The Regional Image


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Invited presentation to East Central Florida Regional Planning Council, Orlando, FL, August 2011

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The Regional Image

  1. 1. The Regional Image: Interpreting theVisual Products of Regional Planning Presentation to East Central Florida Regional Planning Council August 5, 2011 Alissa Barber Torres, Ph.D., AICP
  2. 2. Source:
  3. 3. Approach• Regional scenario planning growing national trend, but with few published evaluations• Envision Utah, Atlanta 2025, Reality Check done across U.S., with varying methods and visual language• Work being published about regional scenario development and regional planning• Need for more study of visual practices and technical communication
  4. 4. Approach• Scenarios intended to be “instructions to the future”• “The 4C’s” regional scenario relies on 93 local governments to implement locally• Hundreds of land use, transportation, and capital investment decisions over decades• Changing audiences over time• What would be needed to implement it effectively?
  5. 5. ApproachHow do scenarios help planners facilitate the regionalplace envisioned by the regional community?Do the scenarios express the community’s valuesdetermined during the regional visioning project? Is a regional sense of place or identity creating visualcontexts that affect interpretation of scenarios?What alternatives to a 2D scenario image could bettercommunicate community intent and values?
  6. 6. Approach• Five one-hour interviews with planners• Two focus groups with planners• Fourteen total participants interpreting the scenario• Pre-test and post-test surveys• “Data slice”—not generalizable, but gives insights for future research• No stratified sampling or related research techniques—”first come, first served”• Resource constraints
  7. 7. Approach• Also included comparison to Harris Interactive Community Values Survey• Five identified community values: growth management, neighborhoods, nature, schools, transportation• Rhetorical analysis (Healey 2007) designed for regional analysis• Approval by UCF IRB (IRB Number SBE-10-06785 )
  8. 8. Approach• “Mixed methods” focus group and interview compromise measurement• Feedback obtained on the same inquiries and combined• Sample sizes too small to sort and extrapolate responses based on method of participation• Cannot conduct cross-tabular analysis of responses based on participant characteristics• More research in both settings with much larger sample sizes would be needed to conclude about effects
  9. 9. Approach• Influenced by Kevin Lynch’s The Image of the City• How planners situate themselves within the scenario• How place and imageability are communicated• “Imageability” as qualities in the physical environment that create “identity and structure in the mental image” (Lynch, 1950, p. 9)
  10. 10. Research Findings• Participants found interpretation challenging• No clear consensus emerged• Many practical questions arose about scenario elements• Only one participant interacted with other text within scenario document• Extreme variation in assumptions and outcomes
  11. 11. Research Findings• “The 4C’s” scenario likely not functioning as technical communication of values• Needs clarification of design elements• Requires more established visual conventions (field) or annotations (scenario)• Would benefit from more detailed textual support• Can’t rely on shared mental context among planners about the regional place
  12. 12. Research FindingsAssessment of Scenario LandmarksOrlando, Daytona, Eustis, Cocoa, Space Center, Melbourne.Orlando airport, I4, Cape Canaveral, Polk County, Sanford Airport, Turnpike, State Road 27.Orlando, OIA, Orlando Sanford Airport, Sanford, Altamonte Sprints, Oviedo, Winter Springs, University of Central Florida.Downtown Orlando, Kissimmee, St. Cloud, Winter Park, Maitland, Lake Mary, Sanford, Heathrow, Titusville.Lake Apopka, the extent of the urbanized area.Orlando is the series of pink blocks.East bound is Space Coast, Port Canaveral.I orient by roads, but can’t tell Interstate 4, State Road 429, and the Florida Turnpike.Source: Focus Groups and Interviews.
  13. 13. Source: How Shall We Grow? website,
  14. 14. Research FindingsAssessment of Scenario LegendI think it’s clear, but have to know the area to know where you’re at.Undeveloped—to me that would be unclear—could it be developed? Not conservation. Show highways and railroads, but not transit—thought scenario values it.No, not really—some of ideas and concepts are not practical, and some of the places that have hamlets and villages aren’t appropriate—not all are feasible.White dotted lines are confusing and not on the legend.Doesn’t give accurate description of where people will live based on sprawl and quarter-acre lots. What is defined as undeveloped? No definition in the legend. Also need definition of conservation area—would it include conservation subdivisions?Not clear. Compass is crooked—easier if straight north. Too much deference to coast.Bothers me that vacant and conservation are different—not clear—where would we build after 2050?Legend doesn’t describe nonresidential that is in mix. Existing conservation looks forested, not wetland.Which highways are proposed?Why are development areas both hatched and not hatched?Color palettes usually are specific to planning—dark to light for density/intensity, and this doesn’t do that.Source: Focus Groups and Interviews.
  15. 15. Research FindingsAssessment of Scenario Place IconsGrowth or population.Roads help orient, symbols like airports give landmarks, green stuff looks like preservation, boxes are towns, bigger if more dense.Consider to be growth centers to focus densities and intensities.Shows current location of employment and residential centers in region and what growth projections are. How and where future growth will take place.Intensity.Misleading where height of colored boxes suggests building height, but is actually population.Not clear the size of column equals people—may be with clusters—nominal, but ordinal and interval here—no way of determining.Each bar may represent a city.Concentrations of development density and intensity.Thought it was transportation icons.Pink boxes say 100,000 population or more, but doesn’t tell why four are together.Source: Focus Groups and Interviews.
  16. 16. Research FindingsAssessment of Scenario Lines (Transportation)I don’t know, I have no idea [after referring to legend]—connection corridors.Swooshes are connections.Economic regions that have partnerships with each other.Transportation and connectivity between places. The map represents multimodal nature of the region and the connection of centers.Some degree of connection.Connections.Nominal levels shows where going, but not volume.Doesn’t suggest surface travel, as goes top of box to top of box [place icon].Transportation corridors.Roads and railroads—look like we’re flying, as don’t connect on ground.Multimodal connections and the short pink block are confusing.Source: Focus Groups and Interviews.
  17. 17. Research FindingsCommunity Value: The scenario and its accompanying text tell me that growth needs to be strictly managed and limited.strongly agree 1agree 2disagree 8strongly disagree 3no opinion 0
  18. 18. Research FindingsCommunity Value: The scenario and its accompanying text tell me that neighborhoods are important and create safety and security.strongly agree 0agree 1disagree 3strongly disagree 10no opinion 0
  19. 19. Research FindingsCommunity Value: The scenario and its accompanying text tell me that nature should be preserved and enjoyed by residents.strongly agree 3agree 6disagree 3strongly disagree 2no opinion 0
  20. 20. Research FindingsCommunity Value: The scenario and its accompanying text tell me that schools are the cornerstone of good communities.strongly agree 0agree 1disagree 2strongly disagree 11no opinion 0
  21. 21. Research FindingsCommunity Value: The scenario and its accompanying text tell me that transportation and public transit need to be developed or improved.strongly agree 0agree 5disagree 6strongly disagree 3no opinion 0
  22. 22. Research Findings“What space is being referred to? How is it positioned in relation to other spaces and places? What are itsconnectivities and how are these produced? How is itbounded and what are its scales? What are its ‘front’ and ‘back’ regions? What are its key descriptive concepts, categories, and measures? How is the connection between past, present, and future established? Whose viewpoint and whose perceived and lived space is being privileged?” (Healey, 2007, p. 209-210).
  23. 23. Source: How Shall We Grow?: A Shared Vision For Central Florida, Final Report,
  24. 24. Research Findings• Interviews found that the meanings they interpret vary, often by their own specializations or value systems• Two of the five community values defined not identified within the scenario by any reviewer• Responses highlight the challenge of defining a region--boundary concepts vary• Regional sense of place does not appear to be emerging
  25. 25. Research Findings• Must formalize and articulate visual conventions within planning• Scenarios depend on text reinforcement and communication over time for interpretations and meaning within communities of practice• Kostelnick and Hassett warn visual conventions fleeting and can only be assessed at particular moment in time (2003, p. 190)• Local discourse community of planners may not sustain conventions needed to interpret the scenario over intended life (2050)
  26. 26. Further Research and Practice“Planners face the almost impossible task of representing the city or region in two- dimensional space that can be visualized at a single glance. Every map is a model, and every model is a radical simplification—an abstraction—of reality” (John Friedmann, 2008, p. 251).
  27. 27. Further Research and Practice• Testing with larger samples• User-centered design approaches specific to tasks (“think aloud” protocol)• Comparison of “The 4C’s” to original scenario design with specific placemarks and different style• Testing with prior dialogue and consensus about regional context
  28. 28. Further Research and Practice• Observe planners in workplaces (ex. Healey, Carp, Spinuzzi, and others)• Note discourses, interpretations, comparisons to local communities’ plans• View interactions with other stakeholders, such as property owners or developers• Note rhetorical choices of planners within regional visioning and interpretation processes
  29. 29. Further Research and Practice• Investigate more scenarios within practice, especially with textual support• Identify how scenarios are “branded” through text, analogies, and naming to support the visual conventions• Compare U.S. visioning scenarios’ visual conventions to do a visual meta-analysis• Review scenarios supported by better regional contexts (ex. Portland, Buffalo Commons )
  30. 30. Further Research and Practice• Need in Central Florida for better articulation of scenario conventions and values• Important implications for land use, public engagement, environmental planning• Chance to showcase region’s digital media capabilities• Involve the public in community design at smaller scales
  31. 31. Further Research and Practice• Several options to extend and clarify “The 4C’s”• Krieger’s “Urban Tomography” to build regional context• Potential tour in MST decision theater or gaming environment (per original HSWG? Project)• UCF Resources: Institute for Simulation and Training (IST), School of Visual Art and Design, others
  32. 32. Further Research and Practice• Second Life, Freeman’s “Imaging Place”• “Storymapping” or placemarking on website (Intersect, OpenStreetMap, worldKit sites)• Community iteration of scenario at local level• Text annotation directly on scenarioSource:
  33. 33. Further Research and PracticePhoto and scenario source:
  34. 34. Source: Polk Growth Matters, Polk County Planning Department
  35. 35. Source: Polk Growth Matters, Polk County Planning Department
  36. 36. ReferencesFriedmann, J. (2008). “The uses of planning theory: a bibliographic essay.” Journal of Planning Education and Research 28 : p. 247-257.Healey, P. (2007). Urban Complexity and Spatial Strategies: Towards a Relational Planning for Our Times. London and New York: Routledge.Kostelnick, C. and Hassett, M. (2003). Shaping Information: the Rhetoric of Visual Conventions. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press.Lynch, K. (1950). The Image of the City. Cambridge and London: The MIT Press.
  37. 37. Source: Polk Growth Matters, Polk County Planning Department
  38. 38. The Regional Image: Interpreting theVisual Products of Regional Planning Presentation to East Central Florida Regional Planning Council August 5, 2011 Alissa Barber Torres, Ph.D., AICP