Digital Participation in Urban Planning: A promising tool or technocratic obstacle to citizen engagement?

R.J. Kleinhans, Enzo Falco

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedings/Edited volumeChapterScientificpeer-review

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Over time, urban planning scholars have studied ways to improve communication and collaboration between ‘experts’ and the ‘public’ in planning processes. Social media and the web 2.0 have strongly affected governments’ communication with citizens. The growth of public participation, Geographic Information Systems and geo-visualisation interfaces have provided many opportunities for citizens to create and share various kinds of location-based information. Digital participatory platforms (DPPs) are a specific type of web-based technology, often adopted by governments for citizen engagement in urban planning. DPPs are explicitly built for engagement and collaboration purposes allowing for user-generated content and include a range of functionalities which transcend and considerably differ from ‘conventional’ social media such as Facebook and Twitter. However, simply establishing DPPs is not enough. Previous research has outlined various challenges towards DPPs attempting to leverage citizen participation in urban planning. This chapter discusses five fundamental challenges to effective citizen participation: 1) access and awareness, 2) sustaining user motivation, 3) expectation management, 4) re-establishing routines and practices, and 5) offline follow-up and decision-making. The main question is how these challenges affect the actual take-up and effectiveness of DPPs. Contrary to the common debate, the chapter will show
that technology is not the main issue. Rather, the way in which DPPs are embedded in a wider participation approach is key to its success.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTeaching, Learning & Researching Spatial Planning
EditorsRoberto Rocco, Gregory Bracken, Caroline Newton, Marcin Dabrowski
Place of PublicationDelft
PublisherTU Delft OPEN Publishing
Number of pages12
ISBN (Print)978-94-6366-604-6
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • participation
  • digital platforms
  • social media
  • citizen engagement
  • crowdsourcing
  • covid-19


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