The Platformization of Public Participation: Considerations for Urban Planners Navigating New Engagement Tools

Paper by Pamela Robinson & Peter Johnson: “Professional urban planners have an ethical obligation to work in the public interest. Public input and critique gathered at public meetings and other channels are used to inform planning recommendations to elected officials. Pre-pandemic, the planning profession worked with digital tools, but in-person meetings were the dominant form of public participation. The pandemic imposed a shift to digital channels and tools, with the result that planners’ use of technology risks unitizing public participation. As the use of new platforms for public participation expands, we argue it has the potential to fundamentally change participation, a process we call platformization. We frame this as a subset of the broader emergence of platform urbanism. This chapter evaluates six public participation platforms, identifying how the tools they provide map onto key participation frameworks from Arnstein (1969), Fung (2006), and IAP2 (2018). Through this analysis, we examine how the platformization of public participation poses ethical and scholarly challenges to the work of professional planners…(More)”.