Urban planners, and municipalities in general, are often burdened by a broad range of tasks and daily challenges, many of which require quick action. While many aim to achieve a more sustainable and resilient urban environment, reaching those goals can be full of challenges: environmental literacy issues, communication and collaboration barriers. Some central challenges include, for example, ensuring a meaningful participation process that can enable information gathering, and dissemination of information about future projects and activities. Another current challenge is the improvement of the socio-ecological systems so that their properties coincide with the resilience principles.
With on-going digital transformation, extended reality (XR) tools are becoming more and more accessible. The quality of the experience, the user-friendliness and the usability of its output are improving. In urban planning context, the use of XR is making its first baby-steps. Nevertheless, XR tools have shown a great promise in engaging the audience in a novel way. There is a large variety of XR tools used within and outside spatial planning. Because of this, professionals that are not well informed about the possibilities of using these tools in resilient urban and regional planning context are faced with a daunting task when considering using XR in the process of participatory planning. For example, if a municipality decides to start using XR in their planning process, several questions need to be answered beforehand. The questions may include: what exactly to use it for, what kind of technology to use and how to harness its potential in the best possible way. Along with those questions many practical aspects arise – how to address these topics in procurements and how to determine the best possible solutions in regards to handling the data, the copyright and enhancing the life cycle of such technology. In order to really harness the potential of using these tools in planning processes, these developments should be purposefully guided. While XR tools hold promise as an interface to present urban data and facilitate stakeholder participation, they only represent a small segment within the digitalisation of the urban planning processes. Their long-term feasibility depends largely on how well they are connected to municipal processes and information flows as part of larger digitalisation efforts.
These policy recommendations summarise the main insights from the Augmented Urbans project focusing on two main aspects: the use of XR and participation. These recommendations are compiled in accordance with the recognised resilience principles (link to table in resilience chapter). They aim to guide municipalities and their urban planners to make informed decisions. These recommendations have two-fold focus: they help to design a socio-ecologically resilient planning process and guide developers working with XR to enhance the usability of tools aimed for urban planning and participation.
Two main recommendations are:
- Resilience concept is functional when it is applied throughout the planning process and consistently in planning documents, policies, procurements and management. Considering seven resilience principles can help in translating the concept to the practical level of urban planning actions.
- Resilience requires an interdisciplinary approach to planning. High-quality planning procedure lies in systematic and designed co-operation and communication between spatial planners and XR-experts. Communication barriers between different practitioners should be overcome by defining core principles and by demonstrating successful examples.