Accepted Paper:

Intervening in urban strategy  


Ask Greve Johansen (Aalborg University)

Paper short abstract:

As an apprentice in a municipal strategy office, I intervene in and co-produce planning objects to make Copenhagen more liveable. I also study the time-work and valuation-work that make the city knowable and actionable to planners. These two efforts both complement and obstruct each other.

Paper long abstract:

Meetings. The ones that other people put in your Outlook calendar. About new procedures, evaluations of projects, communication with management; daily life in a bureaucracy. Sometimes, though, the air thickens and talk is on future infrastructure projects and land reclamation. Great forces are now at play. What is going to happen? What might happen? What just happened?

Strategic urban planning is undoubtedly a world-making practice, conjuring up possible future cities and making the present city knowable and governable. These future cities may be magnificent, and may be castles in the sky. As a participating and intervening sociologist, I am awestruck, disillusioned, and confused.

My project explores how the concept 'liveability' becomes planning objects, the materiality of city governance as texts, spreadsheets, pictures, maps and meetings. In the project, intervening is about shifting the situated meaning of liveability towards being about lives in the city rather than about international rankings. I attempt to leverage my position as in-house researcher to ask whose lives the planners are planning for, and to challenge definitions of liveability modeled on an urban elite (see

For this paper, I want to discuss intervention as an ongoing effort, playing and working along, while commenting and asking questions. I will also describe how I plan that this will play into a more orchestrated effort to 1) identify case studies to be conducted 'for' the municipality (what knowledge to produce for my field) and 2) develop provo-types with planners to make the city tangible in better ways.

Panel C14
Smugglers, idiots and loyal cheats: situated intervention as method out of control