Crowdsourcing In Community Participatory Planning in China: Case Studies in Four Communities in Shenzhen

TitleCrowdsourcing In Community Participatory Planning in China: Case Studies in Four Communities in Shenzhen
Publication TypeThesis
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsQianqian Zhang
Academic DepartmentDept. of Urban Studies and Planning
DegreeMaster of City Planning
UniversityMassachusetts Institute of Technology
CityCambridge, MA
Thesis TypeMCP
KeywordsUrban Studies and Planning

Community participatory planning is a crucial component of urban planning but there is no effective public participation in the Chinese planning decision-making process, which brings up social conflicts and planning failures. As more urban redevelopment are launched in China and social media becomes more prevalent, crowdsourcing may change the participatory dynamic. This research started from the interaction of crowdsourcing and community participation. By defining crowdsourcing as an out sourcing peer-problem solving process, this research conducted 80 interviews in four communities (Danwei Housing, gated community, urban village, suburban village), studied two cases, and explored the existing community participatory regime, crowdsourcing's application and influences on Chinese community participatory planning. It is found that different entities' focus topics mis-match during participation. By using the three fold analytic framework of information flow/incentive structure/power structure, this research further shows that the incentive structure and power structure are to some extent not aligned, resulting in ineffective information exchange. Crowdsourcing, however, can enhance weak connections by providing technical support, changing incentives and power structures. Moreover, crowdsourcing's application in urban planning is found to be a spectrum: crowd to none, crowd to one and crowd to crowd. Different types of crowdsourcing has different influences on the civic participation ladders, which consist of the ladders of civic awareness, strategy and outcome. These three ladders associate with each other, revealing the holistic picture of Chinese public participation. Crowdsourcing helps move up the awareness ladder the most and also enables the move up on strategy ladder and forces the government to move up the outcome ladder. Crowdsourcing is an emerging concept and obtains a great potential in planning area. This research provides a new lens for understanding crowdsourcing's application and influence in participatory planning in China and also calls for exploration.


Supervised by Lawrence Vale, Reader: Jinhua Zhao