FracTracker is a participatory geographic information system (PGIS) and website that was designed to address concerns surrounding the process of unconventional natural gas development (UNGD) by enabling registered users to make visual connections by using raw data and mapping technologies. An electronic survey (n = 147) and case studies (n = 3) of registered users were conducted in 2011–12 to better understand FracTracker's usage, outcomes, and barriers. Results indicate that PGISs like FracTracker, while difficult for some users to operate, can effectively provide information about UNGD to engaged nonexperts—or regular users. User contributions via volunteered geographic information or crowdsourcing remain limited on FracTracker, but are a barrier that could be overcome with targeted training, by facilitation of a user intermediary, and by diversifying site features. Future PGIS research should assess individuals' concept of space, investigate the interaction between PGIS and digital discourse, and search for the proper balance between the system's technological capacities and ease of use.
Environmental Practice 14:1–10 (2012)