GEOG 469
Energy Industry Applications of GIS

Lesson 4 - Facilitating Public Participation with GIS


An Overview of Lesson 4

In this lesson, we’ll consider what it means to involve the public in decision-making processes like choosing routes for electric transmission lines. You’ll also learn more about how GIS can facilitate public participation, and even about the limitations of GIS analysis as a consensus-building methodology.

What will we learn in Lesson 4?

By the end of this lesson, you should be able to:

  • understand all of the educational objectives of the two units in Geographic Information Science and Technology report;
  • define environmental equity and environmental justice;
  • identify and discuss four kinds of equity;
  • discuss the claim that environmental equity is an inherently geographic problem;
  • evaluate the status of research on environmental equity at the time the article was written, and consider how to evaluate its current status;
  • evaluate the level of public participation in a case study using the Spectrum;
  • evaluate the level of public participation in a case study;
  • learn the basic operations of the Esri ArcMap system by meeting all of the requirements of the "Learning ArcGIS" and "ArcGIS Essential Training" courses via

GIS is one of the central technologies in the multidisciplinary research field known as “Geographic Information Science and Technology” (GIS&T). In 2006, the University Consortium for Geographic Information Science (UCGIS) published a “GIS&T Body of Knowledge” to help define the field. Two of its 329 topics focus on public participation. This lesson addresses several of the educational objectives of those two units, which are outlined below.

Topic GS3-2 Public participation in governing

  • Differentiate among universal/deliberative, pluralist/representative, and participatory models of citizen participation in governing.
  • Compare the advantages and disadvantages of group participation vs. individual participation.
  • Describe the six “rungs” of increasing participation in governmental decision-making that constitute a “ladder” of public participation.
  • Describe the range of spatial scales at which community organizations operate.
  • Describe an example of “local knowledge” that is unlikely to be represented in the geospatial data maintained routinely by government agencies.
  • Defend or refute the argument that local knowledges are contested.
  • Explain how community organizations represent the interests of citizens, politicians, and planners.
  • Explain and respond to the assertion that “capturing local knowledge” can be exploitative.
  • Explain how legislation, such as the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977, provides leverage to community organizations.

Topic GS3-3 Public Participation GIS

  • Explain how geospatial technologies can assist community organizations at each rung of the ladder of public participation.
  • Explain why some community organizations may encounter more difficulty than others in acquiring geospatial data from public and private organizations.
  • Explain how community organizations’ use of geospatial technologies can alter existing community power relations.
  • Critique the assertion that public participation GIS promotes democracy.
  • Explain the challenge involved in representing local knowledge that is not easily mapped or verified within current GIS software.
  • Discuss advantages and disadvantages of six models of GIS availability, including community-based GIS, university-community partnerships, GIS facilities in universities and public libraries, “map rooms,” Internet map servers, and neighborhood GIS centers.

What is due for Lesson 4?

This lesson will take us one week to complete. Please refer to the Calendar for specific time frames and due dates. Specific directions for the assignments below can be found in this lesson.

  • Lesson 4 Quiz
  • Discussion assignment
  • Submit your Certificate of Completion for the Esri "Getting Started with ArcGIS Pro" course if you haven't already done so.
  • Answer a short answer essay quiz reflecting on the ArcGIS course you completed if you haven't already done so.
  • Extra Credit opportunity


If you have any questions, please post them to our Questions? discussion forum. I will check that discussion forum daily to respond. While you are there, feel free to post your own responses if you, too, are able to help out a classmate.

DiBiase, D, M. DeMers, A. Johnson, K. Kemp, A. Luck, B. Plewe, and E. Wentz, Eds. (2006). The Geographic Information Science and Technology Body of Knowledge. University Consortium for Geographic Information Science. Washington, DC: Association of American Geographers.