Why technology adoption constraint research is important

Tuesday, May 10, 2011
by Peter Johnson

A chapter from my dissertation has been recently published in Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design. This paper, titled “Negotiating constraints to the adoption of agent-based modeling in tourism planning (PDF)” presents material from a series of interviews that I conducted with tourism planners in Nova Scotia. These planners gave their opinions on the potential for agent-based modeling (ABM) as a planning support tool within tourism planning practice and identified several areas of adoption constraint.

This research is actually (and unintentionally) quite timely – there seems to be much made about ‘Geodesign‘ these days and the possibility to connect geospatial analysis tools and approaches within a policy context. Here is a recent meeting from The Centre for Research in Social Simulation at the University of Surrey that discusses the interface between ABM and policy. Everyone seems to be trying to figure out how geotech tools can help decision-makers make better decisions – a noble pursuit, for sure! However, as I (drawing from many others – thanks Helen Couclelis) point out in the paper, there is a fundamental disconnect between the modeler and the planner or policy developer. Modelers (and scientists) thrive on the ability to be wrong about things – a luxury that the policy developer can’t afford (to put it mildly).

When I think about Geodesign, I am excited that GIS and geospatial tools can make an impact within decision-making. But I also hope that this general level of enthusiasm for tools and approaches is accompanied by a similar investment in research that looks to identify and negotiate the adoption constraints associated with technology implementation. As I’m finding out with my current Geoweb research, there are a unique set of constraints created by an organization (community, government, corporation) that can serve as a massive impediment to using any technology. A balanced view going forward should be a research priority!