Virtual Globes for Participatory Forestry in Scotland: An Assessment of Current Attitude and Future Potential
Christian, Thomas F
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Forest management in Scotland has undergone major attitudinal shifts since the early 1990s, resulting in diversified management practices. This has been matched by increasing emphasis on public participation in forestry. More recently, freely-available virtual globe tools, such as Google Earth and NASA World Wind, have infiltrated the public consciousness, offering basic geospatial capabilities in every home. These tools have the potential to reshape the practice of GIS as we know it, educating the masses, and diminishing the hypothesised 'information-elite' of Pickles' and others' mid-90s social commentary. This research assesses the potential of virtual globe tools to provide information, the foundation of all participation, hypothesising that the public could contribute more meaningfully to forestry through their use. Participatory forestry in Scotland was generalised and segmented for manageability. Virtual globes' potential was then assessed from a number of perspectives; technical capability, government opinion, and public opinion. Related research interests pursued potential links between ruralness and computing, and the accessibility of forest information on the FC website. Findings indicate that virtual globe tools could have limited applicability in participatory forestry if certain issues are not addressed, primarily the resolution and currency of ground imagery in this platform. Government attitude toward these tools appears to preclude their use in the foreseeable future, at least in participation situations controlled primarily by government. The research concludes that, while there may be a future in virtual globes' use for community-controlled forest management, further research into the wider spread of participatory forestry is not necessary, unless government attitudes change in the future.