Opaqueness and Tangibility: A post-ANT account of the operationalisation of liveability in strategic planning. The city of Copenhagen, 2017-2020

Publikation: Bog/antologi/afhandling/rapportPh.d.-afhandlingForskning


In the Technical and Environmental Administration of the City of Copenhagen (TEA), strategic urban planners ponder how to value liveability in ways that align with the administration's political priorities. The elusive notion of liveability (what is it, exactly?) is interesting to explore – not as a solution, but as a problem to the situated practice of strategic urban planning. This PhD thesis investigates liveability as a problem and the related practice of operationalising it for bureaucratic practice. The basis for this investigation is participant observation of strategic urban planning in the TEA from 2017 to 2020, as well as ethnographic reading of documents collected through the research process.

The core of the thesis is structured in three parts. In the first, the relation between measuring liveability and strategic planning is conceptualised through a reading of a diverse literature on liveability. Then I proceed to outline how a post-ANT approach can assist in thinking of strategic urban planning, specifying how a general underdetermination of the nature of the social can be explored empirically through attention to the composition of common worlds and the material-semiotics of the office setting from which the planner works. The second part engages with terms of participation in TEA, which not only hosted but also funded the research for the PhD thesis. Through the notion of situated intervention, I position the thesis research alongside and in curious conversation with TEA practice. I cultivate a methodological attention to the messiness of planning practice and slipperiness of agency with a baroque understanding of the research field. The third main part reconstructs the empirical work as four planning stories, recounting my discovery of the importance of opaqueness in strategic planning, a staged intervention in urban planning work in the TEA, the emergence of the surprisingly green Local Authority Plan for Copenhagen 2019, and lastly, how urban nature is made governable by number work with and by planner's tools.

The thesis describes the construction of ways of knowing and valuing liveability, not as a comprehensive whole, but as dispersed and tangentially related assemblages. These constructions represent the urban territory in different ways and make their representations tangible as planners’ tools. Planners’ tools both reveal and conceal, interchangeably or simultaneously. The skilled planner works the space between revealing and concealing when crafting tangibility in strategic planning practice.
ForlagAalborg Universitetsforlag
Antal sider243
StatusUdgivet - 2021
NavnPh.d.-serien for Det Tekniske Fakultet for IT og Design, Aalborg Universitet

Bibliografisk note

Afhandling ikke publiceret.


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