Submap:a conceptual and physical model of a spatial database for collaborative planning

N Giupponi, C Thomson

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


    “We are not building cities for people to live in; we are building cities for people to invest in” (Harvey, 2015)

    In the last three years, London boroughs have moved 50000 families out of their neighbourhoods as a result of soaring rents (The independent, 2015); hollowed out city centres are not a new phenomenon to post industrial cities undergoing regeneration in the UK: Sir Patrick Abercrombie’s Clyde Valley Report of 1946 stated the need to disperse between 250,000 to 300,000 people from central Glasgow (Maver, 2014). Although promoting the economic growth of cities, the re-development of city centres can also have a negative impact on the existing social fabric of cities, increasing social inequality and diminishing social resilience. In order to minimise this, planning authorities adopt inclusive approaches, like stakeholder engagement, in order to ensure that local communities have a voice in planning. However, the manipulative and consultative traits of stakeholder engagement processes call for an exploration of better alternatives to inclusive urban planning.

    This research focuses on the enhancement of the ability of planners to include local communities and it does so by exploiting the potential of planning support systems (PSS) in influencing spatial decision making (SDM): at a higher level, this research wants to understand how PSS can be used to improve inter-generational and intra-generational learning during SDM. Drawing on cognitive studies, emphasis is put on the role of reflexivity and sense making activities which PSS, and the spatial data infrastructures (SDI) within them, are able to intensify. Limitations of existing PSS in including communities are addressed both in the design and implementation stages and improvements are suggested and validated with spatial practitioners.

    In this paper, more specifically, the design of PSS is considered. Based on interviews to planners, case studies and a literature review on PSS design, it is argued that SDI implemented in planning lack of a clear conceptual modelling of urban space: the geographic information (GI) building up traditional PSS -such as census datasets or sustainability assessment indicators- can be used to represent abstract spaces as envisioned by third parties but they do not represent the spaces as lived by the people. In order to contextualise this observation, the principle of ‘co-management for adaptive governance’ is used to suggest how stakeholder engagement translate into the design of planning support system (PSS) involving “mechanisms for continuous testing, monitoring and re-evaluation (learning)” (Boyt et al, 2015) of both ‘third parties’ spaces’ and ‘people’s spaces’.

    A conceptual model of space is then developed inspired by Lefebvre’s dialectic and Lewin’s field theory –based on forces, directions and distances-; the significance of the spatial datasets selected for representing people’s life spaces based on Lewin’s work is validated via interviews to planners. Couclelis’s work on micro-ontologies of GI is used to classify spatial datasets in accordance to their purpose, origin and format. Critical GI Systems techniques -which include the storage of multimedia information-, are employed to physically develop the SDI using a case study in the Gorbals, Glasgow, where the data is collected; the production of new cartographies of life spaces for inclusive planning is presented.

    The paper summarises the findings by suggesting a procedure for building up an SDI based on an inclusive conceptualisation of space and exposes its limitations and potential. It is finally proposed that levels of co-management promoting adaptive governance could be assessed by the development of indicators measuring the quality of retrieval of GI during decision making via the development of a plug-in application programming interface (API).
    Original languageEnglish
    Number of pages13
    Publication statusPublished - 19 Oct 2015


    • critical GIS
    • inclusive planning
    • planning support systems
    • spatial data infrastructure


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