Complete PhD Online

I finished my PhD at MIT this August, on “Large Scale Participatory Futures Systems: a Comparative Study of Online Scenario Planning Approaches”.

I’ll write more soon, but here is the full PDF (11.4 megabytes) and the slides from my defense, below.

From the abstract:

This dissertation explores the role that participatory online collective intelligence systems might play in urban planning research. Specifically, it examines methodological and practical issues raised by the design and use of such systems in long-term policy formulation, with a focus on their potential as data collection instruments and analytical platforms for qualitative scenario planning.

The research questions addressed herein examine how the use of collective intelligence platforms can inform the process of scenario planning in urban public policy. Specifically, how (if at all) does the design and deployment of such platforms influence the number and type of participants involved, people’s reasons for participation, the kinds of activities they perform, and the speed and timeline of the scenario creation process? Finally, what methodological considerations does the use of such instruments raise for urban planning research in the future?

Two prototypical online platforms were developed to explore these issues. In-depth interviews with experts in the fields of urban planning, public participation, crowdsourcing, and scenarios were conducted, combined with secondary analysis of comparable approaches in other fields.  The results were used to create an analytical framework for comparing systems across a common set of measurement constructs.  This framework was used to analyze the case studies relative to a base case and three additional comparative examples.  The dissertation closes with a reflection on how the use of such online approaches might impact the role and process of qualitative scenario research in public policy formulation in the future, and what this suggests for subsequent scholarly inquiry.

As you can see, this was a community affair, to which I owe everything to my many friends and collaborators. Thanks to all of you who helped make this happen.

13 Comments

  1. Gregory Todd Jones
    Posted October 11, 2011 at 3:44 am | Permalink

    Congratulations, Dr. Raford!

  2. Noah Raford
    Posted October 11, 2011 at 3:53 am | Permalink

    Many thanks, Gregory!

  3. Posted October 11, 2011 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    congratulations, sir!

    this’ll help me take open foresight to the next level

    ;)

    – v

  4. Posted October 12, 2011 at 7:40 am | Permalink

    Congratulations Noah! Having completed mine a few years ago I know the size of effort and the tenacity required to do this. Well done.

  5. Noah Raford
    Posted October 12, 2011 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    Many thanks Raul! Feels like there is alway more to be done, no?

  6. Noah Raford
    Posted October 12, 2011 at 7:52 am | Permalink

    Thanks Venessa! Would love to hear your feedback on the profile I did on Future of Facebook. I couldn’t have done that part w/o you!

  7. Sheriff
    Posted October 13, 2011 at 11:02 pm | Permalink

    Hi Noah, Congratulations . Just started the journey you have just completed and can just appreciate the feat you have attained. This is my first time on Monitter and your dissertation happened to be the first that caught my eyes. It certainly is an interesting area; one that stretches the boundaries of scenarios beyond its narrow confines. I will feed you back when I go through it.
    Regards
    Sheriff

  8. Barry
    Posted October 15, 2011 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

    Hi Noah

    Congratulations on the achievement! I am thinking to start a DBA course in business and one of the areas I am looking at is scenario planning as part of strategic planning for business in Latin America.

    Great website

  9. Noah Raford
    Posted October 15, 2011 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

    Hi Barry,

    Thanks for your comments. If you’re interested in scenarios in Latin America, you should get in touch with Jaime Jiménez. He wrote a very interesting piece on scenarios in Latin America for the last Oxford Futures Forum. Here is some text from the abstract:

    ‘Why scenario construction is not widely used in Latin America?’
    Scenario building is frequently used in industrialized countries to support decision‐making of important enterprises and government agencies. However, it is not so much used in organizations of Latin America, regardless of the fact some major agencies, public and private, confront a highly turbulent environment that calls for a very careful assessment of the context in which they are immersed, and of their future. Why is this so? Are there some cultural features Latin Americans have that preclude them from looking ahead of current contextual situations? Do they use other planning tools to look into the future? Do they realize nothing can be done in terms of preventing the future? This fact seems to contradict Hofstede’s finding the Latins in general observe strong uncertainty avoidance. This and other features of Latin American enterprises are explored in this paper.

    Good luck with your studies and thanks very much for your comments.

  10. Noah Raford
    Posted October 15, 2011 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

    Hi Sheriff, Cheers and thanks for your comment. I appreciate you taking the time to have a look and would love to hear your thoughts. Also, how did you come to this blog? You mentioned Monitor but I’d be curious to here how this came to your attention. Thanks again and best regards, Noah

  11. rb
    Posted January 16, 2012 at 8:31 am | Permalink

    Congrats on this milestone in your journey brethren. More anon

  12. Vanya Slantcheva
    Posted February 7, 2012 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

    Congratulation on the achievement! I am pretty happy I could read your PhD through.
    I am following Noah Raford’s insights.

  13. Posted January 4, 2013 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    Very much enjoyed reading this analysis of scenarios and found the info very useful in considering how to deploy this method in organisations. Thanks for posting Dr Raford.

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