McAuliffe-Shepherd Discovery Center- For all of us who remember watching in horror as the Challenger exploded, this Concord, New Hampshire museum holds special meaning. Named for the first teacher in space, Christa McAuliffe, the Discovery Center offers a planetarium, an observatory, and special space science exhibits. The Center offers special Homeschool and Kids workshops in addition to staying open until 10pm with a free skywatch on the first Friday of each month.
It is not easy to engage the wider demographics and canvass diverse opinions using common public participation tools. Communication skills and time management are critical to encourage the public and to include all opinions, but such resources may be limited (Zhong et al., 2008). Online deliberation has been used effectively to achieve wider representation, since individuals’ involvement is in their own time and at their own pace. Information is quickly provided and fewer resources are required. The internet is a useful distribution tool, as individuals can participate in their own homes and time schedules. The Public Participation Geographic Information System (PPGIS), for example, is a form of public participation through digital Mapping (Brown & Weber, 2011). The PPGIS method, when used in the Victorian Greater Alpine region, achieved acceptable participation rates from contacted individuals, with a robust communication medium and descriptive answers to the questions posed. Limitations included a small sample size, a low participation rate of managerial staff, a grouping of Mapping activity around the locations where the majority of participants were engaged, and a limited scope (breadth
Even with a public participation process, a lack of public transparency and explanation can cause a perception of unmerited decisions (Zhong et al., 2008, p. 126). Online processes tend to delay responses by email from officials, which means that participants can lose interest in the project during a lengthy deliberation process. This delay can take the emotion out of discussions and make them analytical (Zhong et al., 2008, p. 127). This can be resolved through an ethnographic engagement process, where urban professionals become change agents by positioning themselves within the local community, either as active members or as participant observers (Tiwari & Pandya, 2014). The following sections elaborate on some tools that can be used by these urban ethnographers.
New Hampshire Map Photo Gallery
Computer programs have allowed a high level of participant engagement, an exploration of issues by participants, and a quick response rate from them. An Optimization Tool achieves community involvement during the planning stages of projects (Lowry, 2010b, p. 95). A participant is able to input scores that reflect his/her weightage and value of project goals and issues and his/her preference for possible outcomes. Solution determination takes into account the participant input scores to meet the participant’s expectations in the best possible way.
There are a few drawbacks. The tool is limited to those who have access to computers and are computer literate. The goals, issues, and values made available to participants are limited to those that do not require a technical understanding on the participant’s part, resulting in possible inaccuracies in results (Lowry, 2010a). A study of the process and success of online public deliberation for a project on regional transportation found that the participants were optimistic about the future use of the technology, but public preference for participation methods was different for different participants. The general consensus was that face-to-face methods should continue to be used (Lowry, 2010a).
A study was conducted in Stockton, California, by Cervero and Guerra (2010) on public perceptions towards required density increases to attain cost-effective, expanded BRT services. With a population of 290,000, Stockton has a citizen advisory committee whose members are politically well positioned to influence decisions on density increases along the BRT corridors. Photo-simulations for parts of Stockton that currently have low-end BRT services were created. The scenarios ranged from low to medium and high densities and were presented against proportionately increased amenities like landscaping, street furniture, bike lanes, improved building fagades, and so on. The aim was to soften people’s negative perceptions of high densities by making them understand how the area would ‘feel’ and how its image would be improved by increased amenities and place-making initiatives.
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