Artist s conception

Local Observatories

Study Space / August 7, 2016

We examine the potential of ICT-enabled citizen observatories to increase eParticipation.

We focus in local management processes related to flood risk management.

The two case studies highlight divergent roles that authorities conceive for citizens.

Citizen observatories do not automatically imply higher levels of participation.

Outcomes depend on the role that authorities grant citizens and the role(s) that citizens claim.

We live in the age of Big Data, yet many areas of environmental management are still suffering from a lack of relevant data, information and knowledge that impedes sound decision making in the face of change and increasing challenges. A highly relevant phenomenon is therefore the so-called citizen observatories whereby the observations of ordinary citizens, and not just those of professionals and scientists, are included in earth observation and environmental management. Advanced citizen observatories can enable a two-way communication paradigm between citizens and decision makers, potentially resulting in profound changes to local environmental management processes and, as such, in social innovation processes and outcomes. This paper analyses the social innovation potential of such ICT-enabled citizen observatories to increase eParticipation in local flood risk management. The findings from empirical research in two case study locations highlight the divergent roles that authorities conceive for citizens and the role(s) that citizens in practice assign to themselves. Moreover, given the institutional structures identified in these cases and the obligation of authorities to be accountable for their decisions, citizen observatories do not automatically imply that citizens will have a higher level of participation in flood risk management, nor that communication between stakeholders improves.

Keywords

  • Social innovation;
  • Citizen observatory;
  • eParticipation;
  • Flood risk management;
  • Environmental management

1. Introduction

We live in the age of Big Data, yet many areas of environmental management are still suffering from a lack of relevant data, information and knowledge that impedes sound decision making in the face of change and increasing challenges. A highly relevant phenomenon is therefore the so-called citizen observatories whereby the observations of ordinary citizens, and not just those of scientists and professionals, are included in earth observation and environmental management. The basic idea of involving the public in data gathering has been termed ‘citizen science’ by natural scientists (e.g. Refs. ;, ‘volunteered geographic information’ and ‘crowdsourcing geospatial data’ by geographers and ‘people-centric sensing’ and ‘participatory sensing’ by computer scientists. Citizen observatories can have many ‘shapes and sizes’, often extending beyond ‘mere’ data collection and sensing to citizen participation in decision making. They vary, for example, in terms of their area of application (from observing the physical environment to human behaviour), involving implicit or explicit data provision, collecting objective or subjective measurements, from bottom up to top down implementation, and using uni- or bi-directional communication paradigms between citizens and data ‘processors’ (see ).

Source: www.sciencedirect.com