Techniques and Measures for the Evaluation of a Participatory GIS: An Interaction Coding System for Collaborative Water Resource Decision Making

Kevin Ramsey, Timothy L. Nyerges, and Piotr Jankowski

Paper presented at 2nd Annual Public Participation GIS Conference, July 20-22, 2003, at Portland , OR

The increasing involvement of stakeholders and use of scientific data in water resource management has created a need for participatory GIS (PGIS) technologies capable of supporting collaborative spatial decision-making. Our understanding of the influences such technologies have on decision making processes and outcomes is limited by the shortage of empirical studies of their use. In September 2002, we conducted a field experiment in the Boise River Basin in southwestern Idaho to address this gap in understanding. The Idaho Department of Water Resources (IDWR), faced with a water management decision involving public and private stakeholders, collaborated with our research team to conduct two public participation workshops. Stakeholders participating in the workshops included representatives of local and state government, water and irrigation districts, municipal water providers, and members of the public that use ground water. At both workshops stakeholders were asked to create and select a water resource management plan for the Boise River Basin as a recommendation to the IDWR. To assist their efforts we created a custom PGIS called WaterGroup featuring maps, satellite imagery, charts, scenario building and tools, dynamic visualizations of scenario impacts, and voting tools. We captured the stakeholder interaction and PGIS use using both video cameras and computer keystroke logging. A social-behavioral science technique called "interaction coding" was then used to compile data about decision process from the video and log files. We will describe the effectiveness of these data gathering techniques in the context of evaluating PGIS used to support collaborative spatial decision problems. This paper will be of value to researchers interested in methodology for conducting and evaluating empirical studies of PGIS use.

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