First Advisor

Craig Shinn

Term of Graduation

Fall 2021

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Public Affairs and Policy


Public Affairs and Policy




Geographic information systems -- Oregon -- Pacific Coast, Marine resources -- Oregon -- Management, Renewable energy sources -- Oregon



Physical Description

1 online resource (vii, 222 pages)


Over the past decades, calls for comprehensively managing and planning ocean resources have emerged internationally and within the United States. Central to these calls is a drive to expand coastal and marine spatial planning with a particular focus on technologically mediated public involvement. These new public involvement technologies aim, more quickly and thoroughly, to solicit and analyze public values and existing uses of the coastal and marine environments. One particular technological innovation is the use of participatory geographic information systems (PGIS). These new tools allow for stakeholders, members of the public, and planning entities to collect, visualize, and interact with data across many interests and user groups. These technologies also represent a shift in how interests are represented and assembled in planning decisions. Questions remain as to how well these tools capture or fail to include certain interests or users, and if the technology itself alters the substance of these representations.

This research explores the deployment of PGIS along the Oregon Coast during a comprehensive planning effort to set aside portions of the ocean for ocean renewable energy use. This case study presents a unique opportunity to explore the dynamics of PGIS in action. The research used mixed methods to understand the social and political dynamics of PGIS. First, the planning process was video recorded by the state planning agency. These recordings were transcribed and coded using qualitative data analysis software to identify the argumentation and interpretation among community and planning stakeholders. The research also included semi-structured in-depth interviews with key decision-makers to triangulate the analysis of the meetings and further understand the issues and politics of PGIS implementation in this planning context.

Three key research findings emerge from this research. The first is a science and technology studies engagement with the use of PGIS as a unit of measurement and quantification in the planning process. The use of PGIS echoes classic planning dilemmas of rationalized analysis versus political debates. In seeking to quantify and record the human users and natural environment, PGIS creates units of human experience and use of the ocean, but these units do not fully contain the meanings and values intended by the designers of the tools. This results in a system of units that become "leaky," requiring ad hoc solutions in the analysis to capture the intended meanings. The second set of research findings follow from these measurement challenges or "leaks." Underpinning the PGIS spatial measurements is the presumption that a technical-rational planning model will be able to generate shared agreement. However, breakdown in the measurement units results in a shift to rhetorical tools or arguments about how to assemble the data. Groups begin to employ stories about the use of the ocean and the interpretation of data to create narratives about how ocean resources should be managed. Here, it is found that a series of coalitions form using narratives to align actors, and these augment the data and their meanings in storylines. The final research finding engages a theoretical question based on these two empirical findings: does the use of PGIS represent a new form of social or human engagement on the ocean? It is argued here that PGIS in this planning context represents a unique opportunity to understand the expansion of state authority over informal social resource management systems. Here, the state is understood not only in terms of territory and power but, more importantly, as a social and cognitive category that stakeholders and participants in the planning process jointly create as a way to muster public involvement values in debates over who should or should not have rights to the ocean. In this use of the state, actors seek to find a type of reasoning or meaning-making that only the state as a convenor and manager can provide. In this, the use of public involvement technologies allows for the extension of the state into the ocean in a new and expansive way. This research provides new tools for thinking about the substance and impact of technologies used in public involvement and governance.


© 2021 Paul Thomas Manson

In Copyright. URI: This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).

Persistent Identifier