Date of Award

6-2011

Degree Name

Master of City and Regional Planning

Department

City and Regional Planning

Advisor

Umut Toker

Abstract

Public participation is not a form of civic responsibility that it once was. With not only fewer people taking part in the public participation process, there is a trend towards an older (45 years and older) group of residents that come to such meetings or workshops. Plans, such as Specific Plans or General Plans often take years to implement and require all generations to give feedback on what is needed for the future. Additionally, within the last decade, there has been a rise in social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter. These websites emerged as informal virtual places for friends to connect, but have slowly evolved into a tool for businesses, and more importantly, government to connect with constituents. This study explores the relationship between the decline of public participation with findings to support the reasons residents do not take part in the process, and the rise of social media as a tool for engagement with findings to support how cities nationwide use Facebook. Social media provides a two-way form of communication between the community and the local government which aides in promoting genuine participation. Additionally, social media allows for efficient outreach and noticing of meetings or public workshops. As opposed to newspaper or website noticing, websites such as Facebook allow for local governments to target a specific audience by location, age, or interests. Findings indicate that although many cities developed a Facebook Page to engage the “younger generation”, all ages became fans of the City operated Facebook Page. In addition, the findings show that the true potential of Facebook as a participatory tool have not been discovered. cities are developing their own ways of using it as a tool as there is no formal best practices manual for City planning departments. The findings of this study have provided the necessary information to develop a best practices manual for planning practitioners to utilize. The manual provides information on developing a Facebook Page as well as the implications of the technology.

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