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Virtual globes, i.e., geobrowsers that integrate multi-scale and temporal data from various sources and are based on a globe metaphor, have developed into serious tools that practitioners and various stakeholders in landscape and community planning have started using. Although these tools originate from Geographic Information Systems (GIS), they have become a different, potentially interactive and public tool set, with their own specific limitations and new opportunities. Expectations regarding their utility as planning and community engagement tools are high, but are tempered by both technical limitations and ethical issues [1,2]. Two grassroots campaigns and a collaborative visioning process, the Kimberley Climate Adaptation Project case study (British Columbia), illustrate and broaden our understanding of the potential benefits and limitations associated with the use of virtual globes in participatory planning initiatives. Based on observations, questionnaires and in-depth interviews with stakeholders and community members using an interactive 3D model of regional climate change vulnerabilities, potential impacts, and possible adaptation and mitigation scenarios in Kimberley, the benefits and limitations of virtual globes as a tool for participatory landscape planning are discussed. The findings suggest that virtual globes can facilitate access to geospatial information, raise awareness, and provide a more representative virtual landscape than static visualizations. However, landscape is not equally representative at all scales, and not all types of users seem to benefit equally from the tool. The risks of misinterpretation can be managed by integrating the application and interpretation of virtual globes into face-to-face planning processes.
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Future Internet 2011, 3, 204-227; doi:10.3390/fi3040204
future internet
ISSN 1999-5903
Tool or Toy? Virtual Globes in Landscape Planning
Olaf Schroth 1,*, Ellen Pond 1, Cam Campbell 1, Petr Cizek 1, Stephen Bohus 2 and
Stephen R. J. Sheppard 1
1 Collaborative for Advanced Landscape Planning (CALP), Department of Forest Resources
Management/Landscape Architecture, University of British Columbia, 23212260 West Mall,
Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z4, Canada; E-Mails: (E.P.); (C.C.); (P.C.); (S.R.J.S.)
2 Software Developer, 2555 Mill Hill Road, Victoria, BC, V9B 4X6, Canada;
* Author to whom correspondence should be addressed; E-Mail:;
Tel.: +1-604-822-0257; Fax: +1-604-822-9106.
Received: 2 September 2011; in revised form: 8 October 2011 / Accepted: 11 October 2011 /
Published: 20 October 2011
Abstract: Virtual globes, i.e., geobrowsers that integrate multi-scale and temporal data
from various sources and are based on a globe metaphor, have developed into serious tools
that practitioners and various stakeholders in landscape and community planning have
started using. Although these tools originate from Geographic Information Systems (GIS),
they have become a different, potentially interactive and public tool set, with their own
specific limitations and new opportunities. Expectations regarding their utility as planning
and community engagement tools are high, but are tempered by both technical limitations
and ethical issues [1,2]. Two grassroots campaigns and a collaborative visioning process,
the Kimberley Climate Adaptation Project case study (British Columbia), illustrate and
broaden our understanding of the potential benefits and limitations associated with the use
of virtual globes in participatory planning initiatives. Based on observations, questionnaires
and in-depth interviews with stakeholders and community members using an interactive
3D model of regional climate change vulnerabilities, potential impacts, and possible
adaptation and mitigation scenarios in Kimberley, the benefits and limitations of virtual
globes as a tool for participatory landscape planning are discussed. The findings suggest
that virtual globes can facilitate access to geospatial information, raise awareness, and
provide a more representative virtual landscape than static visualizations. However,
Future Internet 2011, 3 205
landscape is not equally representative at all scales, and not all types of users seem to
benefit equally from the tool. The risks of misinterpretation can be managed by integrating
the application and interpretation of virtual globes into face-to-face planning processes.
Keywords: virtual globes; landscape visualization; open data; Geographic Information
Systems; landscape planning; community engagement; scenario planning
1. Introduction
In 1998, Al Gore presented the vision of a ―Digital Earth‖ embedding geo-referenced data in a
multi-resolution, three-dimensional representation of the Earth, facilitating collaboration to understand
the interaction between human impacts and the environment [3]. With the rapid development of both
commercial and scientific 3D geobrowsers representing the earth, technological development has
approached, although not reached, Al Gore‘s vision. Virtual globes can be defined as geobrowsers,
based on a globe metaphor, that integrate multi-scale and multi-temporal data from various sources.
They have become a popular tool, and expectations regarding their utility as planning and community
engagement tools are high, but are tempered by both technical limitations and ethical issues [1,2,4].
In a position paper for the Vespucci Initiative for the Advancement of Geographic Information
Science, Craglia et al. [3] set up a research agenda on the use of virtual globes. In addition to research
in areas such as information integration and governance models, they called for case studies
incorporating up-to-date modeling and indicators that would visualize abstract concepts in space
such as ―quality of life‖ or ―vulnerability‖. Personal anecdotal evidence from discussions with
representatives of community groups and local government also points to the need for collaborative
frameworks employing easily accessible tools to visualize, explore and assess development
alternatives, as well as local climate change vulnerability, impacts, and response options, within their
spatial context [5].
This paper responds to Craglia et al.‘s [3] call for case studies, and builds on Sheppard and
Cizek‘s [1] previous discussion of virtual globes, particularly related to the potential benefits of virtual
globes in providing access to visual information, stimulating citizen interest, and providing
representative views. Using two bottom up participant-driven introductory examples, and the
Kimberley Climate Adaptation Project (KCAP) as a case study, the paper examines how far potential
benefits can be fulfilled in practice. The paper demonstrates how, when used in tandem with other
media, virtual globes can: (i) provide access and a shared platform for diverse spatial inputs from
multiple stakeholders; (ii) raise interest and awareness of complex spatial environmental data and
modeling outputs; and (iii) help to present locally relevant issues, vulnerabilities and possible response
actions. However, several issues have been observed with their use that limit virtual globes‘
effectiveness in planning processes, including: (i) issues of visual representativeness at global, regional
and object scales; (ii) affective responses; and (iii) the risk of misinterpretation. These are examined in
greater detail in the Kimberley case study in Section 4. The paper concludes with observations about
how to address the identified limitations and risks, and how and when such tools might best be
employed in collaborative planning settings.
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2. Theoretical Framework for Assessing Virtual Globes
The original vision of a virtual globe was rather utopian, seeing it primarily as an enabling tool that
would make previously inaccessible geodata accessible to the general public, thereby helping to
achieve environmental and social goals such as preserving biodiversity and modeling climate change.
However, while the development of virtual globe software platforms has vastly increased access and
exposure to some spatial information, and interactive tools and platforms have been provided for
user-generated content, major constraints persist. Much data and parts of the software continue to
remain in the hands of large companies and government. Thus, some authors have formulated
alternative dystopian views of virtual globes as tools for ―disaster capitalism‖ that distract from, rather
than empower, necessary action on the ground [6]. In contrast to both utopian and dystopian views of
virtual globes, Kingsbury and Jones [7] come to the conclusion that technology can be applied in a
variety of contexts and uses, potentially with opposing outcomes. This paper begins from this third
way of assessing technology, where the technology is seen as socially constructed and its use as
socially mediated and contested. It can therefore be applied in different contexts, but is not in itself
either utopian or dystopian. A brief overview of the genesis and current state of virtual globes, their
role and use as an agent for social change, possible benefits, and previously identified limitations and
risks provide the context and an assessment framework for the examples in Section 3 and the case
study research in Section 4.
2.1. Development of Virtual Globes to Date
Compared to Geographic Information Systems (GIS), virtual globes only have basic GIS analytical
functions such as measuring and identifying attributes [2]. Unlike popular 2D online mapping tools
such as Google Maps, Bing Maps, and Open Street Map, virtual globes provide oblique views of
detailed aerial photos and multiple uses of visual signs as overlays on top of the pictorial imagery,
combined with 3D objects. Virtual globes include the open source NASA WorldWind, scientific
prototypes under development in China and Australia, the commercial (although partly free to use)
products Microsoft Bing Maps 3D, ESRI ArcGIS Explorer and ArcGlobe, Google Earth [8], and
the open source Biosphere3D, which is designed specifically for landscape visualization
( According to Tuttle et al. [9], virtual globes are particularly successful
for uses in education, scientific research and collaboration, and disaster response.
Google also provides free tools such as Sketchup to generate 3D content for virtual globes. Over the
last few months, Google has launched additional geospatial tools, particularly the new Google Earth
version 6, which supports 3D tree models [10], Google Earth Builder, an online GIS for geodata
management, Google Earth Engine, a future environmental monitoring platform that adds more
complex analytical functions, and the Open Data Kit, a set of tools for mobile data collection.
2.2. Virtual Globes as Participatory Landscape Visualization Platforms: Benefits and Limitations
The following discussion summarizes various criteria and evaluative approaches to virtual globes.
The authors draw on prior work on mostly theorized (and sometimes realized) benefits and risks from
the fields of Public Participation Geographic Information Systems (PPGIS) and landscape visualization.
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In terms of public engagement, the considerable overlap between virtual globes and the field of
PPGIS can provide valuable insight into how best to make use of virtual globes. Dodge and Perkins [11]
raise questions related to ―tensions between confidentiality and freedom of information; the changing
status of visual technologies; the relations between power, space and representation; everyday and elite
practice; and forms of resistance‖. In this context, Sieber [12] classifies two different types of PPGIS
initiatives: top down and bottom up. Top down approaches include any government activities, such as
mapping community assets and deficits, to support top-down defined goals. In contrast, grassroots
initiatives use PPGIS, and increasingly virtual globes, to map and visualize citizen-defined issues. This
paper does not evaluate pure top-down approaches, which tend to lack substantive participation;
instead, the KCAP case study will present a collaborative approach to decision-making, which includes
government and external experts, but is led by local stakeholders and citizens.
There have been high expectations about the deliberative power of virtual globes as an accessible
type of geobrowser, arguably providing grassroots groups with equal means to corporations or
developers or governments [13]. Phadke [14] challenges the potential of virtual globes to facilitate
grassroots action and initiate policy shifts. While agreeing that the tool can raise awareness about
activities with high landscape impacts, such as mining activities, Phadke is concerned that virtual
globes add only limited value to the representation of future landscapes because virtual globes don‘t
cover the complex symbolic meanings of landscapes. Phadke‘s argument is only theoretically, rather
than empirically, supported and Phadke notes that more research is required on public response and the
possible ―strategic costs‖, e.g., the lack of public trust in employing virtual globes as a tool in
grassroots campaigns. Focusing on participatory potentials of virtual globes, the following chapter will
look at two-bottom up grassroots examples in more detail. The main part, the KCAP case study, will
present a collaborative approach to decision-making, which includes government and external expert
but is led by local stakeholders; attempting to combine the power of bottom up participation with the
resources of public planning.
Virtual globes provide a high apparent pictorial realism in the elevated oblique views due to their
use of high resolution satellite and aerial imagesa perspective that has often been used in landscape
related disciplines. For example, Dodge and Perkins [11] argue that virtual globes can be related to
landscape painting because they provide a similar ―framing‖ of extensive geographic spaces [15].
Thus, the field of landscape visualization can provide guidance on the requirements of stakeholders
regarding feasibility, flexibility, and engagement [16], and how to produce and assess interactive
representations of the landscape [17] in virtual globes.
Lange [18] sees easier access to geospatial information (Benefit 1 in Table 1) as one of the major
benefits of virtual globes. Lange [19] also found that approximately 75% of test participants assessed
virtual landscapes as highly realistic. Most of those landscapes were similar to the background scenes
that virtual globes are most known for: a detailed orthophoto combined with 3D objects. In contrast,
middleground and foreground scenes received lower, albeit still medium to high, realism level ratings.
When ―zoomed in, virtual globes allow the viewers to position themselves in an immersive eye-level
view on the ground, but in most cases, the realism appears to be lower than it is in the elevated oblique
―landscape‖ view. Consequently, Google covers the foreground scenes with its complementary service
StreetView for select built-up areas. It is still an open question how much cognitive load these diverse
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landscape impressions impose on the user and how different user groups can cope with that cognitive
load [20,21].
Sheppard [22] earlier defined accuracy, representativeness, visual clarity, interest, legitimacy,
access to visual information, framing, and presentation as crucial criteria for the ethical use of
landscape visualizations in general. Sheppard and Cizek [1] published the first critical discussion of
virtual globes for landscape related disciplines. They focused on key issues such as landscape
perception that moves beyond cartography to cross a crucial threshold into experiential imagery. Such
imagery can evoke more emotional and value-laden, potentially overwhelming, cognitive responses [23].
Additional 4D (time-collapsing) and animation features can increase public interest and awareness but
may also add too much drama and cognitive load [17,24]. If virtual globes are used online without
face-to-face explanation or detailed written background information about underlying data and
methodology, the risk of misinterpretation or bias is likely to increase [11].
Issues related to projecting future conditions are particularly relevant for this project: the field is
largely technology-driven and therefore more focused on the evaluation of technical performance and
realistic rendering rather than validity and reliability in a scientific sense. Sheppard and Cizek [1]
identify further potential risks when experts and lay people use virtual globes in planning. Issues
around data and software, perceptual issues, and power implications of data ownership, expert
knowledge and corporate user terms can create unsolved ethical issues if virtual globes are applied in
political processes. Goodchild [25] notes that the horizontal positional accuracy of images can be as
low as +/ 60m. Despite the participatory benefits of user-generated content or Volunteered
Geographic Information (VGI), the accuracy problem is aggravated through the incorporation of VGI
because VGI come in a variety of scales with different levels of certainty and detail, often without
documentation or metadata. Furthermore, most virtual globes lack features to document metadata or
make data quality transparent to the user. If the representation appears to be more realistic than the
accuracy of the underlying data allows, the resultant apparent realism can be misleading.
In a multiple case study in China, Shupeng and van Genderen [26] document the diverse datasets
from multiple disciplines that were integrated in a virtual globe, increasing the accessibility of diverse
datasets across multiple disciplines. Sheppard and Cizek [1] also identify potential benefits of using
virtual globes in landscape planning, including increased accessibility of geospatial information, the
potential for increased interest and awareness, and in contrast to static landscape visualizations, a
higher representativeness of the landscape because users can choose multiple individual viewpoints
(Table 1).
Table 1. Key benefits of using virtual globes to provide landscape visualizations (Sheppard
and Cizek 2009: 6).
1. Access to visual
Open free access for all Internet users with high-speed connections and
reasonably up-to-date computers, providing relatively equitable access
to information within the ―developed‖ world (especially across remote
areas or scattered users), though probably concentrated more on those
who are younger, more affluent, with more formal education, and
higher levels of computer literacy [27,28].
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Table 1. Cont.
2. Interest
More meaningful and enjoyable engagement in viewing or
manipulating information, plus increased interest with viewing familiar
locations. This is consistent with increased engagement observed with
other kinds of landscape visualization [29,30].
3. Representativeness
Freedom to view places or features from any angle of height, and
from any number of views instead of the more conventional limited
selection of static views determined by the creator of the visualizations.
This is consistent with theorized benefits for representativeness in
interactive landscape visualizations [22,31].
Table 1 was based on the available research at that time and few new case studies have been
conducted on the benefits of virtual globes with regard to landscape related issues. This study
continues the research by focusing on the potential benefits from Sheppard and Cizek [1], asking: How
far are these potentials achieved in practice?
3. Bottom up Meets Top downThe Emerging Use of Google Earth by Grass Root Initiatives
The following two examples describe landscape related virtual globe applications in grassroots
campaigns for Texada Island, BC, and for the City of Vancouver and its protected views of the North
Shore mountains. The examples were conducted by two of the co-authors as part of advocacy
grassroots campaigns and represent a first attempt to investigate the often promoted participatory
potential of virtual globes in real world contexts [13]. They are considered illustrative of project and
policy-specific applications of virtual globes in grassroots movements in the sense of Sieber [12] and
Phadke [14]. Assuming that the context determines the role and impact of virtual globes [7], it is
necessary to discuss the political context and the policy outcomes of the use of the tools. While the
grass-roots visualizations seem to resonate with viewers, further assessment is needed to understand
the measurable impacts of visualizations within planning processes.
3.1. Bottom-up Example: Quarry and Barge Loading Facility on Texada Island
3.1.1. Background
In May 2009, Lehigh Northwest Cement applied to the provincial government to build a quarry and
barge loading facility in Davie Bay, Texada Island, British Columbia, with plans to extract 240,000
tonnes of limestone per year. This is 10,000 tonnes less than the 250,000 tonnes per year that trigger an
environmental assessment under British Columbia legislation [32].
Texada Island has a long history of hard-rock mining and quarrying dating back over one century [33].
With traditional mining and logging jobs in decline, the community was split regarding the
project [34]. A local citizens‘ group ―Friends of Davie Bay‖ was formed to ―defend Davie Bay and
lobby the BC and Federal governments to refuse the Lehigh application and preserve the valuable
Crown lands and foreshore for public use‖ [32].
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3.1.2. Methods
Friends of Davie Bay used a multi-media approach in their submissions requesting a full
environmental assessment to the provincial and federal government, including letters, scientific
reports, PowerPoint presentations, photographs, and movies. Friends of Davie Bay also commissioned
a Google Earth landscape visualization of the proposed barge loading facility, which was combined
with overlapping and nearby sensitive ecological features. Lehigh‘s application included plan and
sectional engineering drawings prepared in AutoCAD format. Friends of Davie Bay requested these
digital data, but Lehigh declined to make them available. Based on the author's experience with
resource extraction projects, the lack of publicly available industry (and sometimes government)
geo-data is quite common in grass-roots advocacy contexts [35]. Therefore, Lehigh‘s hard-copy drawings
were scanned on a large-format scanner and then geo-referenced in ArcGIS, a common workaround to
ensure the accuracy and credibility of resulting geo-data. The 3D conveyor belt was drawn in Google
SketchUp software while the tugboat, barge, and figures of workers were downloaded from the
SketchUp 3D Warehouse [36].
Overlapping and nearby sensitive ecological features included polygon data (―Coastal Douglas Fir
Zone‖ and the ―Rockfish Conservation Area‖) and point data (―Eelgrass Bed‖, ―Sandspit Eelgrass
Meadow‖, ―Forage Fish Sandspit West and North‖). Using Google Earth, the polygon data were
digitized from maps in government reports [37,38]. The point data also included hyper-link ―balloons‖
to photographs by Friends of Davie Bay. All features used pre-defined ―snapshot views‖ so that Google
Earth would automatically move to defined viewpoints when specific features were clicked.
3.1.3. Results
Friends of Davie Bay used the Google Earth landscape visualization in their presentation to a
meeting of federal regulators in an environmental screening coordinated by Transport Canada on
February 10, 2010. The presenter used a laptop computer connected to an LCD projector to show the
barge loading facility and the overlapping sensitive ecological features from a variety of viewpoints.
According to the presenter, government regulators acknowledged the Google Earth visualization as
―especially powerful‖ because they were able to see, from multiple viewpoints, how the proposed
barge loading facility would intersect the various sensitive ecological features (see Figure 1) [39].
Nevertheless, both federal and provincial regulators decided that a full environmental assessment of
the project was not required. Friends of Davie Bay challenged this decision in court but lost [40].
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Figure 1. Quarry and Barge Loading Facility on Texada Island (Cizek 2010; © Google
2010, © 2010 Cnes/Spot Image, Image © Terra Metrics, Data Living Ocean Society,
Image © DigitalGlobe).
3.1.4. Discussion
The Texada Island example illustrates the application of ―Interoperability and Mashups‖, where
Google Earth allows layers with disparate themes and from multiple sources to be easily integrated and
visually overlaid showing functional relationships [2]. It also illustrates the benefit of
―representativeness‖ where virtual globes allow ―freedom to view places from any angle or height and
from any number of views [] instead of the more conventional limited selection of static views
determined by the creator of the visualizations‖ [1]. While formal user-response research to the
visualization was not part of this example, anecdotal evidence indicates that government regulators had
a strong affective (emotional) response to the visualization, expressed as surprise upon seeing the
proximity of the proposed barge loading facility to the sensitive ecological features [39]. While this
could be hypothesized as an example of ―cognitive dissonance‖ in public decision-making [41], the
lack of a formal evaluation precludes such suppositions. The Texada Island example thus points to a
need for further research on actual decision-making outcomes resulting from the application of
landscape visualization in virtual globes. Such research would ideally be inter-disciplinary as it crosses
the boundaries of geospatial, social and political sciences.
3.2. Bottom-up Example: Vancouver Views
3.2.1. Background
In 2008, Vancouver City Council commissioned the ―Vancouver Views: Downtown Capacity and
View Corridors Study‖ to review the city‘s view corridors and identify possible changes to achieve
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additional development capacity through higher downtown buildings outside protected view
corridors [42]. The report made multiple recommendations to amend the View Protection Guidelines
and revise the General Policy for Higher Buildings. The report contained 2D maps and 3D computer
visualizations, produced by city staff in 3D Studio Max, showing the visual impact of increasing the
potential buildings heights of parts of the Central Business District (CBD) to 600 feet, with a single
site suggested at 700 feet, heights in the shoulder areas adjoining CBD were recommended from 400 to
550 feet, while allowing a single high-rise building at the edge of the Burrard Bridge Gateway [43].
The report and its implications were consequently challenged by the West End Neighbours (WEN), a
non-profit society (, in public meetings, open letters, and a public
campaign. In particular, WEN questioned the selection of view corridors that determine the new
maximum heights for future development.
3.2.2. Methods
One of the papers‘ co-authors with a degree in landscape architecture and experience in computer
graphics programming volunteered to produce alternative 3D landscape visualizations based on the
City‘s reports, and the City‘s Open Data (e.g., property lines, terrain data, and orthophotos, but no
buildings). The massing models of the future high-rise buildings were exported from SketchUp
according to the heights in the City‘s report [43] and the volunteer programmed an application to
calculate view cones according to the City‘s view cone specifications [44]. Final visualization took
place in Google Earth, using Google Earth‘s textured buildings for Vancouver. Photos were used to
compare the visualizations with viewpoints around the city, including one viewpoint at Spanish Banks.
3.2.3. Results
Figure 2 and other static 3D visualizations exported from Google Earth were used by the co-author
and by WEN representatives in PowerPoint presentations in public meetings, council meetings, in
WEN letters to newspapers, and published on YouTube and the WEN website. Local media picked up
the story and an account of the media coverage suggests that the visualizations may have contributed
to raising public awareness: three local newspapers (the Georgia Straight, West Ender, and Vancouver
Courier) and CBC News online referred to the campaign although only one article actually included
one of the images. Without interviews of City representatives and a more detailed document analysis,
it is not possible to assess the validity of the alternative visualizations or the impact of the Google
Earth images on viewers. The images may have informed current policy, because the City published an
amended appendix of the ―Vancouver Views‖ report [45] before the revised General Policy for Higher
Buildings was approved [46].
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Figure 2. The colored buildings are not proposed yet, but with the change of height
regulations, such buildings will become possible; the color-coding refers to the City report
and marks different possible developments (Bohus 2011; © 2010 Google, Image © 2011
DigitalGlobe, Image © 2011 Province of British Columbia, Gray Buildings © 2008
Sanborn, Image © 2011 IMTCAN)
3.2.4. Discussion
The Vancouver Views example demonstrates the potential of Google Earth to merge user-generated
content visualizing a citizen group‘s point of view with existing Open Data, provided by the City, and
Google‘s own data, in this case a high quality 3D model of the downtown buildings [47]. The use of
Google Earth facilitated access to visual information, as well as data display from multiple
perspectives. However, despite the accessibility of Google Earth itself, the actual implementation still
requires considerable expert knowledge to prepare and transform the geodata, model the 3D buildings
and calculate the view cones. While there is anecdotal evidence that the visualization might have
impacted the policy making process, it is not possible without more data to directly link the amended
City Report to the grassroots campaign or to distinguish the role of the Google Earth visualizations
from WEN‘s other efforts.
4. Case Study: The Kimberley Climate Adaptation Project (KCAP)
Unlike the grassroots examples, participant responses have been scientifically evaluated in the
KCAP case study [12]. Therefore, the KCAP allows a more detailed analysis of virtual globe potential
to raise interest and awareness and provide a more representative 3D model than static landscape
visualizations (Table 1). The KCAP case study was conducted by four of the authors from the
Collaborative for Advanced Landscape Planning (CALP). The project included a strong visualization
component, as well as policy development and recommendations, and immediate and longer-term
scientific evaluation of the process and visualizations. It thus begins to answer, through evaluative
research, questions about the response to virtual globes in public planning processes raised in the
literature (Benefits 2 and 3 in Table 1) and the two previous introductory examples.
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4.1. Context of the KCAP
The Kimberley Climate Adaptation Project was a stakeholder-driven climate change process
looking at local climate change impacts and adaptation options, that included local citizens, municipal
staff, regional advisors, and a university research group [5,48,49]. A key element of the KCAP was a
participatory local climate change visioning process, with multiple facilitated stakeholder workshops.
The process lead to a public open house in which local climate change impacts, community
vulnerability and resilience across different development scenarios, and possible mitigation and
adaptation actions, were presented and discussed. Funded by the Real Estate Foundation, the Ministry
of Community and Rural Development, and the Swiss National Science Foundation, with pro bono
climate modeling by the Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium (PCIC), CALP contributed to the KCAP
process through the integration and spatialization of climate change and other data for Kimberley,
presenting the material in various media and types of visualizations, and evaluating process and tools.
4.2. Modeling and Visualization Workflow
The novelty of the following approach, compared to conventional landscape design workshops [50],
is that visualizations of drivers and scenario narratives are aggregated in a virtual globe as a data-driven,
interactive, multi-dimensional and comprehensive 3D landscape model that is used as a shared
communication platform. The virtual globe model can be used interactively, or still images and
animations can be taken for use in other media such as presentations and posters.
Development scenarios for potential future residential buildout in and around the town of
Kimberley were modeled using CommunityViz Scenario 360°. The first build-out was based on
existing land use zoning, Official Community Plan land use designations, approved land development
proposals and pending development applications, including several large areas outside the town core.
Assumptions were made about the rate development would occur within these areas over time, with
the different stages of development depicted visually as high level oblique views. A second build-out
scenario assumed compact infill development. These two scenarios were presented as both static views
from key viewpoints, and as animations, depicting the rate and extent of growth over time.
Vulnerabilities associated with urban growth, given current trends and practices, were modeled
based on local development scenarios and downscaled climate change projections. Overall, four local
climate change related impacts or sectoral vulnerability models were integrated in GIS, each of which
was visualized in Google Earth: downscaled hydrological modeling for snowpack changes with
climate change (from PCIC); current potential flood areas within the City (based on an older municipal
flood study); regional mountain pine beetle susceptibility (originally modeled by CALP, with
modeling from the Ministry of Forests, and forecast under climate change by CALP); and, the potential
spread of a forest fire with an ignition point in the Nature Park west of Kimberley (modeling from the
City‘s fire consultant). The models are further explained in Schroth et al. [51].
The visualization workflow (Figure 3) was kept as simple and accessible as possible to make it
replicable for other small communities. Google Earth was chosen as the main presentation medium
because it is widely accessible, making it potentially replicable in the future for other smaller
communities. In addition, the virtual globes Biosphere3D (B3D) and ESRI ArcGIS Explorer were used
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as additional tools because B3D is open-source and specializes in the representation of vegetation, and
ArcGIS Explorer is well integrated with ArcGIS. Feedback from two sessions with stakeholders, the
city planner/councilors, and the KCAP facilitator led to a third round of data gathering, modeling,
analysis, and synthesis, and improved 3D visualizations for the final Public Open House in June 2009.
Figure 3. Visualization workflow in the KCAP [48]. FME Tools convert data from one
format to another; in this case, from multiple sources such as CAD into ArcGIS.
4.3. Survey and Interview Methods
A mix of quantitative and qualitative methods was applied during the final, public, KCAP open
house in 2009 [48]. First, pre-/post questionnaires were distributed before and after the open house to
capture changes in individual awareness and understanding. In the questionnaires, participants were
asked to rate the benefits of the visualizations in general and then, to rank (a) slide presentation; (b) 2D
maps; (c) posters; and (d) the mediated presentation in Google Earth. The ranking provided self-assessed
data showing which percentage of participants favored which media and how the virtual globe was
ranked in comparison to non-interactive presentation media. Second, 17 in-depth guided interviews
were conducted with stakeholders and community members using an interactive 3D Google Earth
model of regional climate change impacts and possible adaptation and mitigation scenarios directly at
the public open house. Participants were recorded on video while using Google Earth and the analysis
of the interviews was related to the actual video recording (cf. data triangulation [52]). A year later,
eight KCAP participants were interviewed again to investigate long-term policy and implementation
outcomes. The evaluation of the overall planning process and the long-term outcomes will be subject
of future publications.
4.4. Modeling and Visualization Outputs
The storylines A) Kimberley Adapts (focus on adaptation) and B) Low Carbon Kimberley (focus on
mitigation and adaptation) guided data collection, modeling a future urban development and mountain
pine beetle spread, and provided the script for the Google Earth visualization. As part of this paper, it
is only possible to show a selection of images; refer to Schroth et al. [48], Pond et al. [5], and future
publications for further examples. The various themes were also printed on posters, combining
the images with explanatory texts about the underlying scientific assumptions, data and modeling.
Figure 4 shows current conditions around the City of Kimberley, Figure 5 shows parts of the proposed
Future Internet 2011, 3 216
urban extension in the Kimberley Adapts scenario, Figure 6 the outcome of a forest fire spread model,
Figure 7 to 9 various adaptation options.
Figure 4. Overview of Kimberley, as seen from south to north: The Nature Park and ski
hill are in the west, the watershed is in the northwest, the mining site is in the north, the
proposed Taylor‘s Mill development is in the Northeast. Industrial brownfield sites from
the mine ore processing are in the east (Schroth 2009; © 2009 Google; image © 2009
Province of British Columbia; image © 2009 TerraMetrics).
Figure 5. Aerial and perspective view of the proposed Taylors Mill development site: new
urban development is represented as grey massing models on the hilltop; white and colored
models depict existing development (Schroth, Campbell 2009; © 2009 Google; image ©
2009 Province of British Columbia; image © 2009 TerraMetrics)
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Figure 6. Farsite fire spread model, visualized as 2D map with the model software by the
City‘s fire consultant (left) and spatialized in Google Earth (right) together with the 3D
buildout by CALP (sources: Bob Gray 2009 (left); Schroth 2009, © 2009 Google; image ©
2009 Province of British Columbia; image © 2009 TerraMetrics (right)).
Figure 7. Recommendations for the location of public transport stops in the Low Carbon
scenario (Schroth and Pond 2009; © 2009 ESRI ArcGIS Explorer; orthophoto © 2009 USGS).
Future Internet 2011, 3 218
Figure 8. Hand-drawn design sketch, visualized in Google Earth (Pond and Muir-Owen 2009,
© 2009 Google; image © 2009 Province of British Columbia; image © 2009 TerraMetrics).
Figure 9. Adaptation and mitigation measures in sustainable forest management;
visualized in Biosphere3D with Flora3D tree models (Schroth 2009, with thanks to Paar,
Schliep and Ernst from the Biosphere3D community [49]).
Most of the proposed development zones are vulnerable to wildfire. Forest fires are an integral part
of the landscape ecology of the Kimberley area, and have threatened the town before. A plausible
impact of climate change is the extension of the fire season. Thus, CALP visualized the spatial
outcome of a fire spread model from the City‘s fire consultant in 3D and over time (Figure 6) in order
to illustrate how fast a forest fire could take out the evacuation routes: the first highway exit is taken
out after four hours, and the second after eight hours. When combined with the buildout model, it
Future Internet 2011, 3 219
becomes obvious that the new low-density development of Forest Crowne and Taylor‘s Mill, with a
large increase of urban forest interface, are more vulnerable than the current city or other, denser
developments with less forest interface.
4.5. Policy Outcomes
The KCAP, through the stakeholder and community workshops, produced more than 70
recommendations for climate change mitigation and adaptation, some of which were informed by the
visualizations in Google Earth and Biosphere3D. Figure 7 shows possible tracks for public bus transit,
Figure 8 a landscape design for flood-proof green space and infrastructure in the city center, and
Figure 9 possible visual outcome of sustainable forest management practices adapting to climate
change. It is not possible to link policy outcomes exclusively to the case study project because we are
not looking at a controlled experiment here, but at a planning process that is informed through multiple
stakeholders and policies. Nevertheless, follow-up interviews with key decision makers showed that at
least six projects in advanced planning state for implementation were informed by it. In addition, three
operational changes were initiated; one outreach event followed the KCAP; and five policy changes,
e.g., a new by-law and follow-up studies commissioned by the City, may have been informed by
the KCAP.
4.6. Evaluation of Visualization Rankings and Responses to Virtual Globes in KCAP
The quantitative rating of visualization benefits and ranking of visualization media types in the post
questionnaire, handed out at the KCAP public open house, asked respondents to compare 2D maps,
posters, the PowerPoint slide presentation and the Kimberley 3D virtual globe (Google Earth) by
ranking them in the order from 1 (best) to 4 (last): During the open house, you saw various forms of
visualizations. Please rank those visualizations you have seen, in order of importance to you if you
were involved in making a comment on a planning proposal.n = 38 responses were received
including 2 invalid responses (Table 2).
Table 2. Medians and means of ordinal rankings of different media, n = 38.
N (valid)
Min. rank
Max. rank
Median rank
Std. Dev.
38 (36)
Virtual globe
38 (36)
38 (36)
2d maps
38 (35)
Interestingly, the virtual globe was ranked first 16 times and ranked last 11 times, showing a
bimodal distribution (Figure 10). The posters were ranked first 12 times and ranked last only once.
Interestingly, the 12 respondents who ranked the posters first, ranked the virtual globe fourth on
average (mean of their globe rankings = 3.083, median = 4, std. dev. = 1.165). The results suggest that
respondents rating the posters higher gave lower ratings to the virtual globe. In contrast, respondents
who gave higher ratings to the virtual globe also gave a higher rankings to the posters: in their
responses, posters received a mean of 2.125 and a median of 2 with std. dev. of 0.5. Considering that
Future Internet 2011, 3 220
the posters presented more information at once, whereas virtual globe users had to explore the
information through interaction, possible explanations could be that respondents who like the posters
have a non-interactive learning style, or there could be digital tool barriers. The virtual globe might
also provide too much simultaneous visual information at once, thereby increasing the cognitive load
beyond user comfort. On the other hand, virtual globe users who preferred to explore the information
interactively also, on average, liked the poster. An alternative explanation might be that expert users
with advanced spatial skills preferred the posters because they provided a higher information density at
first glance. Unfortunately, size and composition of the sample (n = 36) were not sufficiently large to
explore group differences on the basis of age, gender or profession with any confidence.
Figure 10. Graph showing the bimodal results from the ranking of virtual globes as
compared to posters, presentation and 2D maps (n = 36).
Based on these findings, it is suggested that another explanatory presentation format is needed in
addition to virtual globes in order to meet the learning styles of all respondents. Based on these
findings, it is suggested that another explanatory presentation format is needed in addition to virtual
globes in order to meet the learning styles of all respondents, in keeping with the mediated use of 3D
landscape visualizations in Salter et al. [24].As the average ranking of the posters was very good, they
seem to be a suitable complement to the virtual globe.
4.6.1. Responses to Virtual Globes
The results of the following content analysis are based on the coding of the video recordings,
qualitative, open questions in the post questionnaire (n = 25; 25 out of 38 respondents added comments
in the open question sections), and qualitative in-depth interviews directly after the public open house
(n = 17).
Stakeholder interviews confirmed the quantitative questionnaire findings from the process feedback
that the visualizations raised awareness and facilitated understanding of climate change impacts and
Future Internet 2011, 3 221
mitigation/adaptation options. ―I thought the benefits were wonderful because you could really see it
and it was exciting. The ones that were of Kimberly, because Google Earth is quite new to me. I
haven‘t played with it very much. So, I was just amazed with the technology and how, to be able to see
Kimberly as a whole and put in the different scenarios and, and … [see] different consequences with
different scenarios‖ (local politician).
4.6.2. User Orientation
Twice, users as well as CALP team members got lost in 3D space because handling was sometimes
cumbersome and there were few embedded navigational constraints. The usability of virtual globes
could further be improved through more constraints and smart navigation [53] that guides the user.
However, it helped that Google Earth provides bookmarks which enable re-orientation within the
virtual globe when a user ‗gets lost‘. They can also re-orient by re-selecting a layer (observations from
the video recordings).
In order to choose different views, orientation is crucial. Various landscape elements are mentioned
in the transcriptions. It is particularly interesting that two stakeholders orientated with regard to
features such as the city‘s administrative boundaries, features usually non-visible to lay people. It
should be noted that both stakeholders work with planning documents and therefore are familiar with
these administrative features. After summarizing and abstracting all elements used by participants, the
following types of landscape elements (Figure 4; cf. [54]), can be distinguished:
Topographic features (creeks, mountains, ski hill);
Built structures (city districts);
Linear built structures (roads, trails);
Administrative, only partly physical, boundaries (city boundary, watershed boundary).
4.6.3. Presentation and the Use of Different Media
In general, respondents acknowledged the high amount and variety of information at the open
house. For example, one respondent wrote that he particularly liked the amount and quality of
information‖. Feedback indicates that the presentation of information and visualization, i.e., the mix of
presentation, scientific posters, and a virtual globe station with a guide and verbal explanations, is very
important for enhanced understanding. ―I think it‘s just really good before people go into one of these
globes that there‘s sort of like some introductory material to say what it is and what it isn‘t. […] just to
put it in better context‖ (workshop participant with expert knowledge).
5. Discussion, Conclusion and Recommendations
5.1. Discussion
Access to and integration of information was improved by using virtual globes and their data. Data
access was obviously an issue in the two grassroots examples, because they had limited access to the
data of the challenged projects. In the ―Vancouver Views‖ case, user-generated content was modeled,
referencing the City‘s Open Data, and then placed into Google‘s 3D Vancouver city model. In
Future Internet 2011, 3 222
comparison, the collaboration with Kimberley provided the KCAP with straight forward data access.
In the KCAP, non GIS spatial data from the city and modeling outputs from diverse external experts,
including PCIC, consultants, and UBC, were brought together, with virtual globes as the shared 3D
platform [3,51]. It may be suggested that this integrative power is one of the biggest potentials of
virtual globes as tools in landscape planning. However, such integration also requires more inter-
disciplinary work among various environmental research disciplines, as Shupeng and van Genderen [26]
have argued. Furthermore, it is difficult to assess the quality and the origin of the various data due to
the lack of metadata and data quality tools in most virtual globes. However, the visualizations were not
made available in an interactive form online due to unsolved issues of data ownership and liability, as
well as concerns about unmediated use and potential misunderstandings. The challenge now is to build
reciprocal processes that validate data, to develop collaborative networks of institutional, business, and
community stakeholders, and to solve the related legal issues [3].
The landscape visualization literature, e.g., Al-Kodmany [29], had previously shown that 3D
landscape visualizations can raise interest and awareness. The quantitative ranking in the KCAP
showed that this is particularly true for virtual globes: Virtual globes caught the interest of most
people, but it also evoked a bimodal response, with people either ranking it very high or very low.
Qualitative data from the KCAP shows that the virtual globe visualization made intangible issues such
as future climate change impacts tangible and helped the understanding of complex relationships
between different themes, e.g. between mountain pine beetle spread and the risk of debris floods [51].
The qualitative interviews provide hints that some participants ranked virtual globes significantly
lower because they found the underlying assumptions and explanations easier to understand from the
posters. Previous research by Schroth [17] has also suggested that users with expert map reading skills
prefer maps and rank realistic landscape visualizations such as the virtual globe imagery lower than lay
people do. Future research is suggested to further investigate group differences and the possible impact
of different learning styles and the cognitive load of virtual globes [20,21].
In the KCAP case study, affective and evaluative responses have been documented through
observations and interviews. In the KCAP, the animated output of the fire spread model evoked a
perceptible reaction among the audience at the public open house. Although the data had been known
before, the clarification of the visual data, and seeing the possible wildfire, symbolized through red
color, and animated over time, increased the dramatic impact. Sheppard and Cizek [1] and Phadke [14]
raise concerns that such drama could lead to value-laden responses that potentially overwhelm
cognitive responses. In this case, the animation was embedded in a wider public discussion with the
fire chief at the table so that people were not left alone but could learn more about possible solutions
such as fire-smart building improvements.
The issue of representativeness has to be broken down to different scales. Closer analysis shows
that different scales and perspectives come with their own limitations: elevated oblique views at a
regional scale, including forest canopy of the new 3D trees in Google Earth version 6, provide a rather
realistic visual impression due to the defocusing and edge detection, i.e., the phenomenon of being
better able to detect object edges when an image with the same resolution is reduced in one
area [55]. However, the oblique view tends to ―underwhelm‖ impacts, as one stakeholder put it,
confirming the concerns by Sheppard and Cizek [1] and by Dodge and Perkins [11] that ―when
vegetation growth is maximized and visually prominent [here, vegetation growth was not included in
Future Internet 2011, 3 223
form of 3D models but the linear layout of the town required a distant oblique view that minimized the
visibility of the buildings.], the result often obscures the built environment, and thus diminishes the
presence of people in the landscape‖ (2009: 498). In comparison to earlier virtual globe versions,
views from a ground viewpoint have improved although they usually don‘t reach the realism of
photorealistic visualizations in entertainment or architectural visualization, which can focus on high
resolution foliage and objects in small limited views. On the other hand, the zoom feature of virtual
globes provides users with a sense of ―gestalt‖ for the context of the surrounding environment.
The findings on interest and representativeness, i.e., that the use of virtual globes sometimes may
overemphasize, and sometimes may obscure, visual impacts, depending on scale and the nature of the
development, lead to the biggest issue, the risk of misinterpretation. This risk is particularly acute if
complex issues shown in virtual globes are not mediated. Dodge and Perkins [11] identify: ―the
genuine difficulties in properly seeing with satellite imagery, the need for specialized skills of
interpreting features and reading off patterns to gain meaning of the situation on the ground. The key
problemyou can see it clearly, but what is it that you are seeing?–is not easily solved‖ (2009: 499).
The KCAP shows that embedding and framing the virtual globe model into a facilitated collaborative
process [5], using multiple media such as posters, presentations and virtual globes, can ensure better
levels of understanding [16,24]. It seems difficult to provide such framing and assistance for
interpretation online, but Craglia et al. [3] suggest that a great deal could be learned from the
multimedia design disciplines.
5.2. Conclusion and Recommendations
The KCAP case study showed that virtual globes are helpful platforms for information integration
at scales that are relevant for landscape disciplines, and they can raise interest and awareness. Not all
user groups seem to benefit equally, as the bimodal ranking results indicate. For now it is
recommended to include a mix of different media in face-to-face planning or design workshops, e.g.,
virtual globes together with posters. Virtual globes seem to be particularly powerful at regional scales
with elevated oblique views, a scale that is often used in landscape planning. At that scale, orthophotos
and vegetation appear most realistic as background for modified 3D data although anthropogenic
influences might be under-represented. Virtual globes have improved in the representation of
ground-based views but more specialized software is still advised to produce ground-based
visualizations with higher realism. The strength of virtual globes is to allow seamless zoom between
different scales, supporting landscape planning and design across scales and helping the viewer
assessing design schemes in their spatial context. A promising workaround for the visualization of
landscape architecture designsa hand-drawn design sketch, georeferenced and overlayed in Google
Earth (Figure 8)was tested in the KCAP and generally received good feedback [15]. Further linking
virtual globes with dynamic forest models may also enhance the vegetation realism at small scales.
The process is the key to the successful use of virtual globes as decision-support tools. There are
definitely differences with regard to context and types of processes, whether it is a bottom up
grassroots campaign, a top-down initiative [12], or in the case of KCAP, a collaborative approach
including local stakeholders, citizens, municipal staff, and external experts. The interviews identified
some of the barriers why the virtual globe has not been used even more intensively, i.e., technical and
Future Internet 2011, 3 224
usability issues, unclear data ownership and liability issues. If virtual globes include more features for
the documentation of metadata and data quality, they will be more suitable for applications in
government environments. In contrast, grassroots campaigns are less limited in the promotion of their
virtual globe outputs, but they have less access to information and decision-making processes than
collaborative approaches.
Virtual globes such as Google Earth can be powerful and rather accessible tools for information
integration and visualization in landscape related processes, particularly at regional scales. Virtual
globes still have multiple limitations, some of which can be dealt with by embedding them in a well
structured, transparent process that follows ethical guidelines [1,56], and addressing different user
groups with a mix of complementary media [16]. Then, virtual globes can facilitate access to visual
information, raise awareness and interest, and provide rather representative views of landscapes at the
regional scale.
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© 2011 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article
distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution license
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... Many studies have investigated the effectiveness of landscape visualization and proven these techniques to significantly improve the planning process by allowing participants' direct involvement in designing their neighborhoods (Al-Kodmany, 1999). These tools conquer barriers between experts and laypeople and provide a common language for all contributors with a wide range of interests, including various groups of stakeholders, residents, politicians, experts, managers, and planners (Al-Kodmany, 1999;Schroth et al., 2011;Tyrväinen et al., 2006). In observing the consequences of these changes and plans (Sheppard, 2005) make visualization a unique approach to participatory landscape management. ...
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In the past 50 years, the participation of the public in decision-making, joint problem-solving, and interactive management has increased. This growing participatory management has been categorized into five communication and public involvement levels: Informing, Consulting, Involving, Collaborating, and Empowering, which move from one-way distribution of information to the total contribution of the public in decision-making. Progression to higher levels of participatory processes is critical for a range of preferable societal outcomes, such as better distribution of resources, anti-poverty outcomes, and higher levels of resilience to survive critical situations and disasters. Our results document the growing use of landscape visualization techniques for participatory natural resource management. This rapid development of visualization techniques has led to increased effectiveness at each level of participatory planning, as evidenced by a growing number of published studies over time. We also identify specific visualization attributes that contribute to successful outcomes within each level of participation. However, we did not find proof to support the hypothesis that the increased availability of more advanced visualization techniques is driving natural resource planning and management to adopt higher levels of public participation. We, instead, postulate that an additional factor could be responsible for the apparent mismatch between the availability of increasingly advanced visualization techniques and their use in higher levels of participatory planning. Participating stakeholders' level of competency and local knowledge may inform this apparent paradox, as higher levels may negate the need for sophisticated visualization techniques. Likewise, lower local knowledge and decision-making competencies may require these advanced techniques to engage stakeholders in the process thoroughly. We, therefore, suggest investigating participants' competency levels before designing visualization products, which avoids unnecessary expenditure of resources while obtaining better results. Competency is a combination of knowledge, skills, and attitudes that enable individuals that supports successful task performance and problem-solving regarding real-world sustainability challenges and opportunities. As one of the essential sustainability skills, systems-thinking allows the learner to think comprehensively of system dynamics at different temporal and spatial scales, enabling the learner to assess and analyze a system's behavioral pattern through time instead of focusing on particular short-term events. Especially after 2019, when Covid-19 hit the world, we cannot think about life, our plans, the next generation, and the earth's future as before. COVID-19 has shown us that current approaches to planning and anticipating future consequences are insufficient for our current challenges, calling for us to introduce new models for problem-solving that acknowledge linked natural, economic, and social systems. These uncertainties, challenges, and complications emphasize the necessity of enhancing and promoting key sustainability competencies, especially systems thinking, at various scales (e.g., nations, policymakers, and local communities). These competencies enable planners, the public, the local community, academics, development practitioners, and anyone who intends to understand sustainability to address environmental challenges, get a better vision of the future, and think about practical solutions. Among all these groups, local communities and indigenous people play a significant role in preserving the natural environment, moving towards more sustainable systems, and co-producing knowledge on improving our planning based on traditional ecological knowledge. Our project will enhance decision-making opportunities for tribal communities, especially younger generations, by providing clear routes to recognizing and acknowledging their identity concerning the land and their local, traditional, and cultural values. In this research, we focus on the indigenous knowledge of the Menominee Tribal community as the leading stakeholders in the Menominee tribal forest. For thousands of years, the Menominee Nation has survived by managing natural resources in the area now known as Northeast Wisconsin. Since 1856, the Menominee Nation has been in charge of sustainable timber supplies in their forests, considered one of the first sustainable forestry operations in the United States. Rooted in this long-term experience with land stewardship, both prior to and following colonization, the Sustainable Development Institute at the College of Menominee Nation has developed to articulate a holistic model of sustainable development based on the Menominee experience. This model "conceptualizes sustainable development as the process of maintaining the balance and reconciling the inherent tensions among six dimensions of sustainability: land and sovereignty; natural environment (including human beings); institutions; technology; economy; and human perception, activity, and behavior." The results of chapters two and three of the current document indicated that landscape visualizations that are real, static, still, non-immersive, and 2D, such as realistic images and paintings, are compelling for participatory decision-making in Forestry and Sustainability studies. We employed a more complex visualization rooted in traditional forest management concerning two identified subsets of Bloom's Taxonomy based on the information to investigate if the more complex visualization leads to better results in policy and management. We designed and used two sets of visualization: Real, Static, Still, Non-immersive, and 2D (Realistic images), besides Real, Dynamic, Interactive, Non-immersive, and 3D (Web-based game engine). Benefiting from the advantage of these techniques, we also proposed a framework to evaluate various systems thinking skills. The general results in this experiment illustrate the effectiveness of landscape visualization in better illuminating the context of the system and systematic thinking among local communities. Although individuals' responses to various visual forms may depend on their personality and thinking style, regardless of their culture and the location they have been raised, visualization can highly affect how people think and communicate their thoughts. However, it seems practical to design visualization tools and research methods based on the audiences' competencies, preferences, and comfort to obtain more reliable results.
... With the progressive densification of the cities, the height of the buildings is a major concern of the local population, and is frequently raised in urban participatory sessions (Ruming, 2018;Ruming et al., 2012). VGE are efficient for communicating about volumes, i.e., via a 3D scene, and the heights of the buildings are more straightforwardly perceived than with other supports such as 2D maps (Schroth et al., 2011;Sheppard & Cizek, 2009). • Guess viewpointparticipants had to assess if two green spheres (embedded in the VGE) were visible or not from a viewpoint symbolized by a red sphere. ...
... Indeed, the performance of the participants is reduced with the use of static images, as demonstrated with the significant differences in users' correctness score. Similar findings can be found in the literature (Herman et al., 2018a;Keehner et al., 2008;Kubíček et al., 2019;Schroth et al., 2011). However, surprisingly, we observed that interactivity appears to reduce the time needed for completing a task, which is not in line with other studies (Herman et al., 2018a;Juřík et al., 2020). ...
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The adoption of technology in urban participatory planning with tools such as Virtual Geographic Environments (VGE) promises a broader engagement of urban dwellers, which should ultimately lead to the creation of better cities. However, the authorities and urban experts show hesitancy in endorsing these tools in their practices. Indeed, several parameters must be wisely considered in the design of VGE; if misjudged, their impact could be damaging for the participatory approach and the related urban project. The objective of this study is to engage participants (N = 107) with common tasks conducted in participatory sessions, in order to evaluate the users’ performance when manipulating a VGE. We aimed at assessing three crucial parameters: (1) the VGE representation, (2) the participants’ idiosyncrasies, and (3) the nature of the VGE format. The results demonstrate that the parameters did not affect the same aspect of users’ performance in terms of time, inputs, and correctness. The VGE representation impacts only the time needed to fulfill a task. The participants’ idiosyncrasies, namely age, gender and frequency of 3D use also induce an alteration in time, but spatial abilities seem to impact all characteristics of users’ performance, including correctness. Lastly, the nature of the VGE format significantly alters the time and correctness of users interactions. The results of this study highlight concerns about the inadequacies of the current VGE practices in participatory sessions. Moreover, we suggest guidelines to improve the design of VGE, which could enhance urban participatory planning processes, in order to create better cities.
... It empowers stakeholders through social learning and enhances project outcomes by developing more creative solutions and increasing the possibility of being holistic, objective, and fair. Thus, the process raises the likelihood that the project will meet local expectations (Radinsky et al., 2017;Reed, 2008;Schroth et al., 2011). Because of the benefits of participatory management, efforts to describe it and improve its effectiveness have grown over the last few decades, since social interaction, communication, and collective endeavors can change an individual's view of a subject and eventually affect the process of decision making (Bahrami et al., 2012;Brennan & Enns, 2015). ...
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Participatory natural resource management refers to stakeholders' involvement in the planning process, allowing the integration of their knowledge and values with the purpose of a given project. Landscape visualization generally applies to any technique for representing actual places and on-the-ground conditions. Visualization's sophistication across defined attributes (reality, dynamicity, interactivity, immersion, and dimensionality) has evolved significantly over time, making it a primary tool in pursuing advanced levels of participatory management. This paper reviews the history of using landscape visualization across a gradient of public participation levels in decision-making (informing, consulting, involving, collaborating, and empowering) and how both landscape visualization itself and its use have co-evolved across 30 years from 1991 to 2020. We reviewed 249 papers that utilized visualization to display landscape for participatory planning, and the results indicate significant patterns. Policymakers tend more to bring visual tools into decision-making at consulting levels, establishing an information exchange between parties. Visual tools are primarily 2D depictions that are real, static, still, and non-immersive. Abstract, static, non-immersive, and 2D techniques are used more at involving level if they are interactive (interactive mapping) and collaborating if still (simple maps and sketches). There is no proof to support the fact that more advanced techniques facilitate moving towards higher levels of public participation. Our data suggest that the effectiveness of a given level is a function of both visualization attributes and the stakeholders' competency/local knowledge. Thus, this research recommends investigating participants' competency levels before designing visualization products to avoid unnecessary expenditure of resources while obtaining better results.
... The design of VGEs, as a 3D geovisualization tool, implies several challenges articulated around three categories: the data (co-visualization of information from various sources on the same medium); the users (communication of a consistent (neutral) message to heterogeneous users, having unique skills, cognition abilities, objectives, and interactive behavior); the representation (depiction of information with its set of style and interaction) (Christophe 2020;Çöltekin et al. 2017). The design of (non-expert) citizen involvement tools should carefully consider these categories, in order to limit the risk of enacting inappropriate VGE practices, which could lead to bias, misinterpretation, inequality in its application (Schroth et al. 2011), and ultimately poor decision-making. A better understanding of how these categories are connected could limit these hindrances and enhance participatory practices. ...
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For the past twenty years, the adoption of Virtual Geographic Environments is thriving. This democratization is due to numerous new opportunities offered by this medium. However, in participatory urban planning these interactive 3D geovisualizations are still labeled as very advanced means, and are only scarcely used. The involvement of citizens in urban decision-making is indeed carefully planned ahead to limit off-topic feedback. A better comprehension of Virtual Geographic Environments, and more specifically of users’ strategic behaviors while interacting with this medium could enhance participants’ contributions. The users’ strategic behavior was assessed in this article through an experimental study. A total of 107 participants completed online tasks about the identification of 3D scenes’ footprints, the comparison of buildings’ heights, and the visibility of objects through the scenes. The interactions of the participants were recorded (i.e. pressed keys, pointing device interactions), as well as the camera positions adopted to complete specific tasks. The results show that: (1) users get more efficient throughout the study; (2) interruptions in 3D manipulation appear to highlight difficulties in interacting with the virtual environments; (3) users tend to centralize their positions within the scene, notably around their starting position; (4) the type of task strongly affects the behavior of users, limiting or broadening their explorations. The results of this experimental study are a valuable resource that can be used to improve the design of future urban planning projects involving Virtual Geographic Environments, e.g. with the creation of personalized 3D tools.
... While these visualisation outputs are generally produced in the forms of still images and animations, more advanced technologies facilitate development of virtual models that allow users to navigate landscapes more freely (Appleton et al., 2002). The development of virtual 3D models has been accelerated by the development of their platforms, such as Google Earth (Schroth et al., 2011). Camera devices that record 3D visual environments of actual landscapes are another technological advancement. ...
Excessive motorisation, resulting from the vicious cycle of car-oriented road development and car-reliant land development, significantly deteriorates walking environments, causing traffic safety problems, damaging city-centre vitality, and hindering sustainable mobility. Many Asian cities face these issues, and as a result, it is often difficult for their street users to experience higher level walking needs, such as comfort and attractiveness, in their daily walking environments. Without such experiences, street users may have difficulty in finding high quality street environments. Visualisation technologies allowing street users to virtually experience more diverse walking needs may assist them in recognising new visions of walkable cities. Accordingly, this study conducts an experimental analysis of walkability evaluations by applying virtual reality tools for evaluating various streets to answer the following research questions: (1) How are street environments related to walking perceptions and behaviours? (2) Is virtual reality visualisation advantageous for revealing these relationships? The research conducted an experiment on virtual reality walkability evaluation that examined perception-based evaluations of street environments in car-reliant large cities of Japan, Thailand, and Australia. The evaluation mechanism of walkability was analysed based on walking needs, taking into account the impact of the virtual reality tools. The results demonstrate that virtual reality evaluation of internationally diverse street environments reflects the sensitivity of walking willingness to the satisfaction of hierarchical walking needs. Further, the impact of virtual reality use was observed in the greater engagement with virtual environments, which is related to higher walking willingness. The results have major implications for planning and design practices, suggesting the potential of virtual reality-based evaluation systems as useful tools for creating and implementing new visions of walkable cities.
... It empowers stakeholders through social learning and enhances project outcomes by developing more creative solutions and increasing the possibility of being holistic, objective, and fair. Thus, the process raises the likelihood that the project will meet local expectations (Radinsky et al., 2017;Reed, 2008;Schroth et al., 2011). Because of the benefits of participatory management, efforts to describe it and improve its effectiveness have grown over the last few decades, since social interaction, communication, and collective endeavors can change an individual's view of a subject and eventually affect the process of decision making (Bahrami et al., 2012;Brennan & Enns, 2015). ...
Conference Paper
The process of engaging communities, stakeholders, and the public in decision making has always been a crucial factor in natural resource management. Recently, most environmental research, assessments, or modeling do not conduct without some reference to stakeholders and their involvement in the process. Although this is a positive development, in a myriad of cases, stakeholders’ engagement has been quite nominal, and complete successful engagement is barely achievable. Various restrictions cause unwillingness for the public to participate. So, here, an important question comes up. What are the best approaches which increase public participation for mitigating environmental problems and enhancing nature-friendly attitudes and behaviors in society while they meet the aims of participatory methods? Some scholars advocate that visualization can improve understanding of the participants about potential plans, and enhance their ability to communicate their knowledge and ideas. In other words, the use of visualization can fulfill the criteria of an engaging participatory approach, fill the gaps between planners and the public, and provide a common language among them. Visualization is a graphical approach for displaying information and can be referred to as any technique for creating images, diagrams, or animations to communicate a message. The general procedure of visualization is to turn raw data into visual components. In this paper, I am going to review the application of visualization in some participatory management and decision making at different times and parts of the world with various stakeholders and planners.
... It empowers stakeholders through social learning and enhances project outcomes by developing more creative solutions and increasing the possibility of being holistic, objective, and fair. Thus, the process raises the likelihood that the project will meet local expectations (Radinsky et al., 2017;Reed, 2008;Schroth et al., 2011). Because of the benefits of participatory management, efforts to describe it and improve its effectiveness have grown over the last few decades, since social interaction, communication, and collective endeavors can change an individual's view of a subject and eventually affect the process of decision making (Bahrami et al., 2012;Brennan & Enns, 2015). ...
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Typical urban participatory approaches engage citizens through lengthy sessions far from the area under transformation by an urban project. Several issues result from these settings of involvement including the mobilization of similar individuals, overwhelming participatory codes, or a gap between the affected urban landscape and the location of the session. This study introduces a modern approach that leverages the use of 3D web applications to address some of the critical challenges of popular participatory sessions. The developed approach, named e-guerrilla 3D participation, is based on five dimensions: immediate participation, ease of use, flexibility, place-based engagement, and immersivity. A prototype complying with these five dimensions was implemented in this study. The prototype promotes an in situ engagement where all the users (without distinction) of a public area can explore a future urban project and get involved within minutes. A usability study conducted with 26 expert and non-expert participants investigated the prototype through a fictive scenario. The findings demonstrate a positive outcome in terms of participatory results that are identifiable with the prototype (highlighting the controversial elements of the projects) and encourage feedback collected during a survey and interview. The usability study suggests key aspects that should be considered to improve the design of participatory sessions and their interactive mediums (or tools), such as realism, affordance, incentive, and purpose. The promising participatory approach (and prototype), which was unpacked step-by-step in this study, does not replace typical practices but could help to complement them by reaching a non-selected and broader public; hence leading to the design of more inclusive participatory approaches.
Visualisation and auralisation are among the essential technologies for perception-driven decision support in landscape planning and soundscape planning, respectively. By making proposed developments and environmental changes visible and audible, they allow decision-makings based on perceptual experience, providing a “common language” that all the stakeholders are capable of using to communicate and to exchange ideas. While they share common function and criteria when used for decision support in planning, they are not in parallel developments and have been approached differently regarding their applications. This chapter comparatively reviews the developments and applications of visualisation and auralisation for perception-driven decision support in planning, aiming to provide technological and methodological insights into the two interconnected yet somewhat independent subjects. This led to indications for new developments and optimized applications in the near future. The chapter addresses three issues: validity, contents to present, and ways to present.
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The Digital Earth concept as originally proposed by former US Vice president Al Gore is now well established and widely adopted internationally. Similarly, many researchers world-wide are studying the causes, effects and impacts of Global Change. The authors commence by describing a five-step approach to the development of Digital Earth technologies. This is followed by a detailed account of Digital Earth research and developments in China. The authors then present the research results of Global Change studies carried out in China, based on the Digital Earth approach. These research results are based on a classification of global change regions. This covers the following global change situations:
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As new computerized visualization tools become available, planning professionals who engage in public participation planning must have a practical understanding of the benefits and drawbacks of each tool in order to choose the ones appropriate for a given context. This article reviews both traditional and computerized visualization tools and attempts to provide a general map for planners as they navigate through the multitude of options that currently exist for visualization in public participation planning. The article is organized around a conceptual model that shows the relationship between eight visualization tools (four traditional and four computerized) and two types of communication media.
This book is fun to read!…Cooper takes care to delineate those studies that were particularly important in their purpose, particularly clever in their design, and most groundbreaking in their results. He makes a gripping story of the inception and march of progress in what could have been simply a long series of interesting research projects. In doing so, he made me nostalgic for a time when the field of psychology was alive with excitement and overrun with research topics that actually made sense to those outside a narrow specialty and that meant something to the citizenry." -Alan Cheney, PSYCCRITIQUES"Cooper (Princeton) does a superb job summarizing research on the concept of cognitive dissonance since it was first elucidated by Leon Festinger in the 1950s…Cooper brings a much-needed historical perspective to cognitive dissonance, and he peppers his discussion with interesting personal anecdotes. Political analysts as well as psychologists will be interested in the specific conditions that elicit cognitive dissonance." -D.J. Winchester, Yeshiva University"Dr. Joel Cooper has been at the very forefront of research on dissonance theory for decades now. In this book, he provides a brilliant and engagingly-written review of the 50-year history of dissonance research and a masterful account of the ensuing developments in the theory. The book will be an outstanding resource for readers familiar with dissonance research and an enlightening introduction for those who are not" -Professor Russell H. Fazio, Ohio State University Why is it that people who smoke continue to do so knowing how bad it is for them? What drives people to committing adultery even though they inherently believe this is wrong? What’s the outcome of this contradiction in the mind? Cognitive dissonance has been an important and influential theory since Leon Festinger published his classic work in 1957. It is known by every social psychologist, most psychologists of any stripe, and the lay public, making its way into such mainstream publications as The New York Times with increasing frequency and accuracy. Ultimately, dissonance has become one of the most popularly known expressions of social psychological insights, making its way into the literature in consumer, health and economic behavior, and has become a frequently used explanation of political behavior in the popular press and magazines. In marking the 50th anniversary of the theory’s inception, Joel Cooper - arguably the scholar most associated with dissonance research in the past few decades - has presented a beautiful, modern and comprehensive analysis of the state of dissonance theory. This book charts the progress of dissonance theory, assessing its impact not only within our understanding of psychology but in everyday experiences as well. It should be important reading for students in social psychology, either undergraduate or graduate, but equally relevant to a host of other readers who need to understand or share the same passions for appreciating the significance of cognitive dissonance in the human psyche.
Digital Earth's framework can be traced to evolutionary threads with historic foundations that fostered the fertile conceptual and technological incubation. These threads incorporate writings, such as those of the visionary engineering-genius, Buckminster Fuller, in conjunction with an array of space age developments in computers, internet and communications, satellites, and education. In 1998, when Vice President Al Gore articulated the Digital Earth Vision, he portrayed the vision based upon myriad technology factors for the intellectual foundation and sparked a worldwide phenomenon that fortuitously included the Chinese leadership's recognition and acceptance. The Beijing Declaration is recognised for its role promulgating the International Digital Earth Symposium series to promote better understanding of the impacts of Digital Earth technology and applications on behalf of all humankind. Combinations of industrial, academic, and government organisations have advanced the technological components necessary for implementing the Digital Earth Vision at a prodigious rate. Commercial leaders, such as Google, have accelerated the influence of large segments of society towards components of the Digital Earth Vision. However, challenges still remain regarding requisite collaboration on international standards for metadata, interoperability, and data formats for space and time that will affect Digital Earth implementation scenarios. Functional requirements for the model Digital Earth geobrowser remain to be fully articulated. The current paper presents an overview of the historical components, the key players on the international scene, the catalytic technological advances, and the societal response to the growth of the Digital Earth community.
The early years of landscape and urban planning coincided with the start of the era of digital landscape visualizations, and work published since then has contributed to advancements in representation, assessment, and decision-making in landscape planning and design. This paper examines the journal's articles on landscape visualization published over its 99 volume history (1974–2011), noting technological advances, case studies, and research topics and questions considered to be important during this time. This work is then examined in the context of subsequent developments in the field of landscape visualization in terms of distinct research areas, directions, and topics reflected in the publications. From this analysis, the paper presents an outlook on future challenges for research and practice that includes themes such as the diffusion of D visualization in our everyday environment, linking visualizations with underlying models, going beyond highly realistic but simply descriptive visualizations, using visualizations in an assessment and decision-making context, and incorporating multi-sensory experiences. It also considers the prospects for further technological advancements such as augmented reality for making decisions in the planning and design of our future environments.
In dynamic geographic information and visualization systems, the ways in which a user is allowed to manipulate the map and the data represented (through various interaction capabilities) are just as important as the ways the data are presented (as marks on the screen). This chapter describes strategies that will help cartographers design geovisualization interfaces and environments. We present a framework, informed by cognitive science, for designing and developing modes of interaction for use in geovisualization environments. We also review some applications of that framework in the context of representing the temporal component of geographic data. Consideration of some of the same factors that guided us in these applications may assist not only other geovisualization developers in the creation of tools but also geovisualization users in understanding the limitations and opportunities presented by the tools they are using.
Computer visualization of landscapes in three or four dimensions constitutes a “crystal ball” capable of showing us views into the future. This paper discusses the risks of the growing but unstructured use of these landscape visualizations as a popular decision-making and public communications tool in planning. The author argues that we need to establish a framework for guidance and supporting resources for the use of landscape visualization, including accepted procedures, training, appropriate databases, and a communication network for users. In particular, it is argued that the preparers of visualizations — whom we can think of as the “crystal ball gazers” who conjure up and interpret the imagery — need to be governed by a code of ethics for defensible landscape visualization.Drawing on research on visualization effectiveness and validity, as well as anecdotal evidence from professional practice, the paper identifies potential problems associated with emerging visualization technologies, and reviews the needs for, progress toward, and potential benefits of a support infrastructure for visualization preparers and presenters. A framework for guidance and support of visualization practitioners is proposed, in the hope of improving the chances of ethical practice and scientific validity in the use of these systems. Pending more comprehensive findings from the considerable body of research which is needed on this subject, an interim code of ethics is presented, for consideration, testing, and amendment by other researchers and users. It is suggested that such a code include broad principles and guidance on ethical conduct in producing visualizations, presenting them to viewers, and analysing responses to them from users as feedback.Implications for future research and practice are provided, with an emphasis on the urgent need for researchers to monitor and evaluate the use and influence of landscape visualizations in practice.