Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Science (MS)

Degree Name


Department or School/College

Department of Geography

Committee Chair

David Shively


3-D Visualization, Idaho, Northwest Passage Scenic Byway, Planning


University of Montana


The use of sophisticated visualization tools and methods, in particular 3-D modeling, has seen a considerable rise in planning throughout the last decade due to continued advancements in 3-D technology, computer hardware, and the internet. The rapid increase in the use of 3-D visualization is supported by the belief that visualizations which imitate human experience help relieve many of the communication problems that exist between experts and lay persons during the planning process and help engage a broader cross-section of the public. However, little understanding exists to support these claims. This research provides a comprehensive investigation of stakeholder perceptions concerning the use of 3-D visualizations in the Northwest Passage Scenic Byway’s (NWPSB) Viewshed Protection and Visualization project. This project, which was conducted by the NWPSB Commission and Advisory Team, provided the perfect opportunity to study the use of several 3-D visualizations including digitally altered photographs and fully interactive 3-D models. Comparisons were made between these types of visualizations which are increasingly being used in the planning process. As the use of 3-D visualization in planning continues to rise in popularity around the world, it is imperative that its utility and appropriateness be understood. Interviews were conducted with stakeholders participating in the NWPSB project to assess the perceptions that individuals held in regard to the use of 3-D visualization. The results of this research show that 3-D visualization is an important component of the planning process that can ultimately enhance an individual’s comprehension of a project and provide an improved means of communication between experts and stakeholders. The majority of stakeholders felt that the digitally altered photographs provided the best means of communication. Project size and scale, the level of realism, and demographic makeup of the communities were identified as influential factors affecting this opinion. This is not to say that the 3-D models do not have any utility in the planning process, in fact the opposite is true. However, in the context of this study where age, technical ability, and the rural character of the communities played an influential role, the use of 3-D was not appropriate.



© Copyright 2009 Kyle Balke