Exploring the use of PPGIS in self-organizing urban development: Case softGIS in Pacific Beach

Kaisa Schmidt-Thome, Sirkku Wallin, Tiina Laatikainen, Jonna Kangasoja, Marketta Kyttä


The paper seeks to identify prerequisites for introducing an established PPGIS tool in the field of self-organizing urban development. On the basis of a SoftGIS study in Pacific Beach, San Diego, we argue that despite PPGIS applications’ close connection to formal urban planning processes, PPGIS tools can support local interaction and facilitate self-organizing urban development. We could identify three facilitating roles for softGIS. It functioned, firstly, as a tool with respect to the interplay of various community organizations; secondly, as a catalyst of the process foregrounding the citizen perspective in Pacific Beach, and thirdly, as a provider of legitimacy for the responsible community organization aiming at concrete interventions in the physical environment. This was possible as the community organization and the research team had a shared interest and related expertise, and agreed about the resulting spatial analysis. In the light of this study we welcome further experiments using advanced PPGIS tools with community organizations, and call for a closer scholarly dialogue between PPGIS and Community Informatics.


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The Journal of Community Informatics. ISSN: 1712-4441