Marcus Foth demonstrates the value of various tools and services (eg Second Life) for engaging people in novel and participatory planning exercises, and for investigating how the public interpret and understand proposed urban designs and urban planning.
The majority of the world's citizens now live in cities. Although urban planning can thus be thought of as a field with significant ramifications on the human condition, many practitioners feel that it has reached a crisis in thought leadership. Conventional approaches to engage people in participatory planning exercises are limited in reach and scope. At the same time, sociocultural trends and technology innovation offer opportunities to re-think the status quo in urban planning. The notion of neogeography introduces tools and services that allow non-geographers to use advanced geographical information systems. Similarly, is a neo-planning paradigm without planners possible? This presentation traces a number of evolving links between urban planning, neogeography and information and communication technology. Two significant trends - participation and visualisation - with direct implications for urban planning are discussed. Combining novel participation and visualisation features, the popular virtual reality environment Second Life is then introduced as a test bed for a series of workshops that engaged high school students in generating narratives with a view to make transparent how they understand and interpret proposed urban designs.