Spatial Decision Support from the Crowd

The Rinner et al article explores the intersection of spatial decision support systems (SDSS) and volunteered geographic information (VGI) with their development and piloting of an argumentation mapping web 2.0 application intended to solicit and map spatially-grounded citizen input and discussion. 

Rinner et al single out planning processes as areas where such applications have potential.  By tying user discussions and feedback to explicit locations, the responses can serve as a qualitative gauge by decision-makers as to the relative importance of criteria within a SDSS model.  There is even the opportunity to add a quantitative element to such conversations by integrating a positive/negative rating system to the threaded messages (like a spatial Reddit!). Overall, Rinner et al’s project aims to find effective ways to crowdsource planning decisions and amplify the ideas of citizens using emerging web 2.0 technology.

Argumentation mapping and other geospatial mashups’ applicability to decision support are not without their concerns. As we learned the hard way in GEOG 407, a #neogeoweb 2.0 application is only as good as its programmer, and can only ever be as good as the underpinning API.  Four years after this paper’s publication, many of Rinner et al’s suggestions for improvements to the API are still unaddressed by Google.  Formal integration of the data collected in ArgooMap with SDSS models is still a long way off: for now, it is limited to qualitative uses.  In addition, these digital consultative avenues, even if they are improving in terms of end-user functionality, may still be exclusionary: from the digital divide, to gender dynamics on the internet, to the less affluent simply having less free time to invest in online civic discussion, there is a role for critical geographers and GIScientists to suggest ways for SDSS and its related tools to be more inclusive and thus more likely to be truly democratizing the decision-making process.


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