Design and implementation of a GIS-enabled online discussion forum for participatory planning

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Public participation is a process whose ultimate goal is to facilitate consensus building. To achieve this goal, there must be intensive communication and discussion among the participants who must have access to information about the matters being addressed. Recent efforts in Public Participation Geographic Information Systems (PPGIS), however, concentrate mainly on making GIS and other spatial decision-making tools available and accessible to the general public. Relatively little effort to date has been put into addressing the communication and discussion needs of participatory planning, such as facilitating the transparent exchange of ideas among the participants. Simply making such tools available and accessible cannot satisfy the communication needs during participation. In this thesis, a prototype has been designed and implemented to demonstrate that web-based GIS can be integrated with an online discussion forum to enhance communication during spatially-related discussions in participatory planning. Based on the evaluation criteria developed in this thesis, the prototype confirmed its ability to enhance communication as compared with selected major online PPGIS applications.