Accepted paper:

Situated absence: creative spaces of uncertainty in master planning practice


Shira de Bourbon Parme (Institute for Science, Innovation and Society, University of Oxford)

Paper short abstract:

This paper asks how master planners collectively make sense of future imaginaries in everyday practice. Drawing on ethnographic research, it posits that the entanglements of distributed cognition enact contingent relationships and enfold uncertain conditions into coordinated creativity.

Paper long abstract:

Relational studies of planning explore the complex ecologies in which planners work and the diverse social and material entities with which they interact. This paper focuses on the internal workings of teams of master planners. It asks how master planners collectively make sense of and achieve complex tasks or more to the point, how do planners think? Attending to how planners think rather than what they think about shifts the discussion away from urban matters and design decisions, towards the study of cultures of practice. Drawing from a distributed cognition approach, the study is concerned with the sociomaterial formation of thought, wherein people, materials, their spatial environments and temporal perceptions are entangled in an emerging cognitive system. Based on the ethnographic study of master planning offices, this paper follows the performative role of planning artefacts in the making. The findings show that as they make objects, teams of planners internalise the boundaries of the task, enacting contingent relationships from across the ecology of planning in which they are embedded, and enfolding the agential properties of absence into coordinated creative practice. Practices of making manifest uncertainty and enact a future time that is divisible and different from the present by foregrounding operational perceptions of time and space, generating shared forms of confidence.

panel Cog02
Creative environments, social minds