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In search of visualization challenges: The development and implementation of visualization tools for supporting dialogue in urban planning processes

Journal article
Authors Monica Billger
Liane Thuvander
Beata Stahre Wästberg
Published in Environment and Planning, B: Planning and Design
Volume 44
Issue 6
Pages 1012-1035
ISSN 0265-8135
Publication year 2017
Published at Department of Applied Information Technology (GU)
Mistra Urban Futures
Pages 1012-1035
Language en
Keywords visualization, urban planning, decision support, built environment, sustainability
Subject categories Civil Engineering, Interaction Technologies


Today, urban planning processes involve many stakeholders and efficient dialogue tools are needed to support communication in transdisciplinary environments. The aim of our study is to identify visualization challenges in urban planning. Based on a state of the art study and a thematic analysis of 114 articles, published in 2004–2014 and found through snowball sampling, the development and implementation of digital visualization tools for dialogue are discussed. A wide range of examples of visualization tools for dialogue has been found; either based on 2D maps, 3D environments or gaming. The initiators of the development originate from different disciplines, such as geographic information (GI) science, computer graphics, 3D modelling, Virtual Reality, interaction design and urban planning. There has been an increasing amount of usability studies during recent years. There is a tendency for the usability studies to have gone from experimental and prototype studies to more and more concern real planning processes and implementation. Studies of implemented tools in real planning processes are, however, still rare. Gaming appears more and more frequently. Challenges are related to integration of qualitative and quantitative data, representation of data as regard appropriate levels of realism and detailing, as well as the user’s experience and the appearance of the digital models. There is a need to consider how we can achieve the full potential of visualization tools, including optimal effectiveness of visualization tools and processes for dialogue as well as how they can be implemented. Organizational preparedness is necessary, including clear ownership, allocation of resources for maintenance, competence and access to tools and technology.

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