Comparison of Geodesign Tools to Communicate Stakeholder Valuesby Tessa Eikelboom, Ron Janssen

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DOI 10.1007/s10726-015-9429-7

Comparison of Geodesign Tools to Communicate

Stakeholder Values

Tessa Eikelboom · Ron Janssen © The Author(s) 2015. This article is published with open access at

Abstract Geodesign tools are increasingly used in collaborative planning. An important element in these tools is the communication of stakeholder values. As there are many ways to present these values it is important to know how these tools should be designed to communicate these values effectively. The objective of this study is to analyse how the design of the tool influences its effectiveness. To do this stakeholder values were included in four different geodesign tools, using different ways of ranking and aggregation. The communication performances of these tools were evaluated in an online survey to assess their ability to communicate information effectively. The survey assessed how complexity influence user performance. Performance was considered high if a user is able to complete an assignment correctly using the information presented. Knowledge on tool performance is important for selecting the right tool use and for tool design. The survey showed that tools should be as simple as possible.

Adding ranking and aggregation steps makes the tools more difficult to understand and reduces performance. However, an increase in the amount of information to be processed by the user also has a negative effect on performance. Ranking and aggregation steps may be needed to limit this amount. This calls for careful tailoring of the tool to the task to be performed. For all tools it was found maybe the most important characteristic of the tools is that they allow for trial and error as this increases the opportunity for experimentation and learning by doing.

Keywords Geodesign · Stakeholders · Spatial planning

T. Eikelboom (B)

Institute for Environmental Studies (IVM), Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam,

De Boelelaan 1085, 1081 HV, Amsterdam, The Netherlands e-mail:

R. Janssen

Department of Spatial Economics, Faculty of Economics,

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, De Boelelaan 1105, 1081 HV, Amsterdam, The Netherlands 123

T. Eikelboom, R. Janssen 1 Introduction

In spatial planning maps can be used to combine stakeholder values with different types of spatial information. Maps can also serve different functions in the planning process such as reaching agreements, exchanging information, and setting objectives.

However, the role of map representations is not always well understood. The influence of maps depends both on the quality and presentation of the information as on the processing capabilities of the decision-maker (Duhr 2007). Maps integrated in geodesign tools are used to support stakeholders in collaborative planning. Geodesign tools combine geography with design by providing stakeholders with tools that support the evaluation of design alternatives against the impacts of those designs (Flaxman 2010).

Little research has been undertaken on the communicative function of map graphics in planning (Duhr 2007). Researchers in the field still remark on a lack of extensive testing and quantitative evaluation of spatial planning and decision support tools (Vonk et al. 2005; Geertman and Stillwell 2004; Geertman and Toppen 2013). Only a few studies have explicitly tested tool effectiveness (e.g. Inman et al. 2011; Arciniegas et al. 2012). It is not self-evident that when information is put in a map, it is also understood by the viewer (Steinitz 2012). Multiple attributes are mostly combined in a suitability map. However, a suitability map of a single objective shows the spatial differentiation of the performance of this objective but does not present the values of other objectives. Furthermore, a suitability map derived from combining multiple objectives only shows the total suitability and does not give any detail about the aggregated objectives.

Maps that present a combination of multiple attributes are often complex. Janssen and

Uran (2003) for example showed that participants overestimated their ability to use this type of maps.

Geodesign tools intend to increase the effectiveness of spatial planning. However, effectiveness is a broad concept that can include many aspects. Previous studies have discussed various aspects of effectiveness (Nyerges et al. 2006; Salter et al. 2008).

Effectiveness has been associated with the usability of a system in the context of human-computer interaction (Sidlar and Rinner 2009; Meng and Malczewski 2009).

Jonsson et al. (2011) characterizes effectiveness as making sure that the right things are done and that they are done right. Budic (1994) considers effectiveness as operational effectiveness and decision-making effectiveness. The former concerns improvements in quality and quantity of data, whereas the latter is about the facilitation of planningrelated decision making. Goodhue and Thompson (1995) distinguished effectiveness as the extent to which instruments enable stakeholders to carry out the intended tasks and the fit of the instruments to the capabilities and demands of the stakeholders.

Gudmundsson (2011) states that, besides measuring effectiveness to assess instrumental use, a tool can also have a more conceptual role where use involves general enlightenment. Use of information can be described as receiving information, reading information or understanding information. Use can also be described as the amount of influence of the information on decision-making in terms of contribution or actions.

This study focused on visualizing the spatial pattern of multiple stakeholder values simultaneously. A comparison was made between four types of geodesign tools to communicate these values. The tools were tested in an online survey to assess their ability to communicate information effectively. The potential of interactive geodesign 123

Comparison of Geodesign Tools

Fig. 1 Four geodesign tools to present stakeholder values tools to contribute to decision processes is more and more recognized (Steinitz 2012;