Mapping Local Knowledge –
Possibilities of WebGIS in
Experiments in Maunula
Heli Rantanen, Architect
Helsinki University of Technology
Laboratory of Urban Planning and Design
GIS and an Urban Planning Process
According to Nedovic-Budic (2000) geographic
information science could contribute to a planning process
in five areas:
• geographic information database development for planning-
• integration of geospatial technologies with urban models;
• building of planning support systems;
• facilitating discourse and participation in the planning process;
• evaluation of planning practice and technological impact
“The shortcoming in diffusion of planning tools limits the utility of
science to policy and decision making that is so essential for
developing environmentally, socially, and economically healthy
Urban Planning and Participation (Finland)
• Land Use and Building Act 2000: municipalities were
obliged to organize a participative planning process
• Questions arised:
– Who are the legitimite participants in an area (who are “allowed” to
take part in planning process?)
– Who produces the most qualified information: professionals and
experts or the residents and other local stakeholders?
– Who has the overall knowledge of a neighbourhood?
• The use of the Internet aroused great expectations: true
two-flow interaction made possible?
The planning apparatus itself hasn’t changed much: new tools
and practices are not being utilized as they should in municipal
institutions, there is lack of GIS skills, and data bases in general
should be exploited better (Rossi 2005). Old legal procedure
controls the process.
Local Knowledge of a Neighbourhood?
• Locally attached every-day-life data
– “true” places of activities (where the children actually play or where
the pathways go)
– arguments, opinions, points of views
– contributions to a planning process: proposals, plans, visions
– information with time axis: history of a place, experiences,
• Often tacit and implicit, “common knowledge”
– The challenge is to make this knowledge explicit and equal to the
“hard technical data”.
• Paradox of the Expertise of Laymen (Staffans 2004):
– there are professionals and experts among the residents too – but
they are not seen as “ordinary residents” and their input is often
criticized by the municipal planners, who reproach the activists of
“taking over the process” and value “the voice of the silent ones”.
Case Study: My Maunula-map and the City
Quarter of Maunula
• My Maunula –map (2003): produced in cooperation with the
residents’ association, the City Planning Department of Helsinki and
University of Technology, Department of Architecture
– The map tool was due to support the Development of Maunula Shopping
Centre–case (the residents wanted to demonstrate that the old mall area
should be developed and rebuilt).
• The residents could mark places with symbols: pleasant,
unpleasant, unsafe or (traffic-related) dangerous places
• A comment could be attached on each symbol in a
– The planners were interested in the answerers (age group, sex, where they
lived). Is a person’s opinion unworthy, if he/she lives next to the Shopping
Centre? Is a good argument ignored if it is presented by a “wrong” person?
• By surveying the results on-line as an illustration or a list,
both planners and the residents themselves can form a
”mental map” of Maunula.
Illustration view and a search form
Unpleasant and unsafe places in
Maunula (all age groups)
Access to ”data base”:
Some feedback from the residents
In 1½ year’s time: 150 responses (of 7500 inhabitants):
• 323 symbols, out of which a comment in 59 %: pleasant 109,
unpleasant 87, unsafe 67 (– most of them in a shopping centre
area - ) and dangerous traffic 60
Some feedback from the residents:
• female, 60 – 69: Easy to use! It would be so nice if this [map] helps bringing out
opinions and the positive changes and even supports enduring the good
• male, 70 +: Interesting, stimulates thinking.
• male, 50 – 59: Interesting initiative…especially the results are of interest!
• male, 30 – 39: Reading maps and orienteering require some skills, though…
• male, 40 – 49: I hope that with these comments I can influence on the well-being
and cosyness of the neighbourhood.
• male, 20 – 29: A good idea of mapping people’s opinions.
• female, 30 – 39: … you can perceive the place as a whole better.
• female, 30 – 39: A very good way to map the charachter of the area.
Maunula: residents, locality and communication
• Produces new actors • Efficient local media,
• Creates image of the Local web site:
publication widely read
city quarter, A digital forum
News of Maunula • Creates areal identity
• “Playing board” in areal • Advertising place for
development, local firms and
• Dialogue Community enterprises
• Local service portal Studio (Internet TV) • Comes out four times a
• A tool for actors year
the “out side Locality
• Meeting place
• Experts, researchers and
decision makers together
• Close to the inhabitants
with the residents
and local actors
• Creates new
• The base of projects
information in the area
• Operational tool
• Maintains and stimulates
• ICT tools for free use
local discussion Local forums: Net Center
• Creates networks People meeting Maunulan Mediapaja:
• Brings up new projects each other and Networking, work shop for residents and projects
• Strategic tool sharing knowledge organizing
Hannu Kurki 13.9.99/8.11.99/HR 4.12.2002
Some early conclusions
…in a context of Maunula´s versatile resident activity on
other sections too:
• residents are willing and capable of evaluating their living
environment as a whole (not just ”my back yard”)
• they expect to have influence on it and to have some feedback
• WebGIS applications must be very simple and easy to use.
Even using layers (as in many web-map services offered by the
cities) can be too difficult.
• The application may give ”something in exhange”. A possibility
to review the results and answers of the others can be
• Still: the most important reward would be the fact, that this
citizen produced data would be of some importance.
Residents, Internet, GIS and the City:
the different ways of influencing (not just participating)
Planners, City Decision
Experts Administration Making
Attitude problems ICT barrier Unfit planning Lack of GIS skills
practices in general
A local data bank ! Other influence
as an influence method : methods:
- Local “agents” and citizen - Lobbying: using all the
activists as actors WebGIS City Quarter’s medium, Internet, press, face-
- “Leagalizing” fuzzy, to-face gatherings etc.
informal local data application Web Site - Direct contacts to the
- Residents controlling the politicians and decision makers
data - recognizing how the planning
- Storing the process process “really” works
- Time axis!!
A Place: Associations Elderly Entrepreneurs
The role of the Internet and WebGIS?
• WebGIS applications open – at least in theory – the data bases to the
unanswered questions about price, access, data security etc.
• WebGIS applications tailored for the citizens tend to remain
unattached to the official GIS systems of the city
• Internet enables a two-way flow of information concerning a place
but municipal planning system can’t often utilize this feature
the practices of urban planning (in Finland) don´t support interaction and
“shared expertise” (Staffans 2004)
• Easy-to-use interface offers possibilities for many kinds of informal
data gathering applications
but they often remain unattached to the real planning procedure
• Building, testing and embedding various kinds of planning
support tools and methods is essential
• A local WebGIS application may function not only as a data
collector for the municipality but as a local data bank for the
– It can help them to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the
nature and potentials of their neighbourhood.
– Embedded in other local activities and medium a local map application
supports local knowledge creation
– A map interface seems to offer an easy enough access to information
(which can be hard to find in hierarchial data management systems)
• Experiences as in Maunula during the last 5-6 years show, that
the role of the Internet in general has become more and more
- The Web gives third sector actors a possibility to have (some) control over
the information and publicity a concerning them
Social process simulations and ICT-
based methods as bridge builders
THE KNOWLEDGE BASE OF URBAN PLANNING
OPUS contribution to the issue
• A Development Forum of an area (Centre of Espoo) will be
designed and built up in the Internet in cooperation with the local
actors, entrepreneurs and the City of Espoo
– The Forum will be maintained by local actors during and after the project
• Different kinds of map-based interfaces will be developed based
on earlier experiences in Maunula and other urban
neighbourhoods (City Quarters).
• Important feature to be developed further: time axis and
history attributes in spatial data so that it would be possible to
go back to different phases of the development process.
- No one actually stores the whole planning process with all the including
• The focus will be in the city planning process itself; the aim is
dissemination of new planning tools and participative methods.
• Bäcklund, P (toim.). (2003): Tietoyhteiskunnan osallistuva
kansalainen. Tapaus Nettimaunula. Helsingin kaupungin
tietokeskuksen tutkimuksia. 5/2003
• Nedovic-Budic, Z. (2000):Geographic Information Science Implications
for urban and regional palnning. URISA Journal, (Version 03/15/00)
• Rossi, L. (2005): Tietotekniikan soveltaminen Maankäyttö- ja
rakennuslain kaavojen toteutuksen ohjelmointiin. Tampereen teknillinen
yliopisto. Julkaisu 525
• Staffans, A.: Vaikuttavat asukkaat. Vuorovaikutus ja paikallinen tieto
kaupunkisuunnittelun haasteina. Yhdyskuntasuunnittelun tutkimus- ja
koulutuskeskuksen julkaisuja A 29. Yliopistopaino Oy.
• My Maunula –map: www.kaupunginosat.net/maunula/kartta
• Maunula Web Site (new): www.maunula.net