Accepted Papers:

Visual methods, environmental impact assessments and public involvement: a proposal  


Steven Vella (University of Malta)

Paper Short Abstract:

I propose that certain methods used in participatory/ collaborative ethnographic filmmaking, Participatory GIS and 3-D visual modelling adopted in some cross-disciplinary research can improve professional communication within EIA’s as well as involve the public more actively.

Paper long abstract:

Policy makers argue that grassroots involvement can be counterproductive at high-level strategic policy making. My contention is that Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is a project level-planning tool, and not high-level strategic policy making. Therefore, it is those persons directly affected who are involved at such a level.

Conflicts arise between the various 'stakeholders' in the urban planning decision-making and implementation processes, usually during different stages of EIAs. Furthermore there is little collaboration and communication between the different consultants, including SIA and Heritage consultants, who engage with the public as part of their consultancy work on EIAs, and the so-called 'hard' scientists.

I describe how certain methods used in participatory and collaborative ethnographic filmmaking, together with other techniques already adopted in cross-disciplinary academic research, such as Participatory GIS and 3-D visual modelling, or Virtual Landscape Theatre (VLT), can be used during EIA consultancies. In this paper I propose that such methods can improve cross-disciplinary communication within EIA's as well as involve the public more actively. These tools could effectively be bridges of communication, understanding and education between technocrats in EIAs and an informed public.

The bureaucratic system, adopting tools such as Social Impact Assessment (SIA) contributes to the constant renegotiation of stakeholders' perceptions of the social-physical environmental, caused by the developments EIAs are required for.

The means to improve communication proposed in this paper aim to make apparent these social processes in order to improve mediation during decision-making processes.

panel P11
Engaging anthropology and archaeology: theory, practice and publics