mistakes. Because of this, planners must be comfortable with varying time frames and have the ability to intergrate actions over that continuum.
Planning presents subjective choices based on object research. The values that underlie those alternatives are a product of the industrial society. As we move into the postindustrial, pre-informational era, planners must accept the responsibility and take the lead in shaping the consciousness of the society in which they work.
There are many tough decisions yet to be made. For those that govern, ultimate accountability resides with everyone but blame for failure rests on their shoulders. If we are to sustain our democratic system, we need to spread the obligation for its success to everyone. Planners and their conterparts in industry can facilitate this concept of de-centralized power by extending to all a share and stake in the outcome.
The future viability of planning depends on the will of society to transform itself into an anticipatory democracy. The reluctance of the public to participate must be overcome by offering them a meaningful role. This can be accomplished if we provide them with the knowledge necessary to understand.
Planning has become both and art and a science. It requires an esthetic appreciation of how shapes and forms, colors and textures and scales and distances contribute to the success of the built environment. At the same time, these features must make sense economically, structurally and politically. The combination of these elements represents the goals of an intellectual process that involves the collaborative efforts of many individuals working in different disciplines.
Planners are ideally suited to coordinate this effort. Their educational training and skills expose them to a wide range of perspectives that have been developed and refined over a long period of time. Planners typically come from a broad cross-section of academia. Most have backgrounds in social sciences though recently there has been an increase in the number of planning students coming from the physical sciences (engineering, biology) and the humanities. This has helped to diversify the scope and vision of the planning profession as it creates a balance in response to the earlier planning efforts made by architects, engineers and geographers.
Traditionally, planners have been taught how to subdivide land, design streets, develop programs for social services, implement policies and write comprehensive Master Plans. They are usually employed by the public sector or by private consulting firms or developers. The planner's clients range from his immediate employer to the public at large. His primary task is to provide his employer with the best possible plans based on the most accurate and timely information available.
If the planner is to accomplish the goals established by his profession and employer, he must have the ability and opportunity to communicate effectively with his constituency. In doing so, he shares his knowledge (distinctive competence) and understanding with those outside his field. This exchange can provide the necessary consensus and support the planner needs if he is to implement his plans for positive and efficient change.
The nature of planning is long-term, optomistic and socially oriented. If planners are to continue contributing toward improving the quality of life for all society, they must begin by communicating their ideas, facts, insights and concerns to the community and by encouraging citizens to actively participate in the planning process. Today, the opportunity to extend that message, through electronic networking, has never been greater. If we are to solve the probelms facing society, we must foster a sense of cooperation through communication and mutual understanding.
This thesis was conceived as an attempt to better realize the dynamic process of communication in the participation element of the planning process. We start with a review of the theories of public participation and communication. We then examine the communication technologies becoming available to the planner and the public. This is followed by an overview of the types of applications now being tried nationwide. This section is followed by a detailed summary of the types of techniques being used for public participation and the use of electronic means to facilitate that process. Finally, we offer a conclusion and series of recommendations for future use.
THE PLANNING PROCESS
planning can be viewed as a series of related actions and decisions that are organized around and moving toward the accomplishment of community development objectives.'*'
The essence of our traditional approach to planning has been to view the city as a large design project that must be laid out and organized. According to this view, planning is the process of forming a picture of a future physical pattern and implementing the necessary central measures to bring about the desired results. The goals to planning are efficiency, order, convenience, economy and esthetic beauty.2
Typically, the planning effort starts with an extensive survey of existing conditions and as an inventory of all available resources. Studies are conducted to assess present land uses, the growth potential of the area's population and economy, the housing stock, transportation networks, public utilities, recreation facilities and cultural amenities. These studies reflect both the quantitative and qualitative aspects of those elements and
help establish projection concerning future needs
Planning, as it is now evolving, combines the objective research of stastical analysis with subjective research in the social sciences to create a three dimensional, organized view of the community. It seeks to involve many participants contributing to the overall success and stability in realizing the future. Planning must be flexible if it is to be enduring. It has to accommodate changing conditions without sacrificing its credibility or viability.
What is the Purpose of Planning?
Planning, the act of designing a plan, is done for the following reasons:
1) Efficiency -- to conserve and allocate scarce resources while reducing or eliminating waste. Planning is seen as a means of producing the greatest return from employment of resources. A goal of planning is to come as
close as possible to satisfying the consumers' preferences.
2) Rational action increasing the reasonableness of
decisions by providing information concerning the issues
. 4 The
under discussion and to evaluate alternatives.
objective of planning is to provide information to decisionmakers, the public, or ones' clients about the current situation and future prospects following various courses of
action. The planner must identify the alternative based on the level of knowledge and understanding of the prevailing and anticipated conditions, and select the optimal plan.
3) Widening the range of choices greater number of opportunities in the form of more options to the individual.^ The objective here is to promote a greater sense of freedom in making decisions.
4) Achieving an ideal society improving the course
of action involving fundamental changes in societal values. The utopian objective of planning is not unreasonable given that man does exercise some measure of control over his destiny by affecting the rate and direction of ongoing change.
planning is comprised of a set of procedures or stages. The process can be outlined as follows:
1) Identification of needs an analysis of the problems and a projection of the future. Planning begins with some sense of dissatisfaction with the status quo or a desire to create an environment before one is haphazardly formed. The diagnosis of the problem depends on the image desired, which acts as a point of reference. The definition of the problem gives direction to the thrust of the solution.7
2) Identification of one's clients -- the immediate client (the planner's employer) and the ultimate client (those affected by the planner's proposals). Failure to
identify relevant clients can lead to many difficulties.
A planner primarily serves the public interest and shall continue serving only when he/she can insure the accommodation of the client's interest with that of the public's.
3) Value formation statements of preferences or
goals. What future conditions are deemed desirable by the 9
4) Development of goals -- a normative statement of a desirable end condition.^0 Goals should reflect the subjective values of the planner's client. They are not usually objectivly verifiable and should not be limited to any one area of concern.
5) Means identification -- how to proceed from a general objective to a specific program:
a. identify objectives all the possible options available to obtain client's goals (feasibility analysis);
b. weighing alternatives -- evaluating options;
c. recommendation -- based on the planner's analysis, a course of action is suggested. The ultimate decision rests with the client, not the planner.^
6) Implementation -- acceptance and approval of the plan and then carrying it out (examples: zoning, subdivision ordinance, special districts, capital improvements, Planned Unit Development). It is concerned with the administration and control of policy and programs.
7) Monitoring reviewing the plan and making corrections where necessary to prevent unwanted or unintended results. Planners provide the role of feedback-control mechanism to determine the results of implementation based on the public's reactions.
There are a number of different types of models of planning performed. Included are:
1. Functional planning -- planning an aspect of a larger endeavor;^
2. Project planning -- planning all the aspects of a 13
project; This includes the building of power plants, the construction of roads, design of open space/recreation facilities, or the development of housing;
3. Normative planning planning for social goals. The activity of establishing rational ends. It involves determining the objectives which will guide the scope and
content of the action plan based on the community's value
4. Long range planning planning for the future.
Typically, this planning looks at five, ten and twenty years
down the road and explores the possibilities based on
... ^ 15
predictions and projections.
5. Annual program planning planning for yearly activities. Developed in conjection with the operating budget that reflects a community's financial commitment to its development programs.*^
6. Comprehensive planning -- planning for a social,
...... . . Attempts to articulate
economic and physical development.
the political, moral and emotional values inhenent in all policy decisions. ^ Comprehensive means that the plan encompasses all geographical and functional elements of the community.
The Comprehensive Master Plan is usually the official document of the planning process that serves as a policy guide to decisions about the physical development of a community over the long term. It helps to focus the purpose of the staff's research and design activities. The major purposes of the CMP are:
1. To promote the public interest;
2. To improve the economic, social and physical factors within the community;
3. To facilitate long-term development and to provide the proper mechanics for achieving;
4. To effect political and technical coordination
The CMP is used to determine policy, effectuate policy
. . 19
communicate policy and to educate citizens. It is the written expression of a community's commitment to the future. It orchestrates the development of activity by focusing the actors in a coordinated and cooperative effort The last two uses of the CMP are discussed in this study within the context of motivating the public to participate.
Chapter II PUBLIC PARTICIPATION
This chapter will explore the concept of citizen participation as a function of democracy and its evolution in the United States. (Note: For the sake of being consistent, "public" and "citizen" participation are used interchangeably.)
"There seems to be a consensus... that we will not
approach success in the solution of our urban crises without
the expansion and further development of new forms of
As society has developed, and has become culturally and technologically sophisticated, there has grown as insistence that decision making should become compatibly refined and expert; but, in recent years there has emerged a parrallel insistence, that decision making should be infused with a more democratic expression.21
Citizen participation may be best conceived, not as an alternative to the conventional decision making process
institutional framework of modern governments, but as a
decision forming partnership, an exercise in 2 2
collaboration. In his development of the concept of
collaborative planning Godschalk set twelve propositions:
1. The broader the base of citizen participation, the more influence planners and citizens can bring to bear on public policy.
2. The broader the base of citizen participation, the more potential influence the planner can bring to bear on social choice.
3. The more diverse the interests represented in the planning process, the more innovative the proposals will be
4. The more decentralized the client group, the more innovation will be adopted.
5. The more centralized and comprehensive the decision process, the fewer the choices.
6. Local planning goals will be more congruent with community desires if discussed widely by participant groups
7. A one-way flow of objectives from a central governing body will tend to under-represent some community
8. The greater the public consultation, the more support there will be for plans.
9. The greater the level of citizen participation, the greater the awareness of planning as a democratic function.
10. Citizen participation is more likely to generate innovating solutions.
11. The wider the scope and the longer the time horizon the less useful collaborative planning will be.
12. The relevance of planning depends upon the number
of dispersed contacts within the community.
These propositions provide a basis from which to explore the ramifications of citizen participation, both as a concept and as a decision making technique. This idea is supported by Bolan in his following comment:
"No matter how we improve our substantive knowledge of how cities function, and no matter how we improve our capabilities in information handling, operations research and prediction, if there is not a corollary development of the community's capacity for improved decision making within the framework of democratic processes, there is the real
possibility that heavy investment in the current form of
city planning technique will have been in vain."
Citizen participation is a means to an end. It is a
series of strategies for bringing about the achievement of
organizational objectives. Each strategy is defined in
terms of specific objectives (to inform the public, to
solicit input, to develop policy, to implement, to review
and evaluate) throughout the planning process continuum.
These objectives will be determined by the planning agency
with regards to the various stages of community development.
Because planning operates through formal organizations, any
strategy will be influenced by organizational demands.
Thus, the relevancy of a strategy depends both on an
organizations' ability to fulfill the requirements necessary
for the strategy's effectiveness, and on the adaptability of
the strategy to an organizational environment. It should
be emphasized that the strategy of citizen participation will determine the structural role of citizens in the planning process.
THEORIES OF PUBLIC PARTICIPATION
The study of public participation must be addressed within the context of a democratic or representative form of government. In defining the concept of participation,
attention has been focused on a number of emotional
(sympathy, challenge or frustration) as well as political (rational, majority control) themes. In order to unite the two themes into a meaningful philosophical base we must review some basic tenents of democracy and participation.
Though the term democracy has suffered from a lack of concise meaning, over the years it has been interpreted as "government by consent", "majority rule", "government in the public interest", or "representative government". The following section reviews the major contribution toward defining democracy and the development of public participation.
The Athenian Experience
The term democracy was coined by the Greek Herodotus
its meaning, the people to rule. The essential features
were: equality before the law, popular deliberation and
concensus and public accountability. The Athenian
experiment is usually referred to as direct democracy where each citizen has an equal opportunity and right to participate in the governing process which included the assembly, the council and the courts.
Contemporary theory focuses on what Almond and Verba
call "participant political culture." This model, as
defined, is "one in which the members of society tend to be
oriented to the system as a whole and to both the political
and administrative structures and processes and tend to
assume a self activist role in the polity". Almond and
verba consider the "participant political culture to be the
closest to the spirit and purpose of classical democracy
because of the overt willingness of some sectors of the
community to accept whatever opportunities are offered by
the formal decision makers to promote and foster peaceful
and responsible change. Such levels of activity are
considered by them to be the norm of citizenship.
Lipset has pointed out that citizen participation can be viewed from two opposing perspectives. Will the results from participation cause greater social consensus or cleavage? He questions at what point and under what conditions can a society have sufficient participation to maintain the democratic system without introducing sources of cleavage that would undermine the sense of cohesion.^ on the continuum of democratic decision making there is probably no single point at which participation is consistently required, expected or meaningful, so there may be some validity in the assumption that increased levels of participation may be indicative of a breakdown in social cohesion and democratic processes.
D.F. Thompson defined citizenship based on a sense of
activism (political influence based on discussion,
. . . . 31
participation, voting and equality). He believes that
citizens are the best judges of their own interests and that
once informed and educated, citizens can make better
decisions. The implication here is that the elected
representative and the public official are obligated to
seriously consider the options of the public. The ability
of each citizen to appreciate and then articulate his/her
own needs, beliefs, values and interests is the crucial
factor behind Thompson's concept of citizen participation in
community decision making.
According to Marxist theory, political activity is the universal right and duty of every citizen (these ideas were derived from Hegel's Philosophy of Right and Rousseau's The social Contract.) Once active, citizen involvement is derived from a percieved need to redress imbalances in the prevailing power struggle (to educate the masses to a level of competant and responsible action). Once this balance is achieved, there is a redirection of purpose away from the socio-political concerns of individual welfare toward a greater awareness of the need for change in the power
structure. Marx was mindful of the task of educating the masses but expressed faith in their ability and desire to learn using suitable techniques and tools to achieve meaningful levels of responsible, competant and progressive participation.
There are two fundamental assumptions governing the
concept of elitism: first is that society as a whole is
inherently politically naive, incompetant and apathetic; and
second, that the public is either passive, inert and pliable
or volatile, unruly and possessed of an insatiable proclivity
to undermine government, liberty and culture. To overcome
these difficulties caused by the complex interaction of these descriptive symptoms, the elitist theory proposes the need for a creative, ruling elite.
Elitist theory shares a sympathy with democratic principles and should be viewed as a derivative of democracy. The very nature of modern society and the complicated institutional processes which have been developed to manage its affairs, would seem to demand a decision making system that required cooperative participation from both elites and the masses, sharing interrelated responsibilities. This view seems to prevail today with the emphasis placed on
maintaining stability and the execution of liberal and constitutional processes; maintaining political vitality through competion among elites; requiring public accountability through periodic elections and, where opportunities exist, for access to the decision making elites by those individuals or groups that care to articulate their opinions and ideas.
Within the general theory of elitism there coexist
significant differences in the interpretation of qualitative
and opportunistic prerequisites for the attainment of elite 3 4
status. The inherent and assumed criteria for membership
in the elite include political skill, organizational skill, leadership ability and personal charisma interacting with others who have similar characteristics in order to preserve the dominance of the elite while perpetuating and increasing their control over the masses. This can be seen from the point of view that elites control access to power resources; money, information and natural resources, which inhibits the masses from asserting themselves.
This interpretation of elitism, by default of popular expression, has universal application. As the citizen exercises his option to assume less responsibility he then delegates that authority and is then in turn manipulated by those he has entrusted decision making powers to. McLuhan has stated that upon the discovery of his own identity, the
individual recognizes his lack of political experience and skill and the lack of a strong argument, he retreats into an
environment of interest as opposed to one of active
. . . . 35
Bahm has stated the real problem facing society concerning the attempt to rationally consider the participation process:
"Not everyone is equally qualified to decide intelligently upon all issues. Individual differences exist, in certain respects, all men are equal and have equally inalienable rights. But in certain other respects they differ, and although it may be possible and desirable to reduce those differences, there are limits beyond which we cannot go. But that a man has a right, much less a duty, to decide upon a public policy which he cannot understand must be challenged. If the soundness of legislation rests upon understanding the issues involved, then achievement of such understanding should be the criteria for achieving legislatorship rather than any other irrelevant characteristic."^
Public Participation in the United States
American democracy was founded on the principles of limited governmental authority and formal public accountability. These principles have provided the basis for the contemporary movement of greater citizen involvement in the governmental decision making process. This movement represents the fundamental objective of democratic government, to insure that public policies correspond closely with the needs and preferences of society and to prevent government from exceeding its authority.
Essential to any democracy is the governments' responsiveness to the desires of its citizens and a respect for their rights. If these are violated, the democratic process breaks down and gives way to authoritarian rule.
The historical origin of citizen involvement is often overlooked or misunderstood. Today's interpretation, due to a lack of positive legislative direction and philosophical appreciation, has seen bureaucrats define public participation in terms of their own priorities. Commonly sited reasons include such goals as "expanding public support", "mobilizing a constituency to implement the plan", or "improving information gathering". These reasons fail
to recognize the primary importance of citizen involvement
to improve responsiveness and accountability of decisions
affecting the public.
The early struggle for greater popular control over government is characterized by two complimentary themes. Traditionally, political reform groups have sought to expand the scope of the electoral system by making more officials subject to election and by extending voters' rights to previously disenfranchised groups (blacks and women). Secondly, they have tried to increase the opportunities for direct intervention and influence in the decision making process. The New England town meeting was an early experience that provided the foundation for present day citizen involvement. Contemporary America has grown more complex and in the process has extended policy discretion to many non-elected officials and administrators. In response, reformers have attempted to enlarge the public's opportunity for input.
The initial focus of the movement for more direct citizen involvement was in extending greater popular control over legislative and administrative action. This was in response to the corruption that infested state and local governments (political machines of the late 19th and early 20th century). Among the approaches used by reformers were initiatives, referendum and recall. These strategies were
usually applied in specific cases where policies or politicians were brought into question.
The Federal Administrative Procedure Act of 1946 gave the public its first opportunities for general participation. It allowed citizens to seek judicial relief when agencies failed to comply with minimum standards of openness in the decision making process. It established new ground in the enforcement of public access and bureaucratic accountability. It authorized mandatory public comment and review hearings on proposed regulations. By the mid 1960s, most states had adopted similar acts of their own.
The Freedom of Information Act (1966) and the National Environmental Policy Act (1970) were subsequent attempts to broaden new information and accountability obligations for agencies and made these rights legally enforceable by the individual citizen.
States have enacted various sunshine laws requiring open meetings of state agencies. Some states have amended their constitutions to provide for citizen involvement in all government operations.
Open meetings, public notification and public hearings in and of themselves do not guarantee popular control or guidance. These procedural formalities are passive in
nature and may not always produce positive change. As a result, there has been some effort at generating more affirmative legislation directed at soliciting public input prior to the decision making process.
Recently, a number of programs have been established to facilitate public input. The Alternative for Washington, Goals for Dallas, Hawaii 2000, and Colorado's Front Range Project all were created to help focus citizen involvement in addressing those issues and problems soon to be faced by those regions. These programs brought together professionals from business and government along with citizens in an attempt to discuss alternative strategies for future development.
These are five main objectives for citizen participation:
information exchange -- the sharing of ideas between people.
Education -- the informing of people on how the details of what the program is, why it is being done, how it will be implemented, who will be affected and when it will take place.
Support or coalition building creating a favorable environment for the success of the project.
Decision making supplement To allow citizens to express their opinions, ideas and concerns.
Representational input to spell out responsibilities 3 8
The techniques for achieving those objectives include:
1. Drop in centers for informal discussions
2. Neighborhood meetings
3. Citizen Task Forces
Decision Making Supplement
1. Analysis of Values
2. Nominal groups
1. Legislative mandate
2. Social contract
All of these techniques can be facilitated through the use of electronic communications. Where direct personal contact can not be possible, the electronic extension of these methods of citizen participation can be effective in conveying the message desired. With the advent of interactive television, two way communication can take place thereby facilitating survey and poll taking.
Citizen Education in the Planning Process
What is the purpose of educating the public about the planning process? At what stage should information be made available? How should it be conducted and by whom? These questions need to be answered if public participation is going to be meaningful and effective.
In a report published in 1951 for an AIP subcommittee entitled "Civic Education in Planning," Arthur McVoy had this to say:
"The concept which underlies this report is that planning in this country must be consistent with the democratic process; plans must reflect the goals held by the people of a community, the people must share in the preparation of the plans, and plans must be carried out by the expressed will of the people.
There is not much point in a program of civic education
for urban planning if the people are not to participate in
the process of planning. it is to enable the people of a
community to participate intelligently in the planning
process which must prompt the professional planner to help
develop and carry forward a program of public education.
The planner holds a key position in an educational program
by virtue of this study and knowledge of the facts upon
which intelligent planning must be based and his skill in
working out planning solutions for the community's 39
in an article prepared for the Journal of the American institute of Planners in 1965, planning consultant Carol Aronovici commented:
"If we are to define democracy as the directive knowledge and imagination of the masses in determining their own destiny through the organization of their institutions for services and controlling it must be assumed that these masses must be aware of the direction which their lives and that of their society can and should take...
"It is only through education that we shall find the way to restore to the people the initiative, the leadership, the enlightened cooperative and imaginative effort which is
inherent in democracy
The AIP Subcommittee found that citizen education and
citizen participation must go hand in hand, and they must be
based on a "two-way flow of education between the
professional and the layman." This is intended to
promote and improve the quality of citizen participation in the planning process as opposed to merely selling the plans (education as a function of public relations).
In describing the purpose and benefit of citizen education, Aronivici states:
"It is the task of the planner to keep the balance between what is technically possible and what is humanly desirable. An enlightened people can more readily formulate the ideals of community life than the most skilled technician...The more intellectually articulate the mass of
people is, the most responsive it becomes to those forces of
, 4 2
As discussed in an article by Robert Daland and John Parker, the purpose of the educational role is described as "promoting the understanding of planning among nonleaders
who do not participate directly in the decision process." This is, in essence, the goal that electronic communication can hope to achieve by providing exposure to those not normally involved.
CHAPTER III TECHNIQUES OF CITIZEN PARTICIPATION
This chapter will focus on the means for participation (how citizens can get involved) by examining those thechniques listed on the vertical axis of the provided matrix.* Each technique represents a different set of needs and goals. Since there are many factors affecting the success and results of these techniques, it is therefore necessary to define the purpose of the technique, the players, involved, the timeframe for implementation, the cost of conduct and the possibilities for combining some of the techniques.
What makes citizen participation possible?
in essence, "citizen participation programs are best
founded on the development of suitable means to facilitate
the communication and exhange of ideas, opinions and
attitudes and the evolution of a consensus, a policy or plan
in a situation of mutual trust between participants". The
degree of attainable citizen participation is largely
determined by the citizenship skills of the aspiring
participant and the receptiveness of the governing body to
an extension of the democratic ethic beyond the confines of
the council chamber.
"Based on the matrix developed by Hester & Smith in Community Goal Setting.
CITIZEN PARTICIPATION TECHNIQUES
Public Meetings Public Hearings Information Documentation
Neighborhood Meetings Community Forums
Distributed Questionnaire Personal Interview Telephone Interview Referendum
Task Force/Ad Hoc Committee
EDUCATIONAL PROCESS: workshops Groups Dynamics Nominal Group
Citizen Advisory Committee
SKILL SUPPLEMENTED: Advocacy
Technical Assistance Plural Goal Setting
There are varying levels of commitment and involvement in the participation process. Each succeeding level builds upon the ahcievments and shortfalls of the preceeding effort. In some instances participation is a one time event with a passive, one-way flow of non-action oriented information while at other times it can be a long drawn out affair involving extended dialouge and numerous decisions. The following techniques are listed and explained in groups according to level of involvement and place in the planning process continuum.
What are the conventional means of participation?
Typically, these techniques have a low impact on the decision making process. They tend to be one-way information gathering exercies which are low cost, make little demand on the time of decision makers, and are the minimum expected by the public. These techniques are most often considered forms of public relations that are used in conjunction with community goals identification or clarification. They include:
Public Meetings -- Designed to present a one-way flow of information about public goals and policy from elected officials. They usually take one of two forms; either they are an open invitation to the public as a means of exposing
citizens to the intentions of the elected officials or they
are closed to selected members of the identified interest 46
Due to the usually unrepresentative nature of those attending (mostly well organized and articulate members of the community), meetings seldom are capable of achieving any meaningful level of consensus. This can be minimized if officials are willing to allow some discussion and feedback. Because of the low turnouts for these meetings any findings should not be considered the end to all discussions. These meetings must be followed up by a more structured and in-depth series of hearings.
Public Hearings -- A more formally structured (specific procedural rules) event usually in response to an official mandate (compliance with federal law) that follows closely to the public meetings. These events are publicized well in advance and allow citizens to respond to a specific agenda. Very often they suffer the same shortcoming of the public meeting in that there is little public input and the participants are not totally representative of the community at large.
Information Documentation The publication of leaflets, reports or brochures that constitutes an agency's major publicity effort. They are published weekly, monthly, quarterly or annually and can include updated findings from
surveys or other reports. Due to the costs involved each publication is designed to serve a particular purpose and inform a specific group. The publications can be technical in content but are usually written in a narrative prose style so they can be understood by the general lay public. Costs include research, writing, layout, printing and distribution.
Open Process Techniques
Neighborhood Meetings -- Used to generate ideas about neighborhood improvements or to react to plans that might affect neighborhood improvement. At this geographic level, citizens tend to have a greater sense of awareness and interest that makes participation more meaningful and relevant. These meetings tend to be in response to the public meetings.
Community Forums -- These gatherings are organized and chaired by a community organization, civic group or an association such as the League of Women Voters, the P.T.A. or a community center. The forum serves to identify community perspectives and goals. They have been used extensively in political campaigns and civic education programs.
These are well established scientific methodologies that are forms of planned data collection. Surveys are designed to gather both subjective and objective information. Descriptive surveys gather facts through opinion polls, censuses or market studies to infer characteristics and trends of the larger population.
Surveys require professional skill in design, sampling and data analysis that reflects a clear understanding and precise awareness of what is to be investigated and to what ends. Many factors are involved in the selection of the specific survey technique: the cost to design, the ability to respond, desired return rate, cost to implement and evaluate and the instrument bias. A lack of organization or structure, imprecise wording of questions or inadequate analytical skills will render the survey findings useless.
The primary survey techniques are: distributed questionnaires, telephone surveys and personal interviews. Each involves a different set of costs (personal time) and return rate. The choice of which technique to use is based on the level of information desired, time available and the perceived willingness of the target respondents.
Surveys are a good tool to use when following up public meetings as a supplemental information refiner. They can confirm or refute points of contention. They are also effective when used to determine community values and goals or to test for a particular strategy under consideration.
Referendum -- A statutory technique that places alternative goals or policies before a popular vote. It is appropriate in legal and constitutional matters and has been used occasionally in land use or zoning cases. (Denver has seen this tactic used recently.) Decisions are legally binding for the community.
Focused Process Techniques
These techniques differ from those previously explained in that they are not designed to involve mass participation but rather a more select group of participants. They involve a specific agenda, a time limit and intensive participation. A high level of interpersonal communication skills in addition to a sense of urgency and importance are also required.
Charrette The Charrette is both a planning strategy and a
educational process. It is a means of developing a
community plan by achieving a working relationship between
people from within and outside the community. It
provides a learning environment that heightens the awareness
of the community to the intricacies of planning and.the problems in need of resolution.
The Charrett involves citizens, planners, business and civic representation and elected officials working together in an informal atmoshpere during a brief period of intense activity to complete the agreed upon task. There are four essential elements comprising a Charrette:
1) a problem to be solved cooperatively
2) a group of interested citizens willing to participate
3) professional experts available to assist participants in technical issues
4) a commitment from local governmental leaders to implement the resulting plans and recommendation.
One of the intended benefits is the level of support for the findings because of the dynamic nature of the participatory process. While the Charrette is not a "mass" involvement technique, it is open to public scrutiny and feedback.
There are typically four stages or phases to a Charrette:
1) Preparatory organizing the group once the decision to act has been made
2) Discovery familiarizing the participants with the assembled data and creating an atmosphere condusive to the generation and interraction of ideas, opinions and comments.
3) Consolidation -- the formation of working groups to concentrate on a particular problem arising from the previous phase. Input from experts is solicited and the findings summarized and made public.
4) Proposal Development review of public comment
concerning the working group's reports and the synthesis of
proposed solutions or alternatives as expressed through
public preference before submitting the final report to the
local governing body.
At the final conference session the total plan and implementation strategy is presented for conformation. Consensus is sought as a result of the good faith efforts of those who participated.
Delphi -- A means of combining the knowledge and abilities of a diverse group of experts and applying them to the
development of a consensus toward the production of policies
i 49 or plans.
The traditional method for arriving at a consensus
among a panel of experts is through a round table
discussion. Unfortunately, this method is susceptible to
the undue influences of psychological factors such as
dominant personalities, the effect of majority opinion,
etc. The Delphi technique was devised to overcome these
drawbacks by providing for anonymity, for controlled feedback, and for a statistical response. Participants are only known by the Delphi leader with responses not attributed to an individual. Controlled feedback is achieved by conducting several rounds of discussion in which the opinion generated previously are summarized and communicated back to the panel for use in subsequent rounds, in conclusion, the group opinion is expressed in terms of a statistical score which reflects the participants's individual opinions. (There is pressure to arrive at a consensus.)
As the technique involves a mailed questionnaire, participants are not required to be geographically close or physically present to participate. This compensates for any scheduling inconveniences regarding attendance or substitution of chosen participants with alternatives and domination of the meeting by a few.
The technique is usually conducted over four rounds.
The first is designed to solicit the broadest or most
comprehensive expression of ideas or opinions on the issues of concern through carefully worded questions. After the responses are summarized and tabulated, the participants are asked whether they agree or disagree. This second round promotes debate as a result of each participant reviewing the inventory of response. The third round is a further refinement with the final round calling for a vote and ranking of the recommendations.
This technique is useful in identifying and evaluating problems, needs, goals, priorities and alternatives. Its primary disadvantages are that is is best suited for those who express themselves well in writing and that it takes considerable effort to organize and conduct.
Task Force/Ad Hoc Committee -- Citizens are directly involved in specific tasks toward problem solving or goal setting. The committee disbands upon completion of tasks or when objectives are accomplished. This technique is used extensively for such issues as air and water quality, transportation issues, housing problems and health and human services.
Focus Groups -- A discussion among selected participants (according to specific criteria) and a facilitator. The discussion is designed to elicit ideas,
opinions and levels of knowledge about specific issues. A primary function of the group session is to gather and interpret relevant information while exposing the participants to the underlying values and issues of concern to the others. It is used to evaluate the success of a program or the effectiveness of an agency's public relations effort regarding a specific plan or project.
Educational Process Techniques
Awareness about the community is facilitated by specifically structured tasks in controlled environments.
The benefits are measured by increased citizen ability to participate on a more informed level and by the significance of their contribution. The success of this technique requires the supervision of trained professional instructors.
Workshops -- These are working sessions that engage citizens in educational discussions of issues that result in a summary report. They tend to combine factual data with goal clarification in the form of recommendations. These workshops are helpful for those who lack a more in-depth understanding of the material involved. They can be directed to the professional planner (seminars) or they lay citizen. Workshops are considered a supplement to coursework
one could take at a university or trade school
Group Dynamics -- These techniques help identify personal values and the patterns of interactions among community interest groups. They help establish the motives behind an individual's desire to participate. Brainstorming is one example of generating community goals through a free-flowing dialouge that is not hindered by conventional standards of acceptance. Evaluation is considered after the sessions.
Nominal Group -- The purposes of the Nominal Group is
to achieve a high degree of innovation and creativity in the
identification of strategic problems and the development of
appropriate solutions.51 By definition, it is a situation
where individuals work in the presence of others but do not
interact; by structuring a discussion in which all members
participate and are committed to results; and where the
central purpose of the group is maintained. Verbal
skills are not essential and the relative status of the participant is minimized. It is intended to generate ideas followed by discussion and evaluation. The end result desired is an agreement or consensus on the issues and their potential solution and acceptance.
There are seven stages in a Nominal Group method:
1) identification of the problem or crucial issues to be considered
2) independent consideration of the stated problems through written response
3) listing of ideas through brainstorming
4) discussion of ideas by debate and advocacy
5) ranking of ideas as a result of discussion
6) further discussion
7) final ranking
Considerable care is required in preparing the event and the flow of conversation must be skillfully guided to maximize results.
Structure of organization is formal with regular and continuous responsibilities for the representatives. This technique requires the willingness of skilled people to serve. Participants at this level are either elected or appointed to a term of fixed duration.
Citizen Advisory Committee A group of citizen called together by a community agency to represent the ideas and attitudes of their community. The committee should be representative of the community, be fully independent of the sponsoring agency and serve as an information resource center.
Skill Supplemented Techniques
Places a high dependency on skilled advocates, technical consultants or coordinators. Communications are value laden and flow from the citizens to the skilled specialist, who then advances the refined statement. Techniques can be adapted for both long and short range goals.
Advocacy In this technique, an individual or group presents its goals by argument. Typically, community advocacy operates outside the formal decision making
structure and attempts to shape policy through constituency pressure. This technique provides an opportunity for minority interests to be raised and is effective in promoting neighborhood concerns.
Technical Assistance Provides qualified professional assistance to citizens enabling them to participate on a
more informed basis regarding technical aspects of the goal setting or decision making process. Without it, lay citizens may not be able to obtain and utilize data that can withstand the challenge of the oppostion. If assistance can not be made available on a direct cost basis (the lack of community funds), arrangements can be made through state agency volunteers or with local university personnel.
Plural Goal Setting -- A technique where identified interest groups are given resources and technical support to develop goals independently. It allows individuals to work through some of the obstacles to their goal statement before submitting to community debate. It can sometimes lead to a duplication of effort but does provide for a review of minority interests.
Mediated Action Techniques
These techniques are formalized arrangements that involve two-way communication. The focus is on immediate needs or short term conflict management. They are relatively inexpensive and function best as a response technique.
Arbitration Enables the individual or group to resolve their conflict over goals or policy through the assistance of a neutral third party. If no compromise
decision can be reached, it is up to the mediator to make a decision. If one of the parties is unhappy, he can take his case to the courts and appeal to their judgement.
Hotline Functions as an answering service. It becomes an instrument of goal setting when the calls are logged and analyzed. This technique can be used in conjunction with or separate from a centralized community drop-in center.
The means of participation described in this chapter do not purport to be anything other than a sample of those techniques presently available or capable of future adaptation consequent upon a number of improvements in the educational status of the public and in communication technologies.
Chapter IV COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGY
This chapter will explain the uses of those communication technologies listed along the horizontal axis of the matrix provided in the preceeding chapter.
The technologies listed do not represent the entire array presently being developed but rather those that are readily available to most communiities. The technologies are divided up into groups depending on the format used (visual pictures vs. electronically printed text) and the medium it is transmitted through (television vs. computer). Each technology will be described and some examples of its applicability to the planning process will be included.
Television delivers one-way video messages to accomplish one-to-many visual communication. A real-time medium that transmits a continuous stream of information as it is generated, television extends the public audio-visual space over great distances to many people performing an informational/educational function that demands attention.
Cable (narrow-cast) and Interactive (two-way)
Cable and interactive are the same as broadcast except that programming can be tailored or delivered to specific audiences with feedback now being possible (Qube system now available through Warner Cable). Viewers can communicate simultaneously with program transmission enabling program sponsors (politicians, businessmen, educators) the opportunity to determine public awareness, interest and concern on issues of importance to the community. Viewers now have the ability to react and offer input in the privacy and convenience of their homes. (It has been demonstrated in the Columbus, Ohio system that certain aspects of public participation have been enhanced, chiefly the public's level of awareness and interest.)
What Has and Is Being Done
informational Uses for Municipalities
New York City has the most developed program for utilizing telecommunications resources in conjunction with planning activities. New York's Department of City planning, in cooperation with Channel L, an interactive municipal cable channel, produces programs concerning planning issues. They reach 157,000 homes in Manhattan.
Their programming has included the Regional Planning Commission's (New York, New Jersey and Connecticut) Project Metrolink, which is an inventory of all the telecommunication resources in the tri-state region. This project involves the experimental creation of a network or series of networks specializing in local and regional informational programming services.
Channel L is interconnected over both of Manhattan's cable systems. It is reserved for use by the city's agencies, elected officials, non-profit civic organizations and a new form of citizen participation "Community Boards". The 59 community boards, each of which review land use plans and budget proposals for their geographic districts, forward comments and recommendations to the Department of City Planning.
Programs on the community board use a live interview and phone-in format. Short introductory presentations (minidocumentaries) of films, slides or videotapes are used to initiate the discussion. Maps, models, and other graphics are used to supplement the discussion.
Another innovation is the "Community Bulletin Board", a 30 minute play of electronic text messages listing mostly
meeting notices and cultural events. The messages are both visually and aurally presented, (this allows the deaf to see and the blind to hear).
By linking up with the Instructional Television Fixed Service (ITFS), Channel L will be able to extend it's services to the non-cabled burroughs in New York City. It also plans to have the local Public Broadcasting Network air its programs to those areas outside the greater New York City metropolitan area.
In addition to its Community Bulletin Board and Community Board programs, Channel L also provides programming on review of legislative and regulatory proposals (phone-in comments), designing city policy (helping citizens develop policy guidelines), and an electronic forum (political candidates discuss issues).
Channel L has produced a number of videotapes dealing with planning related issues. Among them are:
"Westway" a look at the controversial West Side transportation redevelopment project;
"Manhattan-at-Large" the topics include public ownership of electric power, parks/open space, mass transit, rent control, energy conservation, housing and co-op conversions;
"Transportation, Clean Air and You" a look at the causes of air pollution and the alternatives for correcting it;
"Is there a New Master Builder?" a roundtable discussion on the autobiography of Robert Moses, The Power Broker;
"Loft Conversion: What's to be Done?" a discussion on the rights of loft owners;
"Are Bicycles an Alternative?" a look at the potential for using more bicycles;
"Brooklyn Before the Bridge" a discussion to accompany a special exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum;
"Public Building Air Rights Should They Be Sold?" a discussion on transfer of development rights;
"Transportation for the Handicapped" -- the rights of the handicapped to the public transit;
"Urban Noise Pollution : Is there a Soultion?";
"The Upper West Side: An Historic Post" a story on landmark preservation and architectural preservation;
"The Return of the Trolly" a look at a proposed light rail vehicle system.
In addition, the Department of City Planning has sponsored ten of its own programs convering such issues as:
208 Water Quality Planning
Community Development/Neighborhood Restoration
The History and Legal Basis for Zoning.
Other programs developed by citizens include such topics as: sidewalk cafes, Central Park, Roosevelt Island New Town and air rights.
In Lawrence, Kansas the planning department, seeking to broaden citizen participation, requested time on the local cable's public access channel. A call-in program was aired to allow citizens' comments on the proposed comprehensive development plan for the downtown area. Response was outstanding and has resulted in a weekly program discussing other issues.
The cable channel is also broadcasting live City Council meetings (the most popular use of cable TV to date for local access use). Information is now transferred to
slides and projected into the viewer's home.
Fort Collins, Colorado has produced a series of programs for local access channels. In addition to the City Council meetings, they have done programs on the Poudre River recreation area and the Horsetooth Reservoir. The City has s small production staff to do the video-taping. This helps to keep costs down.
In College Station, Texas an experiment was conducted to determine the effectiveness of citizen participation. Research was done to see how many people were aware of the new comprehensive plan. It was found that the television stations serving the area had reached a large number of viewers with information about the plan. More people became involved in the hearings as a result of the broadcast.
Reading, Pennsylvania has led the nation in the use of interactive cable television. The city, through its cable system (Berks Cable TV), has developed programming that focuses upon community issues. It provides access to all
groups interested in information outreach. They include seniors, hospitals, businesses, government and religious organizations. The schools are also connected to the system so they can be part of the exchange. Citizens are given opportunities to present themselves and their interests or skills to the rest of the community. Instructional services are made possible by professionals volunteering their time. The community is brought together through cable television.
St. Charles, Missouri is one of three municipalities served by one cable system in an area northwest of St. Louis. Each city has its own production equipment, its own channel and is responsible for local programming which extends beyond purely municipal programming.
St. Charles' Channel 26 "City Access" is filled 24 hours per day, seven days per week with both alphanumeric information and original video productions (averaging ten hours per week). Regular video features include gavel-to-gavel coverage of weekly City Council meetings and Board of Adjustment meetings. A regular monthly news magazine show "St. Charles Aye" highlights community activities. The program has covered a new fire station dedication, the annual Fourth of July Riverfront Celebration, bond issues and the Festival of Little Hills, a major event in St. Charles County.
Alphanumeric programming is generated regularly from various city departments and includes any emergency announcements of interest to the community. For example, when flooding was a problem in the spring of 1983, the channel carried continuous updates of which streets were flooded and impassible. Regular information includes the Channel 26 program schedule and community announcements such as requests for volunteers for a senior citizen center.
Half of the information presented on Channel 26 is programmed by the Missouri Job Service with job listings.
The budget for the city channel's operation (approximately $34,000) is derived from the 3% franshise fee collected by the city from the cable company. Some of the fee collected is used for cable administration, but it primarily covers the costs of production, such as salaries and wages.
Kalamazoo, Michigan's Community Access Center serves municipal, public and education access users for the city (population: 79,000) and six surrounding communities served by the same system, totalling 150,000 residents. The Center opened in March 1983, about the same time that system construction was completed. The Center produces programs,
trains city employees and community members in video production, cablecasts programs and works with the city-appointed Citizen Advisory Commission.
Other government programs have provided bond issue and millage information to the general public. Public hearings are also cablecast. Special programs produced have included information on a railroad consolidation issue, coverage of the annual Wine and Harvest Festival parade and a program with the Mayor upon his return from Kalamazoo's sister city in Japan. Since March 1983, programs have been cablecast
at selected times of the same channel which carries the CBS affiliate. By October 1983, four full-time channels were to have been dedicated to community programming.
The Center and other community sources will program an automated channel. Plans for the channel include City Commission meeting highlights, schedule changes and snow emergency information. The Chamber of Commerce will program a community calendar, the arts council will program an arts calendar and the schools will print out information on a weekly and emergency basis, such as school bus delays and school closings.
Two percent of the company's gross revenues (approximately $37,500 for 1983) collected by the City of Kalamazoo are dedicated to the Center's operations. In
addition, some $30,000 from another 3% of of gross revenues collected by the city goes to the Center. For the 1983 and 1984 operating years, the Center also receives $10,000 per year directly from the cable company, plus a reimbursement of up to $25,000 should operating costs exceed the Center budget. Discussions of contributions to the Center from adjoining cities are now underway.
One of the more established municipal programming operations in the country is in Madison, Wisconsin (population: 173,000). Since 1975, the city has been producing and cablecasting video programs and character generated information. The operation has been part of different city departments over the years and is currently in the Department of Administration.
Cable Channel 12 is programmed by CitiCable 24 hours per day with approximately seven hours of video programs. Regular video features include gavel-to-gavel coverage of City Council, County Board of Supervisors, Board of Education, Public Health Commission and Cable TV Regulatory Board meetings and selected public hearings. A live program focuses on issues before the City Council and features Council members, the Mayor, department heads, or community leaders who respond to calls phoned in by viewers.
"Jobline", which cablecasts employment opportunities, is a
cooperative effort of city, county and state personnel offices. Programming for the hearing impaired is regularly shown on Channel 12. CitiCable also carries local election coverage. Some in-house training for fire fighters is produced by CitiCable and fire department staff. Informational programs by various city departments such as public safety, public health or those dealing with new ordinances, are also part of the schedule.
CitiCable operates on an annual budget of 5120,000 which includes a direct contribution from the cable company and monies from the general fund. The City of Madison is in the process of applying for a waiver from the FCC to enable it to collect 5% rather than 3% of the cable company's gross revenues.
The village management of Downers Grove, Illinois (population 43,000) designed its access structure so that all access programming is combined on one channel. A municipal employee has been responsible for overseeing municipal and public access programming since December,
1981, one and one-half years after the franchise was granted by the village. The same employee is also responsible for franchise enforcement and regulation, working with a Cable
TV Coordinating Committee.
Locally produced municipal programming is cablecast approximately ten hours per week and includes:
coverage of Village Council meetings;
"Village Hall", a documentary type program profiling village departments;
"Local Edition", a talk show which encourages interaction between village policy-makers and viewers;
"Story Time" for elementary age children, produced in cooperation with the public library; and
"Growing Up" a series begun with the Health and Human Resources Department, which features junior and senior high school students voicing opinions about government and other issues.
Other programs produced by the village include: "Village News Digest", a 15-minute news program, "Community Corner", a capsule of community organization events, "Investment Insite", financial information from a local broker, "From the CoffeeHouse", covering entertainment from a coffeehouse run by local churches, and "Around About", a
local arts program
wnen Channel 29 is not cablecasting video programs, character-generated messages are displayed. A recent reading of a day's information included notifications of library board and zoning commission meetings, notice of a puppet show, a request for soccer coaches, a list of films shown at the Forest Reserve, a notice for volunteers needed to help senior citizens and a notice that schoolboard candidates are needed.
Two surveys have been taken to determine subscriber reaction to Channel 20 and to find out what other programs are of interest to them. A survey taken in June 1982 showed that 60% of cable subscribers watch more than one program on the channel per week. Of these, there was an 80-85% level of satisfaction. A second survey taken in April 1983 showed that 60% of cable subscribers watched an average of 1.75 programs per week on the channel. "Story Time" and coverage of the Village Council meetings were the most-watched programs.
Media Based Balloting
In the last decade, planners have begun to experiment with an ambitious and elaborate mass-media based polling tool for generating involvement in regional decision making. The technique couples a focused information campaign with a mechanism for the audience to cast advisory votes on issues under consideration. Linking elements of media campaigns, panel and audience surveys, and public meetings, it attempts to combine persurasive communication, opinion measurement and audience mobilization. Proponents of the technique claim it can significantly increase public participation in the planning process by educating the masses and then relaying their "informed" opinions to the policy and decision makers.5^
Since 1973, over 25 regional planning related media balloting projects have been attempted in the U.S.
Sponsors have been primarily governmental agencies, citizen groups and regional development organizations with media outlets often donating production resources and broadcast time (this has been an extension of the network public affairs programming that has spread to cable televsion in its expanded form).
This media balloting technique continues to be attractive to policy planning organizations that seek to provide information on policy options to a mass audience while simultaneously generating data on the public's
reactions. Recent developments in two way interactive cable television and computer technology make instant "electronic referenda" possible at minimal cost with no discernable time lag between between balloting and tabulation.
Orton has postulated four assumptions underlying the attractiveness of media balloting. They are:
1) large segments of the mass media audience will participate;
2) the ballot results will represent a self-selected, interested and informed subgroup that will have more poliitcal impact than typical opinion surveys;
3) the participating ballot will engender greater learning and attitude change; and
4) organized viewing and discussion groups will be
more politically motivated.
Questions concerning audience size, policy options available, effectiveness of the survey (the format and responsiveness) have still to be researched and answered.
Much of the more recent use of media balloting has focused on providing a mechanism for involving the general
public in policy decisions concerning regional planning and
development issues. The trend began in 1963 with "Goals for
the Region", a project sponsored by New York's Regional Plan
Association. The RPA produced a series of five half hour
programs on regional development alternatives. An estimated
85,000 viewers watched the programs. The project was widely
publicized and an article in the Journal of the American
institute of Planners praised it. In a similiar
attempt, "Goals for Dallas" utilized the same techniques in achieving national recognition for Dallas.
The project that really launched media balloting was
the "Choice for '76", an updated version of the RPA's "Goals
for the Region". This project involved a series of six hour
long films broadcasted in the tri-state region. Ballots
were printed and distributed through the newspapers and were
mailed back after the programs were aired. Of the estimated
three million viewers who saw at least one of the programs,
47,500 ballots were received after the first show with later
programs generating somewhat less response.
Though it fell short of its desired level of response, "Choices for '76" did manage to interest many citizens in regional planning issues and stimulate interest among planning agencies in the media balloting technique. As a result, projects were initiated in Milwaukee ("River Town
Meeting"), Atlanta ("Framework ("People Planning"), Detroit (" of Oregon ("Bend in the River") Carolina Tomorrow") and Alaska
for the Future"), Roanoke Regional Choices"), the state North Carolina ("North ("Alaska Public Forum").
Examination of the programmatic goals of these projects
revealed that the educational and public information
functions were the most prominent, with audience persuation
on specific issues a strong element in many. Citizen
participation in the policy decisions and the generation of audience opinion data were usually secondary considerations, although the opportunity to combine persuasion with a feedback mechanism was almost always the determining factor
in an organization's decision to sponsor a media balloting
Data on demographic characteristisc of media balloting participants is available on eight of those projects surveyed. Moderate skews toward higher levels of income, education and age were most common. These findings partially undercut arguments that response from self-selected participants makes media balloting unrepresentative of the general population.^
Evidence of the influence of media ballot results on actual policy related decisions is somewhat limited.
Specific policy related impacts could only be identified for
about one third of the projects surveyed. More data is needed to accurately evaluate and gauge the overall effectiveness of this technique.
A one-way, non-interactive medium transmitting information via regular or cable television utilizing the unused scanning lines (VBI vertical blanking interval) of all broadcast signals through a modified television receiver. Use of the VBI limits the amount of information that can be captured by the user, since the entire number of information frames must be sequentially broadcast over a fixed period of time. The service is often described as an electronic magazine or newspaper.
A commercial teletext system has as yet to be introduced in the U.S. In Europe, a number of similiar systems (CEEFAX, ORACLE, Antiope) have been developed to offer a wide variety of continuous brief items (shopping guides, entertainment guides, community activities, weather, sports, airline and train schedules). Viewers can select areas of interst from a menu of general categories.
Specific data can be requested using a more detailed
sequence of digits accessed through a keypad connected to the television set.
These systems are being designed to provide low-cost information services that can be updated and supplemented on a regular basis. Its applications for planning could involve public notices or announcements or capsules of public meetings.
Technical Definition: A two-way, interactive medium linking computer data bases with television monitors to accomplish information retrieval and display. Viewdata uses local information processing (central computer) and a remote data base accessible through the public telephone network. Pages of information are stored in the data base and area accessed through a search protocol that allows the user to scan the information to increasing levels of detail. Since the data bases can store enormous amounts of data, the medium is often considered an electronic encyclopedia.
Videotext is a new word for a new form of mass
communcations. It is the first fusion of recent electronic technologies, but many more innovations are on their way.
Videotext can be a planning tool, and it is certainly a fit subject for planner's scrutiny but it may be more important in how it changes the way we think about information.
A host computer is loaded up with data coded to form words and graphics. In broadcast videotext (teletext), information is imbedded in a standard television signal and is decoded with a special attachment fitted to your TV set. Videotext also can be transmitted by telephone line or by cable television, allowing two-way interaction with the host computer.
Two generally accepted families of videotext operations now exist: private or internal systems for one organization or facility, usually with a maximum of 24 "ports" of user connections and public videotext systems open to anyone and featuring complex issues.
in Britain, some 950 companies and government agencies offer information, advertising, and teleshopping services including news, weather, sports and stock reports; hotel
restaurant, and theater reservations; banking transactions; and educational or "how to" services.
in Canada, the "menu" of public videotext services includes agricultural information for farmers and tourist information keyed to public transportation. Public transit schedules are a prime public sector videotext offering that all planning agencies may one day be asked to design or evaluate.
Its application to the planning process would allow for detailed information requests to supplement local research on issues such as air and water quality, housing, transportation, or social issues.
The only systems available to the U.S. are The Source and CompuServe. These systems offer extensive data bases on hundreds of subjects that would assist citizens in researching options and alternative strategies. Both services require a substantial up-front investment so their availability is still limited for most Americans.
Like teletext, videotext can be updated instantanteouly with information retrieval taking only a matter of minutes, users can request any number of reports, studies, minutes of meetings or background information on any number of subjects. It is envisioned that this service will enable
citizens to come prepared to participate effectively and intelligently.
Electronic Conferencing (Community Bulletin Boards, Electronic Mail)
Based on data communications, electronic conferencing allows messages to be exchanged between many people using computer terminals communicating through a common memory. Most systems also provide answering, filing, storing and forwarding services. Some systems can also handle voice messages.
The only system available is EIES (Electronic information Exchange System) which is more of an idea exchange and teleconference system. This system links over 700 people in North America and Europe. It provides the user the ability to send and receive messages, hold meetings, draft reports or articles, and eliminates travel expenses, postage, written copy and long distance phone calls.
It is envisioned that this application of technology will assist planners in establishing a series of local,
regional, national and international communications networks that are cost effective and time saving. Because of its interractive nature, it forges a link among participants that might not otherwise have an opportunity to exchange insights and information.
The technical definition of teleconferencing is an interactive electronic meeting space that provides visual as well as audio connections and the opportunity to substitute telecommunications for travel. Real time linkage is made using either telephone lines (optic fibre to allow video channel) or satellite transponders.
Teleconferencing is used in a variety of applications, but most fall into three main categories: 1) administrative, management and staff meetings; 2) continuing professional education and training; and 3) formal instruction for public school or college students.
Among the organizations surveyed, nearly 60 % of the total applications are for administrative, management and
staff meetings.61 The types of meetings vary from general, ongoing topics to more specific functions such as engineering, project reviews, marketing or particular problem solving tasks.
In the business sector, 96% of all applications are for 6 2
meetings. Only four companies report that they use
teleconferencing for continuing education or training.
Government agencies show a range of teleconferencing
applications, including 59% for meetings, 26% for continuing
education or credit course inmong theanizations surveyed use
teleconferencing for continuing professional education or
formal instruction. However, because they also tend to use
teleconferencing for other purposes, educational programs
represent about 70% of all applications in this sector. The
other 30% are staff or administrative meetings and other
functions like committee work or medical consultation.
There are a number of reasons why teleconferencing is initiated, but the survey found four dominant factors: to reduce travel costs; to reduce travel time so that employees could be more productive; to increase or improve communications; and to provide opportunities more conveniently.
Asked about the perceived effectiveness of their teleconferencing systems, 81% of the organizations gave positive or very positive responses. In general, the organizations also report positive user reaction to teleconferencing, listing benefits such as faster
communications, convenience and improved productivity. The results of the survey show a positive view of teleconferencing that implies a healthy future for the medium. In most cases, it is seen as a beneficial tool that can yield travel cost savings and other advantages. Based on their experience with teleconferencing, many organizations want to expand their systems by adding new locations and/or other capabilities, like audiographics or video.
Chapter V MATRIX ANALYSIS
This chapter will evaluate each box of the matrix to determine the potential effectiveness of each communication technology as it is adapted to techniques of citizen participation.
The analysis will be based on the feasibility of combining the two axes. Comments will be directed toward consideration of cost, timing, potential exposure and results. Each box will be evaluated with a high, medium or low ranking.
Usually the first stage of any plan, promoted by either private developers or the public planning agency, involves initial disclosure. The issues to be discussed are presented to the public during an informal meeting where citizens are made aware of what is being proposed.
Since the nature of most public meetings and hearings tends to be a one-way flow of information with little or no feedback or discussion from the public, broadcast television is well-suited to perform this function. Local network affiliates have equipment and studio facilities to
accomodate most meetings and can do remote broadcasts if necessary. Costs related to coverage are small and are paid out of the station's community affiars programming budget or daily feature news story budget.
As most meetings and hearings are held at night to promote greater audience attendence, T.V. stations may be reluctant to preempt prime time programming for fear of loosing large amounts of advertising revenue. If the issues to be presented are sufficiently important or controversial, the stations may decide that the potential viewing audience will be large enough to offset the loss of revenue.
Cable T.V. offers a more focused audience approach. Specific issues can be viewed by specific groups using community access studio facilities provided by the cable operator. With two-way interactive capabilities soon to be available, cable offers the public opportunities to contribute feedback. This would be encouraged in a controlled manner (a period of questions and answers at the end of the presentation for a limited time).
The proceedings can be recorded for later viewing and a written summary of the presentation could be made available on either teletext or videotext. These mediums are better suited for information documentation. Reports can be more widely circulated at lower cost (not as many copies need to
be published) via teletext or videotext
Electronic and teleconferencing are not useful in that they are restricted to a small number of participants and can be costly.
Though more geographical focused than the public meeting or hearing, neighborhood meetings and community forums can be effectively broadened through the use of cable T.V. While to limited in scope for broadcast television, cable can provide a narrowcast link for community residents using the Public Access Channels. Electronic conferencing can provide an interactive format for a cost effective exchange of ideas and opinions.
As surveys require respondent feedback early in the planning process, broadcast television's one-way direction would not lend itself well for sampling purposes. Cable television can be ulitized through its interactive capability. Using telephone lines or home keypads, viewers
can answer questions posed by public officials in their homes. Results can be instantaneously tabulated and reported, thereby eliminating time factors. These sessions can be formatted either as a vicarious personal interviews (through the tube) or a response period to a previously marked-out questionnaire (the public previews the questions and places answers through a teletext or videotext program). Cost for production can be sponsored by community groups.
Telephone surveys can soon be handled by voice-activated computer telesurvey systems. While many people may not enjoy responding to a computer, its ability to call many people randomly or selectively, and ask a standard survey will save money, time and reduce sampling error.
The media based balloting concept combines the referendum with the cable survey. Citizens are voting electronically to register their preferences.
As these techniques are oriented for mass information gathering, teleconferencing would present a very costly and limited alternative.
These techniques are employed at that stage in the
planning process after the public has given some general information about its feelings. In order to test the findings and qualify the assumptions, planners and developers must obtain more detailed and specific data from participants who are expert in those areas where the public has stated an interest.
The Charette, like other focused strategies, relies on the interpersonal dynamic of a group experience. The only medium that offers an approximate atmosphere is the teleconference. It enables participants to respond instantaneously in a visual and verbal manner from remote locations. This technology can make it possible for those participants selected but who can't attend due to scheduling or location conflicts to participate. Minutes of the sessions can be recorded and transmitted via teletext or videotext to other interested members of the public.
Costs of producing can be underwritten by the sponsoring organization or by the public agency responsible for community development.
Task forces can use the cable system as a forum for presenting their mission. The public can offer input through the video or teletext systems and wait for a later response. Committees organized to investigate issues related to water and air quality, mass transit, housing,
social services, education, business development or recreation can use the television medium to communicate important information to citizens. Programs can be produced by various community groups, public agencies or private corporations on these topics that are entertaining as well as educational.
The Delphi is an ideal technique for adaptation to electronic communication. As it does not involve personal contact between participants and requires a statistical response, the electronic conference or the videotext system is best suited for accomplishing this event. Any number of electronic networking systems are available at a nominal cost to users.
Focus groups rely on the group dynamic process much like the Charette. Response from the focus group can be video recorded to show more detailed physical expressions in addition to verbal responses. Focus group questions can be asked via teleconference but that is usually too expensive.
Now that citizens have been informed and queried about the plans, it is time to educate them as to the issues and alternatives available to them. The electronic medium is fast becoming a major part of our educational system. The
potential for greater awareness and better understanding has never been more opportune.
Workshops can be extended much the same way as college courses and seminars are done today over cable television, participants can also interact via teleconference or electronic conference where remote studio facilities are unavailable. The graphic capabilities of today's communication system makes it possible to offer all types of instructional services.
Video communication is an important tool in developing reaction skills in group dynamics. It provides a chance for participants to view themselves and others during an instructional, free-flowing discussion. As with public speaking, group dynamics affords participants the experience of being listened to. This experience can be instructive from the point of view that people are not always aware of their impact or influence on others and a visual record can help them to discover this.
The Nominal Group activity can be conducted via electronic conference. As this stage in the planning process looks to generate ideas on reaching consensus, the time for debate and evaluation is best handled in a more structured manner.
Once the public has been informed and educated about the plan, it is time to promote the goals as developed. Elected or appointed representatives must champion the plan and help to implement it. This is most easily through effective communication. Plans must be marketed to the public and television has always shown itself to be a valuable tool for that purpose.
The Citizen Advisory Committee is designed to promote the community's interests and serve as an information center. All forms of communication technology can be employed in this effort. Costs associated with expensive publication can be reduced using teletext or videotext while other forms of programming can be developed to foster greater community acceptance and support of local plans.
When certain issues arise that require a specific recourse of action, the communications media can provide a vital link. Valuable data can be retrieved through computer networks that supplement each interest group's level of knowledge.
Cable television provides a forum for advocacy based planning, a style of planning that occurs throughout the planning process. It serves to familiarize citizens with minority interests and areas of concern. Electronic conferencing allows for the exchange of information between members of various organizations competing for attention and influence in the decision making process. Through this interaction technical assistance is provided that ultimately facilitates plural goal setting.
When all else fails, after the plan has been introduced, discussed, evaluated, reviewed, promoted, implemented and monitored, the medium provides a means for redress. Divergent or conflicting interests can be brought together electronically for arbitration or mediation, positions can be stated and supporting information readily accessed. Again, the medium can be used to overcome distance and hostile feelings.
This analysis is but a cursory explanation of some of the possible applications and their effectiveness. As
technology improves, its capacity for being more efficient (speed, storage, memory) will bring down the cost of using it; which will in turn increase its public distribution. Additionally, as the level of sophistication increases, a greater the number of applications will be possible; which allows more freedom of choice.
Chapter VI CONCLUSIONS
planning, at best, is an intellectually calculated speculation that involves the private, public and non-profit sectors working together with citizens in a cooperative, rational and coordinated effort to organize the future. In order for this to occur in a timely and non-conflict oriented manner, effective participation facilitated by electronically supplemented communication, must be promoted.
Planning seeks to achieve an efficient, comprehensive, functional and long term social structure. In doing so, it relies on the dynamic nature of human interaction. For this reason communication is critical to the success of any plan or project.
The concept of citizen participation is now being viewed as an "emerging social technology". It is the art and science of looking ahead, getting things done and involving many for the benefit of all. It is the ability to organize and implement ideas. It is the effort made to foster creativity through objectivity.
Government has decided that citizen participation in the goal setting and decision making process should be
encouraged. It has mandated that a number of programs provide opportunities for active citizen involvement. It is hoped that this effort will improve the quality and level of agreement, acceptance and support for community or regional development plans.
The various stages of planning require differing amounts of involvement. Early in the process, citizens play a more passive role, receiving information. As the plans are discussed and refined, different forces are at work shaping the outcome. Each successive stage in the process demands a specific technique to accomplish the given task, in turn, each technique is dependent upon the skill and commitment the participants bring to the event.
Education, or the ability to process information into a format for decision making, is critical to each phase of the planning process. Without it, the public is not in a position to exercise intelligent choices or review options. Citizens must be responsible in seeking assistance from bureaucrats trained in planning and administration, while bureaucrats must take some initiative in offering aid. It is through education that citizens and communities find innovative solutions to complex problems.
If education is critical to the overall success of
citizen participation, communication is the key to education. It is the enabling factor, the means to a greater end. It is through communication that societies and cultures are developed, maintained and transformed.
With each new communication advance, comes an increase in the number of messages available to us. As this begins to happen, the real challenge facing humans shifts from "how to get it" to "what to do with it". As we move progressively toward a time when we will have instant access to all current and past information, the problems of information overload become critical. There is little doubt that this emerging era will require greater competency in identifying, organizing and utilizing relevant information in an appropriate and efficient manner.
In surveying the major changes in and additions to the communication technologies, it seems that these devices have brought about significant cultural transformations. It is true that such previous additions, as that of writing and printing, also altered various aspects of all culture significantly. All of these technological developments were and still remain consistent with and responsive to the needs of the cultural environment in which they first appeared. This is not to imply that these technologies do not have unanticipated side effects. As McLuhan has pointed out,
culture shapes communication and in turn is shaped by it
New communication technology usually increases the amount of information available in a society. But, as studies have shown, increasing the flow of information does not necessarily result in an equivalent qualitative information gain among all groups within the society.
Like other social resources, information tends to be distributed and controlled by those most capable of acquiring and utilizing it. If, on the other hand, policies are enacted to overcome some of the differences in access, these technologies' potential for reducing or eliminating advantages may help bring previously excluded members of society into the cultural mainstream (the elderly, handicapped, minorities).
For all the obvious changes in the forms of our communication, it is important to question the extent these changes have made in the quality of life. Just because we can access more information faster does not necessarily imply a qualitative improvement in our daily lives. In any given day do we actually know more as a result of these advances? Are we better organized or prepared to deal with life's problems? Are we any happier because of them?
Questions such as these serve to remind us that
communication technologies are nothing more than mere
extensions of our own human abilities and frailties. They
are only as creative as the people who design, build, and
use them. To expect communication technology to do more may
well be to misunderstand the nature of its relationship to
human behavior and cultures.
We have progressed to the point where we are surrounded by electronic devices that extend our message processing and distribution capabilities incredibly. Rapid advancements in our technologies in the recent past and those projected for the immediate future promise even more dramatic impact upon our lives.
We are moving quickly to the edge of an information revolution. Given our current level of technology, it is not difficult to imagine ourselves as an "information society" in which communication will play a central role in every facet of our personal, occupational and social life.
The telecommunications revolution (the proliferation of cable and personal computers) is being warmly embraced.
There is the perception of a technological paradise comfort, ease and convenience -- resulting from the innovative wizardry of telecommunication. Hidden in all the glamour is the lurking possibility of unanticipated side effects.
With increased amounts of information available, an accelerated ideological fragmentation in American society could take place. Basically, a breakdown in the commonly shared values, assumptions and attitudes. In the past, there were only three major networks that provided similar programming. They tended to reinforce certain lifestyles through electronic indoctrination and reinforcement. This usually led to a more homogeneous course of action. Today, that homogenity is being challenged with cable's ability to narrowcast specific programming to particular interest groups. The cultural framework designed to promote Western civilation is now being altered by the influx of information challenging those achievements.
The pervasiveness of television has begun to undermine and errode the foundation of the education establishment.
It is unlikely that these institutions can restructure themselves to compete with television in attracting attentive audiences.
Another concern related to narrowcasting is the rise of the special interest at the expense of the public interest. As their power increases, a resulting intolerance of other less visible groups may give way to forms of media discrimination. One may envision a series of networks evolving that would promote a separatist movement. Cultural
or ethnic groups may opt for autonomy thereby weakening the unity of the nation. As a result of this revolution, a new class structure may evolve. Our new society will be comprised of the informational rich and the informational poor. Access to abundant resources, the means to process that information and the ability to capitalize on it will create new disparities.
While access to greater amounts of information may make life easier, it can also heighten ones' sense of isolation. Less personal interaction and greater reliance on machines can cause widespread social passivity.
Machines may further augment the artificial technological environment. This could lead to a sense of being removed from the real world as humans experience life more vicariously. This could account for the present level of crime, violence and sexual promiscuity in society. The less interaction with nature humans have, the greater the stress and strain society will experience. Will life by nothing more than electronic excitement?
The telecommunications revolution has great potential for improving egalitarian democracy. The notion of instantaneous plebiscites appears to those seeking genuine representation. It allows individuals to participate by voting directly on those social, economic and political issues most important to them. It is viewed as the cure for political impotence and alienation. No longer will segments of the society be disenfranchised or ignored. The consequences of this development have yet to be determined. What becomes of the politician? His role as a power broker is lost and the concept of regional representation becomes obscured. Will the results of these electronic referenda be binding if only a small number of viewers vote? How will
the questions be posed? What type of response will be provided or allowed?
The real danger here is the oversimplifications of the complex issues described visually. The media-conscious politician will prey upon uninformed persons by using catchy slogans and simple solutions. The unsuspecting viewer may be misled or confused into believing what he wants to hear (political rhetoric as demagoguery) because it supports his needs.
These concerns justify some prudent forethought in
anticipation of what may be ahead. Policies should be formulated to address these undesirable consequences.
Benefits as well as costs should be shared equitably throughout society. If we are to allow the creation of "information utilities" or "information monopolies", then the responsibility for controlling and preventing abuses remains with the public. This is not to imply that an excessive regulatory bureaucracy should be created, but rather a committee of dedicated citizens representing a cross section of the community should oversee the telecommunications industry. The Cable Coordinating Committee established in Denver is a typical example of the move to give policy descretion to citizen representatives from various segments of the community.
Some Optomistic Impressions
The social structure of the
telecommunication/information society will be based on
"voluntary communities". These communities will form a
"society in which people, of their own choice, will
participate in the creation of their future".
The fundamental characteristic of such voluntary communities will be their freedom from ties to a local place. The bond that binds people together will be their
common philosophy and goals. Communities formed in this way can be described as information spaces linked by information networks.
The prophets of the industrial age, Thomas More, Robert Owen, Saint Simon and Adam Smith forsaw a society providing man with unlimited material goods that would liberate him from the drudgeries of life. Communal enterprise ( a form of social capitalism) would free the individual to pursue his own self actualization. As we moved into the electronic era, Orwell warned against the invasion of privacy by big government wired into every household. While these prophesies have fallen short, they have offered some invaluable insights.
As the 21st century approaches, the possibilities of a universally opulent society (as envisioned in Adam Smith's affluent society) are now being realized. The information (futurization) society that is emerging as a result of the computer/communications revolution will be a universal society of plenty.
If we are to assume that the information revolution