10 years of public participation GIS research and practice in Finland
Over ten years ago, first steps were taken towards developing online public participation GIS methods in Finland. A multidisciplinary research team in the department of Built Environment in Aalto University started to develop PPGIS tools (softGIS) to be used both in person-environment research and in participatory planning practice.
We envisioned that the place-based approach would provide new opportunities for transactional person-environment research where both individuals and the physical and social context would have an active role in the reciprocal, mutually defining relationship. The simultaneous analysis of ”soft” geographical information together with ”hard” GIS knowledge would make this kind of research approach feasible.
Currently a wide variety of research themes have been studied in Aalto University using PPGIS approach, e.g. social sustainability, active living, ecosystem service accessibility, perceived safety, environmental memories and the everyday service network and mobility patterns related to various lifestyles. Also many different user groups have participated the online PPGIS studies including children and young people and the elderly. The locality-based PPGIS framework provides also a possibility for a large scale public participation and knowledge-informed urban planning. A number of Finnish cities have applied PPGIS methods in various planning phases and scales. The methodologies stemming from the work of SoftGIS team are also increasingly used in research and urban planning practice around the world (e.g. USA, New Zealand, Portugal, Austria etc.). Finally, PPGIS has proved to be usable in the education of future urban planners as an example how to pave the way for a smarter, digitalized public participation approach.