Across the globe, urban planners and community decision-makers are embracing new technologies as a way of broadening and diversifying participation in local processes. But how do we design for success with these technologies -- and how do we measure that success? Far too often, indicators such as participant satisfaction surveys and rote number of participants are used to assess the impact of a project.
In a new article entitled "Immersive Planning," I, along with co-authors Eric Gordon and Justin Hollander, suggest that these common measurements fall short in thinking about the depth and breadth of a participatory experience. Borrowing from the game studies literature, we suggest that immersion might be a better way to gauge a technology's effectiveness in enhancing participation.
Players are immersed in games they play for many reasons — whether they're solving a challenge or puzzle, role-playing, imagining a future scenario, or marveling in a game's realistic environment. If we imagine new forms of participation as interactive, rather than passive, using the framework of immersion sets a clearer agenda for the design and outcomes of new technologies for engaging the public.
"Immersive Planning: a conceptual model for designing public participation with new technologies" is available in the current issue of Environment and Planning B.