How to cope with map controversies in deliberative policy making

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This paper investigates the roles that participative mapping activities, known as ‘PGIS’ play –or can play– in the context of a spatial policy making process. Based on prior research we have noticed that the use of spatial models and geo-information repeatedly deepens the conflict between different actor-coalitions. The debates often focus on particular spots or lines on the map, being an infrastructure, a national park, a development site, etc. Based on the evaluation of various participatory policy processes in the Netherlands, we come to the conclusion that many controversies over (GIS-) maps root in a few typical core dilemmas. With help of discourse analysis, a method that we adopted from policy sciences, we have analyzed a few cases in depth. From these case studies, we have elicited ten strategies how people dealt with the dilemmas while using map sketches, geo-databases, GIS-analyses, spatial designs or local knowledge. The strategies vary from (1) placing the problem in a wider context –and extending the region represented on the planning maps, through (2) reframing the problem –and recasting the legend items on the map, till (3) acting strategically by manipulating the map picture –for instance by hiding controversial boundaries or by adding ‘lightning-rods’ on the maps (which shift the attention of stakeholders towards other issues). In this paper, we will discuss the different strategies and we will illustrate them with examples. We aim to contribute to the conference topic by addressing concrete strategies how practitioners can cope with so-called map controversies in deliberative policy making.

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  • LJ Carton

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