SoCS: Geodeliberation: Enabling Democratic Decision-Making in Local Communities Through Place-Based Deliberative Dialogues

Project: Research project

Project Details


This project seeks to discover new knowledge required to support geodeliberation in community geospatial decision-making contexts. Geodeliberation refers to democratic deliberation (within local communities) on complex and controversial geographically-defined problems and involves the use of geographical information and online, asynchronous deliberative technologies. This research addresses two key knowledge gaps. One is the lack of understanding about human information and interaction behavior while engaging online asynchronous geodeliberation, and the methodological challenges of supporting community-scale deliberation of complex geospatial problems over sustained engagements. A more formidable gap is between the desirable level of public involvement and the practical level of participation that can be supported by the current social-technical solutions. To address these gaps, the research applies an ethnographically-guided participatory research approach to: (1) identify opportunities and barriers in using geodeliberation to empower communities; and (2) investigate visual-computational methods to enable human participation and facilitation of geodeliberation processes.

This research will contribute to the foundations of a science of geodeliberation, including both an understanding of key processes and a set of design techniques for social and visual-computational support of geodeliberation. It will focus on issue-related narratives about personal experiences, sensemaking with respect to synthesizing disparate geo-planning views and issues, and the development of public judgment and common ground for mutual understanding and collective action. These research activities are integrated around a prototype - GeoDeliberator. The approach will incorporate methods from three domains: cognitively-motivated design of visual representations and interfaces; models of deliberative discourse and decision-making in communities; and active facilitation of large-scale geodeliberation towards better coherence and effectiveness.

The research addresses broader impacts of three kinds. First, this project will demonstrate the potential of using information technology to improve civic engagement in community-level. Second, the design research investigation of socio-technical support for geodeliberation will provide a concrete model for local governments across the nation. Third, this project will prepare a generation of undergraduate and graduate students with consciousness and career potentials in applying social-technical solutions in the practice of democratic decision-making.

Effective start/end date9/1/128/31/18


  • National Science Foundation: $755,797.00


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