Blogging for impact

Read time: 6-8 minutes

Blogging is not only a fun way to share your work as researcher or practitioner, it also supports greater impact. This post reviews the benefits of blogging for spatial planning experts (both young and senior), as extracted from the wider blogosphere.

Why blog?

Blogging is increasingly popular among academics and practitioners alike. Individual professionals, research groups and companies now routinely blog about their work, leading to a flurry of blogs available within spatial planning (see particularly the excellent list of planning blogs provided by Feedspot). The flip part of the popularity of blogging is a sure sign that the golden era of blogging in the noughties (2000s) is a thing of the distant past. If you seek superstar blogger status, brace yourself for some disappointment.

The fact that planning experts and aficionados commonly share their work by blogging should be exhilarating, however. The diversity of available outlets means your work can reach a wide range of readers based on the geography, theme, and type of your work. Whether you are a researcher in-the-making or a senior planner, there is blog for every purpose. Academic blogging is a great way to further disseminate your research. It can also be used to help demonstrate the impact of your research. In the industry, digital marketers routinely remind entrepreneurs about the value of blogging for business. Researchers, too, have a lot to learn from digital marketing experts about impactful communication and marketing. Although the ‘publish or perish’ paradigm may prevail at many research institutions, the present and future of impactful knowledge seems to lie in the ability to translate insight and experience in easily digestible and actionable pieces of content.

To effectively market our own work and ideas, we may need to reconsider how we look at and relate others’ work. To become seen, one must first learn to see (see the book This is Marketing by Seth Godin). Blogging is probably as much about sharing and celebrating our own achievements as learning to appreciate and share that of others’. The sharing ethic of blogging is underpinned by the fact that the internet is all about collaboration. Blogging is a free and accessible way of sharing what makes you unique and special.

Picture of an ABC retro typewriter

Get to your favourite writing device and start blogging! Picture credit: ABC  Cole Steel Series 3 Ivory Portable Typewriter (1950s) by Retro Tech Geneva

To blog effectively, the following tips can come in handy.

A 1000 words

An average semi-academic blog post can be about a 1000 words. Both literally and visually. Literally speaking, 1000 words is just about right length for an analytical blog post. Give or take 500 words (i.e. 500-1500 words). The blog of the AESOP Young Academics promotes ‘semi-academic’ contributions: easy to read, and yet rich in analytical value. You do not want to make your readers too hungry for more. Neither do you want to inflict them with scroll-numbness in the fingers.

Visually speaking, the adage that a picture is worth a thousand words holds true for blogging. When you include a carefully-chosen picture or diagram, it could be worth the entire 1000 words in your post! You can also cheat with word count by having 2 or 3 good pictures (visual readers will thank you for it). Consider providing due credits if you do not want creators chasing you. That includes crediting yourself if you are the creator!

Blogging is Fun!

Blogging can/should be FUN. Big time! It is absolutely not a chore. At the same time, the harsh truth is that digital natives, just like digital immigrants, are not necessarily naturally-born bloggers. As with some of the most enjoyable things in life (be it fine beverages, coffee, soulmates, languages, art, silence, prayer, physical exercise and so on…), appreciation will likely grow over time. Fun may be commensurate with experience, exposure and/or repeated trial and error. Enjoyment may therefore arise with skill or experience, rather than the other way around. Skill, in turn, largely emerges from the capacity to sustain deep focus… Such is the Zen of fun, effective blogging. It is the middle way between the cracking fireworks of creative trepidation at one extreme, and the dim dullness of the writer’s block at the other.

Find your Muse

Related to the last point, we all need our muses, teachers, gurus, role models or sources of inspiration. In 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey emphasises the need to identify, connect and tap into the source of our creativity, passion, and purpose in life. It makes all our endeavours more effective. Inspiration can differ for each and every one of us. For example, you may find yourself tapping your inspiration in the air around you. At a jazz award ceremony in 2014, pianist Keith Jarrett shared: “Music is either in the air and you find it; or it is in the air and you don’t find it, but you just don’t try hard enough” (6’55). So it is largely your choice not to be held back.

Once you find your muse, nurture it and treat it with great respect and gratitude.

Look and listen

Looking at how others share their work and ideas can provide inspiration about how to communicate your own work and ideas. Find your role models. This can (and should) include drawing inspiration from people completely outside your field, such as artists, entrepreneurs, authors, and so on (see below for how to steal with taste).

No rules, no limit

When it is comes to rules, the sky is the limit (as this 1993 dance hit generously reminds us). Particularly if it’s your personal blog, you are your own master. Blogging on established websites can also entail significant freedom. Planning blogs such as this one can feature any of the following: book reviews, insight about personal career paths, reflections about the field, reflections about specific themes or issues, summaries of published journal articles, summaries of conferences and seminars, short biographies of iconic spatial planners and architects, advice about careers or complete a PhD…  You name it!

Perfection is the enemy of the good

Perfectionism is both a boon and a curse. When it comes to blogging, good is usually **much** better than perfect. Like for journal articles, one good idea per contribution is a good rule of thumb. Do your spellchecking and proofreading, but don’t try to cover up all possible mistakes – everyone can learn from them! Sharing the difficulties you encountered in the field or in your research can save your readers from similar mishaps. By seeking the good at the expense of perfection, you can actively support collective learning.

RemingtonNoiseless8_by Oliver Hammond on Flickr

Blogging on the Web 2.0 has never been so easy! Picture: an authentic Remington typewriter, with an unusual 1930s design, noiseless! and in size 8 (between a mobile and a standard typewriter format), by Oliver Hammond on Flickr, Non-Commercial Creative Commons Attribution

Purpose and strategy

Effective blogging hinges on clarifying your purpose and strategy. Even if you write a single blog post, you should be crystal clear about your overall purpose. It will be useful to have a strategy for structuring, writing and disseminating your blog post, for example through social media. If you write regularly, you can plan a series of posts each dealing with a different topic or different facets of your work. If you are a regular contributor to a blog or run your own blog, you can have an overall strategy for what you want to achieve. A clear strategy can clearly benefit the full life cycle of a post, from ideation to feedback from users. It can also tie in with your wider work and career goals as planning academic or practitioner.

Share generously (but not obnoxiously)

Blogging is about sharing in many ways: about a wide range of topics and in many different formats and writing styles. Sharing is best done often or at least regularly. As such, it can be a form of generosity whereby you give freely at least some of the precious experience and insight you have gathered. Promote your blog posts and other work largely through all relevant social media such as Facebook, Twitter and relevant LinkedIn groups. This said, avoid bombarding readers with narcissistic/self-referential content or by obnoxiously colonising social media feeds. Share with good measure.

Short, sweet and simple

Blog posts are typically short. Longer content could well become journal or magazine articles. Even the shortest blog posts can generate a life-changing impact on your readers – these may take up to several years to appreciate fully! This can certainly be the case with exceptionally creative posts.

Keeping your posts ‘sweet’ means making them engaging and fun to read and write. Crisp writing can also ensure your posts are both short and simple, which can greatly aid with digestion. Bite-sized content can be particularly effective. Meaty content can also be easily digested, if well-seasoned and prepared.

Keep it simple by avoiding all unnecessary jargon. It may be tempting to write academic or semi-academic posts in a very formal manner. But blog posts serve a specific purpose: to disseminate experience and ideas broadly in an accessible way. Keep your best academic language to those fancy Q1 journals. Assume also that your blog readers don’t own a PhD about your particular topic, unless high-level experts in your niche field are your sole intended audience. Impactful research arguably deserves a broader range of readers than the tribe of experts that you interact with on an everyday basis. There are no excuses for not writing simple content; even the most complex ideas can be communicated in a simple way.

Steal with taste

Digital content wizard Brian Clark reminds us that there is nothing new under the sun. All ideas have likely been thought of by old men wearying robes back in Ancient Times. So whether you like it or not, you are bound to steal. If ‘stealing’ rings harshly to your ears, how about ‘borrowing’? This does not mean that you should plagiarise, because you should not! Plagiarism is the First Law of Unethical Research. This includes self-plagiarism. A caveat should be made for conscientious stealing, especially if done with taste. In our current digital age, as in the foregone golden age of sea pirates, some view that authentic piracy can be a most noble endeavour. Depending on the context, and on which side of the sea you are sailing, presumably…

Stealing has been particularly rife in all manners of creative creation. Pablo Picasso allegedly wrote or said: “Bad artists copy. Great artists steal”. Would rap, R&B or pop music even exist if it weren’t for good stealing? Would the work of the 100 most influential urbanists have been possible if it weren’t for borrowing from fellow architects, constructors, surveyors, human geographers, anthropologists, environmentalists, activists and politicians? Even the whole Open Source model of digital technology rests on the synergy of infinite, value-driven acts of stealing that help grow the digital commons for the benefit of the most. So if sharing knowledge is your trade, steal from the masters.

Tell a story

Write a post as though you were talking or giving a presentation to your readers. Engage them body and soul. Even academic research can be narrated This can make blog posts more fun to read and write at the same time.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Let’s face it: even the most generous, selfless blogger can rightfully expect something in return for their hard work of sharing. Who would say no to a fan club or entourage of supportive researchers and practitioners? Online communities make the digital world go round, which also applies to spatial planning (think AESOP, ISOCARP, the American Planning Association, Planetizen, etc.). Just don’t market your work beyond what is actually useful for the wider community. Don’t build your name on people’s back. Sharing responsibly and ethically remains the underpinning principle of blogging. Rightfully crediting others for their work and ideas can also make you get away with conscientious stealing. Pay the dues to those who have shaped your own work. And pay the dues to the blues in case your hard blogging isn’t as impactful as expected! Dust yourself off, and try again. Oh, and watch out for the ugly bloggers out there. Lest you become one yourself. One could also advise to publish your best knowledge assets in reports and journal articles before blogging about them.

Your voice

Blogging is a process of finding and refining your voice. It takes both practice and knowing yourself. This requires being clear about your motivation. You may want to pitch your voice differently based on your purpose, audience and the topic you are writing about. Rather than simply copying others, aim to develop your own voice. As someone famously said:Be yourself. Everyone else is taken”.

Zero sum

In all, the art and science of writing effective blog content depends on the overall purpose of the post, the message you want to convey, and the intended audience. There are no winners or losers. Just sharing.

Now that you have read this enticing post, you will be naturally inclined to share your work and insight on the AESOP Young Academics network’s blog – one of the best spatial planning blogs on the blogosphere!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

No rules, only guide posts: Be more pirate. Tell a story. Pictures speak a 1000 words. To be seen, one must first learn to see. Find your voice. Picture credit: Pirate Girl by Sönke Haas on Flickr, No Derivatives Creative Commons Attribution.

 

Besides the embedded links, the tips and insight shared in this blog post are largely inspired from the following sources (listed by date of publication): 

Benedikt Fecher and Sascha Friesike at LSE Impact blog. A systemic view of research impact: an invitation. Published 20 November 2019.

Research Out There at the University of Kent. Resources for writing academic blogs. Published 7 July 2019.

Susan Gunelius. Ways bloggers can use Twitter. Updated 24 June 2019.

Lars Lofgren at QuickSprout. 10 Lessons Seth Godin can teach you about Blogging. Updated 4 February 2019.

Lucille Valentine at Research Impact from the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at Newcastle University. Finding out about blogging for impact. Published 6 December 2017.

Tom Crick and Alan Winfield at The Guardian. Academic blogging – 10 top tips. Published 13 December 2013.

Chris Gilson & Stuart Brown on the London School of Economics (LSE) impact blog. How to: Academic Blogging. Published 13 December 2012.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Academia, research quality and assessment, Beyond planning, blogging, Dissemination, outreach, communication, impact, Planning, city, and society, Resources, technology, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sitopia: how food shapes the city

Author: Ian Babelon (Northumbria University)

On Wednesday 6 November 2019, I had the pleasure to attend Carolyn Steel’s public lecture at Newcastle University where she presented important insight from her former book Hungry City: How Food Shapes our Lives, and her forthcoming book Sitopia, to be published March 2020. Carolyn Steel is an architect, and was  inaugural studio director of the LSE Cities Programme. Her TED Talk ‘How food shapes our cities’ reached 1.2 million views. You can follow her on Twitter @carolynsteel. Below is an adapted summary of the lecture by Carolyn Steel punctuated with personal reflections of my own. The blog post closes with some resources to further address this growing issue, including a link to the AESOP thematic group Sustainable Food Planning.

Food shapes the city shapes food

Food shapes cities in ways that we largely take for granted. Paradoxically, because it is so pervasive and essential to human societies, food is almost invisible. The point of departure for Carolyn Steel’s current work lies in the notion of Sitopia: that food and places shape each other in intricate ways. Sitopia is a term that Carolyn Steel coined, merging together two Ancient Greek terms: sitos (food) + tópos (place). Sitopia distinguishes itself from the term utopia, which denotes an ideal, perfect place that does not exist: ou (not) + tópos (place). In English, the term was first used by Sir Thomas More in 1516 in his landmark book Utopia which continues to influence the way we relate to ideal societies. While the state of perfection conveyed by utopia cannot exist (by definition), sitopia describes the historical relationship between place and food which has governed place-making ever since the days of hunter-gathers and early agricultural societies of yore. This relationship will endure and need to be addressed, for example in regards to the projected 68% urban world population for a global population of nearly 10 billion in 2050. Because food has been so central to human survival, it has necessarily shaped the way we live and build our living environments. By extension, place-making is all about food (alongside all the other things that keep our societies burgeoning), even if we fail or do not care to see it.

Carolyn Steel identifies two main approaches to food today, each with their own implications for spatial planning. The first current approach to food is technology-driven; it is grounded in the view that technology can fix all our food needs. Its roots date back to the origins of modern agriculture in the 19th century, with the observation by German chemist Justus von Liebig that the NPK combination (Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium) were key to plant development. Together with the advent of the combustion engine and the spread of railways, the emergence of artificial fertilisers and pesticides and concentrated livestock husbandry transformed agricultural practices toward large-scale industrialisation. These co-dependent dynamics that characterised the industrial revolution completely reshaped the city’s relationship to its hinterland. Prior to the 19th century, cities were largely reliant and limited in size by the productive capacity of their hinterland. Each in their own way, varied works such as that of von Thünen about the Isolated State, Stephen Kaplan’s Provisioning Paris, and Aristotle’s on the polis (city-state) all highlight the necessary interdependencies between urban and rural areas. Up until the 19th century, the geographical boundedness of place-making remained primordial. There were exceptions, however. The population of Ancient Rome reached 1 million or 450,000 inhabitants in the first century B.C.E. (depending on the geographical scale of historical estimates), and evidence suggests the food Romans eat came from the whole empire rather than Rome’s immediate hinterland, which may have partly led to the fall of the empire. In many ways, Ancient Rome stands for our modern relationship to food, and the spatial planning that goes along with it.

Since the industrial revolution, food eating practices have evolved alongside mass production and fast-evolving urban and rural landscapes. The advent of supermarkets and shopping centres simultaneously transformed food habits and urban landscapes and economies, leading to a decline in inner city food markets. Iconic modern food eating practices include ready meals, fast food and its undesirable health impacts, and Soylent, the expedient liquid nutrient solution that bears the promise of replacing actual foods (including fast food). Large-scale corporate food outlets are also associated with the advent of suburbia, which emerged as a somewhat unintended outcome of Ebenezer Howard’s (and others’) garden cities of ‘tomorrow’. Interlinking car-bound mobility, obesity, and segregated land uses, the once heralded suburban dream provides the classic textbook version of unsustainable spatial planning which New Urbanists and progressive place-makers are striving to transform.

In inner city locations, on the other hand, residents  can now face ‘food deserts’ (i.e. areas with a shortage of fresh food outlets). However, the latter may arise as a matter of preference and may not necessarily be related to income. In the more distant hinterland, large-scale monoculture and intensive animal husbandry have taken their toll on soil fertility, wildlife habitats, climate regulation and health (both animal and human, rural and urban). Tech-based approaches can also take on an alluring green veneer, such as vertical farming, hydroponics, and underground farms. See for example the world’s largest vertical farm located in Dubai, and the awaited world’s largest rooftop farm on the edge of Paris. While innovative and more or less tech-intensive, the latter solutions alone will not be sufficient to feed the urban masses. Furthermore, solutions like vertical farming use up a lot of energy. Lab meats are also increasingly considered a food option for the near future.

The second current approach to food identified by Carolyn Steel is one characterised by craft, do-it-yourself, environmentally and socially-friendly agriculture, grounded in a renewed appreciation of the ‘virtue of necessity’ advocated by Ancient Greek philosopher Epicurius (who was not a hedonist as many untethered pleasure-seekers would like to have it). This approach to food is somewhat low-tech and can be less consumerist. It also tends to be feature a greater consciousness of the need to cut on substantial food losses and food waste in the food supply and consumption chain. Among other solutions, examples include: the slow food movement, community supported agriculture, organic farming, permaculture, forest gardens,  urban community gardens, and guerilla gardening (e.g. see the TED Talk with 3M views by guerilla gardening apostle Ron Finley in Los Angeles), among other solutions. A noteworthy example of local community food growing is the Incredible Edible initiative in the town of Todmorden in Yorkshire (UK). Some technologies can be innovative and yet stay relatively low-tech and low-intensity, such as acquaponics which combines fish farming with vegetable production in a closed nutrient cycle. Not to mention edible insect production, which will remain a more traditional alternative to lab meat in the future.  

Picture of Eagle Street Rooftop Farm in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, New York City

Rooftop organic farming contributing to reshape cities, sometimes with prime views over urban landscapes, as here in Brooklyn, New York City. Credits: Eagle Street Rooftop Farm in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, New York City, which functions as community supported agriculture

In essence, a more people- and nature-based approach to food calls for a reconsideration of a city’s relationship with its immediate hinterland. As highlighted by Aristotle, the place of food in society is also immensely political, both figuratively and geographically. It is also a key part of Aristotle’s wider philosophy of the Good Life (in modern planning terms, this could translate as quality of life and well-being), where perfection was conceived both as a balance in terms of personal individual traits and in terms of oikonomia, i.e. a household economics of self-sufficiency, where each household had a plot of land in the country to cater for its own consumption. The latter could perhaps be seen as a sort of early version of One Planet Living. It is premised on the notion that a city should only take up so much ecological footprint as can be realistically afforded, while ensuring that individual households a direct personal connection with farmland. This ‘perfect’ place-based approach to food as economic, social and political stands can be seen to contrast with to the utopian ‘non-place’ of the sustainable city. The utopian sustainable city could seem in some respects to be a modern neoliberal version of El Dorado, the lost city of gold so prized by 16th century conquistadors, a kind of mirage that always seemed to glimmer on the horizon of their quest for wealth but was never actually reached. Because of a perceived neoliberal economic and (post-)political status quo, some critical analysts perceive the sustainable city as ‘impossible sustainability’. Rather than branding itself as sustainable per se, a ‘sitopian’ approach to cities attempts to relocate one of the most essential aspects of life (i.e. food) at the centre of the places we inhabit.

Rekindling a more local and place-based relationship with food also puts Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s (1338) Allegory of Good and Bad Government back on the spatial planning agenda to ensure good governance in terms of harmonised town and country planning. Urban farming alone will never feed cities. Nonetheless, Carolyn Steel views it has an important part to play in reconnecting people with what they eat (e.g. through educational community growing initiatives), and in nurturing an awareness of the environmental and health effects of different food choices.

Effects of Bad Government on the Countryside _detail of fresco in Palazzo Pubblico Siena 1338-1340

Detail of a fresco by Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s Allegory of Bad Government on the Countryside (1338-1340) in Palazzo Pubblico in Siena, Italy

Pending issues for spatial planners include what to do with the food question in big cities like Mumbai, Tokyo, Shanghai, Paris, New York, or Rio de Janeiro in the years ahead, considering climate change, environmental change, and resource scarcity, and the associated risks of climate migrations, hikes in the price of food stuffs, growing demand (i.e. growing global population), and peak everything (not just peak oil). The issue of food in cities is a quintessentially wicked problem for which Carolyn Steel says there is no silver bullet. It is certainly not a simple matter of pitching organic food against GM food. Notwithstanding, it appears that a vegan diet can do a lot to help fight climate change, but minding consequences in terms of food miles and impacts of growing global demand for some foods on local economies (i.e. eating a locally-bred piece of lamb can be dubbed more ‘environmentally friendly’ than an avocado that has flown across the globe). Researchers and some government agencies and professional bodies increasingly recognise the need to integrate food in urban planning. The issue of food in cities, in Ancient Greece as now, remains highly economic, political, spatial and geographical in nature, notwithstanding today’s highly networked channels of commodification and distribution. The cycle was and will continue to be recursive: Food shapes the city shapes food.

Food for thought (and action?)

Examples of direct spatial planning interventions will be discussed in future posts (do send in your contributions to blog@aesop-youngacademics.net if you have investigated or have experience with edible cities in various shapes and forms). Below are a handful of useful networks and repositories of resources:

First and foremost, check out the research events and outputs of the AESOP thematic group that investigates Sustainable Food Planning.

The City University of New York (CUNY) hosts an active Urban Food Policy Institute that addresses food from multiple perspectives.

The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) addresses food in a cross-sectoral manner in order to help alleviate hunger and malnutrition and reduce poverty in developing countries.

Urban Food Futures brands itself as ‘the first online science magazine dedicated to sustainable urban food systems’. Do read their article: How can food fit into urban planning?  which is based on a book edited by Cabannes and Marrochino (2018).

Cardiff University hosts the Research Centre for Sustainable Urban and Regional Food (SURF) which investigates food security, welfare and health dimensions of food systems, including the interplay between local and global food networks and related socio-economic and spatial dimensions.

The University of Sydney’s Food Systems research group investigates best practice for local food interventions, access to food, and community engagement in food governance.

Foodsource ‘is an open and expanding resource for information on sustainable food systems, led by the Food Climate Research Network (FCRN) at the University of Oxford’. The available resources investigate diverse components of food systems.

The Global Food Security Programme addresses is a UK cross-government programme that addresses the UK food system in a global context.

Finally, the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems published a vision report entitled Towards a Common Food Policy for the European Union in 2019. It “draws on the collective intelligence of more than 400 farmers, food entrepreneurs, civil society activists, scientists and policymakers consulted through a three-year process of research and deliberation.”

Posted in Beyond planning, Ecology, Nature, Planning, city, and society, Sustainability and resilience, Sustainable consumption, Territory, landscape, land, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Bus Stations as a transition zone to deal with safety

Authors: Manisha Sharma and Chandrima Mukhopadhyay

Users of bus services in Delhi, India, have identified safety as a vital factor to deliver quality services and attract users towards public transport, as based on a recently completed undergraduate dissertation (Sharma, 2019). We use the findings as the starting point of this blog, to highlight the importance of safety in public transport. Safety has recently become a critical component at a much wider scale in Indian context, and specially, Delhi’s context. Amongst multiple other variables, we consider that globalization partially contributes to the rising level of crime that leads one to safety concern. It is a societal problem at a larger scale. As per the study done by Ola Mobility Institute in 11 Indian cities including New Delhi, only 9% of women feel public transport is safe (Shah & Raman, 2019). While discussing the topic of safety in Public Transport, there are definitely societal change and psychological issues at stake, which are not discussed here. We rather focus on how built environment  can address the issue of safety. The effect of the built environment on public transport  ridership is often broken down into 5 D’s: density of development, diversity of land uses, design of the environment, destination accessibility, and distance to transit (Ewing & Cervero, 2010). We focus on the design of environment surrounding bus stations/ stops and on the design of bus stations/ stops (and other mass transit stations). We focus more on bus services than other forms of public transport, based on the background of increasing attention towards improving ridership in bus because buses provide mobility to the majority of the population, and meet the “first mile-last mile” connectivity better than rail (Centre for Science and Environment, 2018). 

Indian cities have given much attention to surveillance system like CCTV or panic buttons to improve safety in buses. The provision of CCTV cameras and alarm buttons (the most common and famous measure) are important, but they cannot stop crime. They become useful only after a crime has been committed. It is clear that “the environment around bus stops or stations makes a difference in both safety and perceptions of safety”. Therefore, we discuss here how conceptualizing and designing a bus station would ensure one’s safety. Also, many studies have suggested that improving the design of bus stops/ stations have huge importance and it can also help in enhancing safety in bus transport services. For instance, over-crowdedness within public transport modes contributes towards wrong behavior from fellow passengers and becomes a threat to safety. As per a study done in Delhi by Jagori in 2010, 51% of women have faced sexual harassment in public transport, while another 42% while waiting for public transport. 

We argue that a focus on the design of bus stations would assure both ridership and safety at bus stations. In terms of designing bus stations, there is already quite a bit of focus on innovative designs of bus station, in order to attract users, across the globe. It also encourages one to use the bus if the bus vehicles are designed innovatively. However, there is more to this. Bus stations in Delhi context has to be explored in terms of available facilities, such as, seating area, space for wheelchair, bus shelter, information screen, real time information kiosk, and even small-scale shopping areas in case of really high-density bus stops.

Moreover, there are recent research projects that are investigating public transport, both public transport mode and public transport stations, as public spaces. This is a very strong point that requires to be more highlighted. By public transport, we mean both within public transport and public transit stations. In specific, public transport stations, should be reshaped into something more than static transit infrastructure, but a vibrant public space that foster community engagement and enhance users’ experience. Therefore, Safety at b us stops can  be enhanced by integrating the bus stations with its surrounding by contributing to the attractiveness of bus stations. On one hand, it improves one’s tendency to use public transport, and on the other, improve the safety of the bus station as this is not a deserted place otherwise. A study done by Translink in 2010, showed that 45% of residents along Main Street in Vancouver are more likely to choose transit after improvements to s sidewalks and bus shelters were made in 2005 (NRG Research Group, 2010). Because riders expend a great deal of time, energy and patience outside of buses while waiting or transferring (Taylor, Iseki, Miller, & Smart, 2007), enhanced passenger amenities are greatly valued by passengers (Jenks, 1998). Alternatively, lack of adequate design leads to commuters feeling undervalued and thereby view the waiting experience as an impediment to choosing transit (Hess, 2012; Wardman, 2001). As bus stops are embedded into the neighbourhoods, integrating it with surrounding land use will not only benefit the riders, but also improve the immediate urban realm. A more comfortable waiting environment leads to greater rider satisfaction and shorter perceived wait times, leading to higher ridership (Zhang, 2012).

Picture of bus stop in Pittsburgh designed as public space

Pittsburgh bus stops as public space. Credit: Project for Public Spaces, https://www.pps.org/article/engaging-pittsburghs-bus-stops-bus-stops-as-public-spaces

In this regard, the debate can also be related to Transit Oriented Development. While at the city scale, the built environment is developed along the mass transit corridor with high density, however, there is still a high demand for parking. Real life examples show that such TOD becomes a neoliberal tool, as properties are sold at a high expense which is affordable only by high income groups. This makes the affordable housing communities who are also essentially public transport users physically stay at a distance from the public transport stations. In addition, since those who are residing close to public transport stations do not use public transport, it is likely that public transport stations would have safety issues. Hence, from these perspectives, integrating bus stations as a transition zone between community space and pedestrian infrastructure would make sense. In fact, developing the pedestrian infrastructure, be it under the framework of designing street for all, or reclaiming street, as an integrated network with bus stations, would improve both the ridership of public transport and safety at the bus stations. However, considering the financing may have to come from the private sector (for profit), there could be challenges in doing so. This is discussed below in detail. This idea should fit well under the broader framework of street for all design and reclaiming public space. It is already mentioned in studies that bus users are also happy pedestrians. Designing bus stations in an elaborate scale would also allow integration of bus stations within surrounding land uses. This is again helpful both in terms of improving ridership and safety.

Following Manuel Castells, infrastructures have been treated either explicitly or implicitly in the built environment depending on contemporary urban challenges. Infrastructures remained black-boxed as long as they worked smoothly. Once it was not working well, there was a need to open the black box. Following that line of logic, it is time to reconsider the role of bus stations in the urban design exercise. Highlighting the bus station design would fit well on the backdrop of Street for all design framework. Hence, from an urban design perspective, bus stations would become a very prominent component of the pedestrian infrastructure landscape. With a focus on climate change mitigation and low carbon infrastructure, it is a contemporary urban issue, and hence, with that background, it is required that such infrastructures are highlighted in designing the built environment.

While the literature on this has been dominated by a positivist approach, it is time to use non-positivist approach too. While non-positivist approach does look like non-technical to some extent, and hence, is undermined in certain context, what we are discussing here still remains strongly technical. This is also supported by the fact that there are strong governance and finance issues related to the topic. Technical doesn’t only mean engineering considerations, which is also something relevant in this case; technical means consideration of governance and financing issues, which are highly relevant in this case. 

From a governance perspective, it is useful to highlight bus stations, on the one hand, as a community space to be maintained by the community, and on the other, as part of prominent pedestrian infrastructure at large. In order to be considered as a community space, bus stations are required to be physically integrated with surrounding land uses. However, to be considered as part of pedestrian infrastructure, it is required that bus stations are physically part of the pedestrian infrastructure. These two parameters clearly indicate how bus stations could be treated as a transition area between the public space (pedestrian infrastructure) and the semi-public space (community space). For obvious reasons, the integration has to be more than physical integration, also in terms of integration  of governance and finances.

Currently, private sector operators deliver and maintain bus stations on contractual basis. Financing of bus station delivery and maintenance is particularly important for more elaborate bus station designs . From a financing perspective, it is helpful to consider bus stations as part of the community space, as financing for maintenance would come from the community itself. The other source of funding could be the charges from commercial buildings like sales tax, betterment levis or shops and establishment levies etc. where these stations are located. Presently, private developers generate money from advertisements for maintenance of these bus stops. It is often argued that public transport vehicles and stations are part of public infrastructure, and hence, should be financed and owned by the public sector. However, it is a matter of context-specific issues at hand. For instance, the central government of India issued grants through programs like JNNURM, AMRUT etc. to invest in pedestrian infrastructure. In case bus stations are promoted as an integrated part of pedestrian infrastructure, it is more likely that they can access the required funding. Moreover, there are other ways of cross-subsidy with revenue generated through private vehicle infrastructure like parking charges, congestion pricing, road tax  etc..  To make cities more sustainable and environmentally friendly, focus is shifting from private vehicles to public transport, thus multiple urban challenges related to hard and soft infrastructure of public transport are increasingly attracting attention.

References
Centre for Science and Environment. (2018, September 4-5). Retrieved from Centre for Science and Environment: https://www.cseindia.org/state-of-urban-transport-systems-8971

Cervero, R. E. (2010). Travel and the Built Environment: A Meta- Analysis. Journal of the American and Planning Association, 3(76), 265- 294. doi:https://doi.org/10.1080/01944361003766766

Florida Planning and Development Lab, Department of Urban and Regional Planning. (2008). Accessing Transit: Design Handbook for Florida Bus Passenger Facilities. Florida Department of Transportation. Retrieved from http://teachamerica.com/TIH/PDF/2008_Transit_Handbook.pdf

Johnston, I. (2014, September 15). Taking public transport instead of driving to work makes people happier, study suggests. Retrieved from Independent: https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/taking-public-transport-instead-of-driving-to-work-makes-people-happier-study-suggests-9732535.html

Menon, R., & Khan, A. (2015, August 15). That Dingy Bus Stop is Hindering India’s Progress – An Economic Case for Safe Public Transport. Retrieved from WRI India: https://wri-india.org/blog/dingy-bus-stop-hindering-india%E2%80%99s-progress-economic-case-safe-public-transport

Nelson, D. (2014, October 6). Engaging Pittsburgh’s bus stops: bus stops as public spaces. Retrieved from Project for Public Spaces: https://www.pps.org/article/engaging-pittsburghs-bus-stops-bus-stops-as-public-spaces

Shah, S., Viswanath, K., Vyas, S., & Gadepalli, S. (2017). Women and Transpot in Indian Cities. New Delhi: ITDP and Safetipin.

Sonal Shah, A. R. (2019). What do women and girls want from urban mobility systems? Ola Mobility Institute.

Zhang, K. J. (2012). Nine Techniques for Enhancing Bus Stops and Neighbourhoods and their Application in Metro Vancouver. The University of British Columbia.

 

Posted in Planning, city, and society, public transport, Sustainability and resilience, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Is the Spectrum dead?

This post is republished from Changeology, a highly insightful blog by community engagement practitioner Les Robinson about how to engage communities effectively. The post was initially published in August 2016 and is highly relevant to anyone researching or conducting public participation, community development and is also relevant for participatory research with communities. The post also provides tips to help overcome Chronic Engagement Deficit Disorder (CEDD) and suggests the use of an innovative engagement design and assessment tool: the Curiosity-ometer.

Guest author: Les Robinson (Changeology) (LinkedIn)

Is the Spectrum dead?

Or more accurately, is the Spectrum of Participation an intellectual zombie – a model that stays alive despite being functionally useless?
For those of you not familiar with the Spectrum of Participation, it’s the central conceptual framework for community consultation in planning, especially in local government. It’s so central to thinking about planning that it’s almost impossible to contemplate community consultation without invoking the Spectrum.
But here’s the problem. I just reviewed a host of contemporary community consultation methods (to make an slide show for a new training workshop). No matter how much I bent the definitions, I couldn’t make what we actually DO in community consultation fit the Spectrum.
Here, item by item, is the problem:


INFORM: “To provide the public with…information…” 
Er yes, we always communicate. Yet disseminating information alone can’t, by definition, be a form of consultation. And communication is, yes, inevitable. So having an INFORM level is kind of superfluous. The only reason for including it in the Spectrum is to make the point that it’s never enough by itself. In that case, why is it ON the Spectrum?
(There is an amazingly tense and fraught, and ultimately funny, LinkedIn thread where engagement consultant Brett Sangster innocently asked the question “Is ‘inform a legitimate level of ‘engagement’?” and prompted, so far, 327 comments, revealing a chaos of diasagreement on this question amongst engagement professionals.)


CONSULT: “To obtain public feedback…”.
Yes, that sounds exactly like what community consultation does and is. And, despite all sorts of attempts to push the boundaries, that’s where the great majority of community consultation efforts, and platforms, continue to lie. The reason being that’s all most authorities want or have time for. And, mostly, all that the public have time for as well. (Many of the really interesting innovations in community consultation are about mobile-enabled ‘1 minute consultations’, where the effort demanded from the public matches their actual level of interest. Those are definitely on the CONSULT level.)


INVOLVE: “To work directly with the public…”
Ah. This is the level I enjoy. Sitting down with people face-to-face. People can learn, and alter their positions, and relationships can be made, creating the possibility of trust. However it’s very hard to initiate this level, for the reason that most planning processes are so conventional, dull and irrelevant that it’s impossible to get citizens to give up their time. And fair enough too. If the issue is a ‘hot’ one, however, it’s easy to fill a workshop, and workshopping is infinitely better than the blood sport of public meetings. I personally think this is an area where we can do with a lot more fun and innovation.


COLLABORATE: “To partner with the public…”. 
Here’s where the Spectrum floats away into fantasy. In principle, it’d be nice to partner with the public. However, partnering is about equivalence of power. And there is a immense disparity of power in plan-making that makes ‘collaborate’ only ever an aspiration. A nice one, but, sorry, the final decision is always with the power-holder, and it would be ridiculous, and disingenuous, to pretend it’s anywhere else.
Also, looking at real life examples, I really can’t distinguish Involve and Collaborate in the field. They end up being kind of the same thing: basically a group of people being workshopped by a facilitator, who occasionally allows them to influence the process.
(OK, I know of a couple of examples approaching partnership, but they are in only after near-death experiences by public agencies. They are exceptions that prove the rule.)


EMPOWER: “We will implement what you decide…”
This is where the Spectrum gets completely silly. In our society, power is not relinquished. The perceived risks for authorities are too great. I can see it’s nice to have there, like a glowing light on the hill, but when I train public officials I face a seemless wall of scepticism and self-doubt about this level. If I am being realistic it’s not a serious option. I suspect it’s just there as a fossil from Sherry Arnstein’s original 1969 Ladder of Citizen Participation. It’s neat. I can see it looks right. But it’s not the job of government to hand complete power to citizens. It’s not even a good idea most of the time. When agencies have ceded power, it’s almost always when citizens force their way onto the table, and even then it’s grudging and temporary. Take Landcare as an example: it looks like empowerment, but the funding schemes are withdrawn at a whim, and action is so mired in paperwork and accountability that it wears down active citizenship.


In summary:  3 of the 5 levels in the Spectrum do seem to have conceptual or reality problems. They don’t seem to make sense as intellectual categories either because they can’t be implemented or, in the case, of INFORM, aren’t actually a category of consultation. With this in mind, perhaps it would be more rational to have a Spectrum of Consultation with just two components:

CONSULT <———–> INVOLVE/COLLABORATE

I think that would be a much closer simulation of reality.

WHAT’S MISSING: Just listening
Interestingly, there’s a whole class of community engagement that’s absent from the Spectrum. It could be the most important kind of all.
Most of our public organisations have lost contact with their publics. They suffer from Chronic Engagement Deficit Disorder (CEDD) which cannot be solved by yet more formal and structured engagement processes. Exactly the opposite is required: engaging tactics that make possible just plain listening, where agency staff meet citizens without an agenda, and hear from each other as human beings.

Wyndham City Council have adopted the ‘listening post’ but really, it’s a ‘pop-up council’. You can see lots of different formal consultation processes under way in a central public space, combined with music, food and something for the kids, but what’s also happening is LISTENING WITHOUT AN AGENDA. Just getting the council managers, executives, the CEO, the Mayor and councillors, out of their offices and meeting rooms, and LISTENING to citizens, one-on-one.


I watched one of Wyndham’s council executives reporting on this experience in an internal forum, and his body language said it all. He was frankly delighted, and bubbling to express his appreciation of the process. For him it was a revelation. I would even say that CEDD is a disorder that public officials are hungry to have relieved.
Of course, such a tactic (actually any successful community engagement) depends on a commitment to hear. And that depends on one thing that isn’t measured in formal models: genuine curiosity.


With this in mind, I want to propose an alternative spectrum to help organisations decide on their community engagement tactics: the Curiosity-ometer.


The idea is: before any community consultation, honestly answer this question: “Where are you on the spectrum between ‘endorsement seeking’ and ‘open-mindedness’?” Being bracingly honest about this might reduce a lot of the wasted effort and conflict around community consultation.

Curiosity-ometer

Editor’s P.S. Finally, if you are short of ideas about how to make engagement fun , have a look at other resources and articles on Changeology, including: the practical 6 dimensional enchanting event constructor.

Posted in Beyond planning, community engagement, Conflict, Methodology and ethics, Planning, city, and society, Sustainability and resilience, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

You used LEGO(R) in your Viva? You must be kidding!

Guest author: Chrissi Nerantzi (Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching at Manchester Metropolitan University)

The LEGO® kit I made and used in my viva

The LEGO® kit I made and used in my viva

You used LEGO(R) in your Viva? You must be kidding!

Well, I did! I used a handful of LEGO(R) bricks in my viva. Some or many may think that it would be a very risky strategy and avoid anything that is not traditionally used in a viva. I had prepared by little LEGO® kit, tested it and tested it again to see if it really worked and truly helped me to explain the basics of phenomenography, the methodology I used, to explain it to the examiners if I was asked about my methodology, a common question in a viva. I would then decide if it would be useful to explain it using the bricks. It wasn’t that I had to build this in regardless. On the contrary, it was an informed decision and only if I felt that the examiners were open to such an approach. And they were. I have written about my viva experience but also my preparation on my blog and you can find my reflections there together with resources you may use if you are preparing for your viva or help others in this process. Have a look here and you will find further posts linked to my PhD journey.

After my viva, I wanted to explore the use of LEGO(R) and LEGO(R) SERIOUS PLAY(R) in the context of doctoral students development and doctoral supervisors development. That led me to another phenomenographic study in this specific area and a dissertation through which I got an MA in Coaching and Mentoring in Education. This time, I reached out for help during the analysis stage and Margy Macmillan and Paul Kleiman helped me make sense of the data through which the categories of description and the outcome space emerged. A paper has also been published in a special issue around the use of LEGO(R) in higher education, based on the following study.

So why LEGO(R)? I have used LEGO(R) SERIOUS PLAY(R) and other LEGO(R)-based approaches since 2010 when I reached out to the bricks to make professional discussions on the PGCAP (Postgraduate Certificate in Academic practice, also PGCHE) at the University of Salford where I was working at the time, more meaningful, less stressful and more enjoyable for colleagues. How it worked was captured in a paper we wrote with a colleague at the time on the programme with whom I had also discussed the idea before introducing it. This work was done before I had read anything about LEGO(R) SERIOUS PLAY(R). I used it intuitively as part of my practice to experiment with different approaches. Then it snowballed from there. I used LEGO® in various sessions, read about LEGO(R) SERIOUS PLAY(R) which since 2010, that same year I started experimenting with LEGO® became available as an open source method (see the full guide), did the facilitator training and started sharing my work via social media, conferences and publications. I also started connecting with others who were using it at the time such as Pfr Alison James and Pfr David Gauntlett. You must check out their work in this area!

Through my experiments and applications with staff but also with students (a further related publication and example of how I used it with students), especially after arriving at Man Met in October 2013 and the workshops and courses we have offered, I could clearly see that the method that uses the bricks is very versatile and very useful when exploring complexity in a higher education context. So when I completed by doctoral studies, I wanted to see if and how LEGO(R) could be useful for PhD students especially. Opportunities were there to connect with our Graduate School and soon started offering LEGO® sessions to prepare for a viva. I love being among PhD students and helping them grow their confidence and self-belief. A short while I was a PhD student myself and really valued any help I would get from my supervisors and the wider support network, in my case the Global OER Graduate Network (GOGN) as my research was in open education.

So if you are preparing for your viva, think about something that you may struggle, or, ok, have difficulty explaining just by talking about it.

If you can think of something, it could be the methodology, just like in my case, or something else, like your theoretical framework or a model you created perhaps, explore if LEGO®, or any other material(s) could help you visualise with clarity the key points you want to make and to illuminate specific connections. Believe me, it is easier to have something in front of you to talk about, be focused and articulate an informed response, instead of steering into the empty space. We all learn best when we combine pictures and words (check out Mayer’s multimedia theory of learning) and building a model can help you tell your story with greater clarity, precision and focus. Have a look at Seymour Papert’s work around constructionism). Furthermore, using a model, an artifact or an object will move the attention to this, which will be much less stressful for you.

Of course it doesn’t have to be LEGO(R). You may reach out to other materials. Whatever works for you. Give it a go during your viva preparation and see how it goes. Transform your viva into a more hands-on experience.

Acknowledgements: Thank you for giving me the opportunity to offer the “Bag of LEGO® for your viva” workshop at the recent Royal Geographical Society Postgraduate Conference 2019, that took place in April at the Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester. I really enjoyed being among many PhD researchers. Thank you also for this kind invitation to write a little something here for your blog. I hope it will be useful for colleagues. Let me know if I can help in any way.

Dr Chrissi Nerantzi is a Principal Lecturer in Academic CPD (continuing professional development) in the University Teaching Academy at Manchester Metropolitan University. She is also Certified LEGO(R) SERIOUS PLAY(R) Facilitator,. was National Teaching Fellow 2015, ALT Learning Technologist of the Year 2017, and received the GO-GN Best Open Research Practice Award 2018. Follow her on Twitter @chrissinerantzi

Posted in Academia, research quality and assessment, Beyond planning, conferences, Lego, Resources, Uncategorized, VIVA | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Sandra Annunziata, in memoriam

Guest authors: Marco Cremaschi (Sciences PO, Paris), Carlotta Fioretti (European Commission, Joint Research Centre), Clara Rivas (University of Leicester)

On Friday, 4th of January, a few days before turning 40, Dr. Sandra Annunziata passed away suddenly. A regular contributor to the AESOP’s initiatives, she was a tireless and committed researcher, bringing the whole of her originality and curiosity into her studies.

Profile picture of Sandra Annunziata

Sandra was incomparable: a force of nature, a well of never-ending generosity and openness, on top of an outstanding academic, an expert of her field, a dedicated researcher that never ceased to question injustices, a kind colleague that always had time for anyone and everyone, regardless of the status they held and the field they worked in.

Sandra graduated in Architecture at the IUAV of Venice in 2004. In 2008, she defended her Ph.D. thesis at the University of Roma Tre. “Un quartiere chiamato desiderio: la transizione dei quartieri popolari in Brooklyn e Roma”. Prepared under the supervision of Marco Cremaschi, the dissertation dealt with the processes of gentrification and neighbourhood change in contemporary cities in Rome and Brooklyn (NY), investigating the process of change occurring in two neighbourhoods in Rome and New York. The complete empirical fieldwork comparison, can be found in Later, she investigated the forms of urbanity in a few newly built urban developments in Rome. After her PhD, she carried out studies and fieldwork at Columbia, New York (2007), Cornell, Ithaca (2011), as well as at Weimar (2008-9), the Institute de Research Social of the University of Genève (2012) and Leicester University. 

Between 2008 and 2009 she directed with Marco Cremaschi the Strategic plan of the city of Arezzo, coordinating the research team of the Department of Urban Studies. The Plan was the first awarded by the Region Toscana.

The team included a number of young researchers and doctoral students from the same Department that became eventually a close-knit group of friends and the core of Eticity. Sandra established this association with Mara Cossu, Claudia Faraone, Carlotta Fioretti, Claudia Meschiari, Viola Mordenti and Alice Sotgia with the motto “Exploring Territories, Imagining the City”. A successful crew of reflexive planners and engaged young women that often met around a dinner looking in turn after the children of Mara, the first to experience motherhood.

In 2009 she was awarded the Giovanni Ferraro Award for her PhD dissertation; and in 2011 the prestigious Clarence Stein grant for independent research as Visiting Scholar at the Department of City and Regional Planning of Cornell University, USA. The scholarship allowed her to carry on an interesting study on tenurial change in historical garden cities comparing Garbatella in Rome and Sunnyside in New York (Annunziata, 2017). Once back in Rome, Sandra continued her collaboration with Cornell University, being involved from 2012 to 2018 as visiting critic for the course European Cities, held in Cornell in Rome.

Sandra was an enthusiastic teacher, who transmitted to students most important challenges European cities are facing (housing, migration, gentrification) through direct experience: often lecturing not in class but in the lively spaces of the city, involving local communities as well as international scholars.

Between 2013 and 2015 Sandra has been involved in a research project of national interest (PRIN) on the inclusion of migrants in small municipalities. The project was aimed at shading light on a phenomenon not enough studied yet but increasingly relevant especially in Italy where nearly half of the foreign-born people lives in small sized urban centres. Sandra conducted a thorough fieldwork in Roccagorga, a town of 4500 inhabitants located in the mountains of Lazio region, in central Italy. In particular, her research was able to highlight strengths and criticalities of the Italian reception project for refugees known as SPRAR (Asylum Seekers and Refugees Protection System), showing the potentiality for combining the inclusion of migrants with the local development of inner areas. The results of the research have been published in several articles (Annunziata, 2015; 2016; 2017) which are even more valuable today, that the existence of SPRAR has been questioned in the national debate.


Thanks to a Marie Curie, she engaged in her postdoc work with Prof Loretta Lees in Leicester where she met Clara Rivas. Together, they wrote articles wondering about resistance to gentrification, trying to push forward other understandings of resistance that were more inclusive, questioned themselves, and whatever hierarchical systems they might be inadvertently reproducing.

Sandra’s knowledge of gentrification theory framed the initial articles on resistance to gentrification: from a literature review to actual resistance practices, Clara and Sandra sought to understand better how gentrification could be fought and possibly defeated. The path carved as writing partners was promising: every new article found a new focus that would be more interesting than the previous one.

Recently, Sandra and Clara worked on how everyday practices and visible acts of protests were tied together when conceptualized as resistance to gentrification. She had a way of coming up with fantastic ideas, calling at any time of day or night and letting you in some exciting breakthrough thought. Such enthusiasm was contagious, as it coloured the conversations, texts, presentations and random encounters she participated in. 

Working within the framework of her Marie Curie project allowed her to bridge that gap between academics and activists, and helped her put her ideas in action: fostering spaces of exchange and activism in the face of acute dispossession. Her knowledge and work was always a source of inspiration. Beyond our academic musings, or probably because of them, we shared plenty of discussions, arguments, drinks, dinners, projects, conferences, laughter, worries.

Clara and Sandra had a baby almost at the same time, and in her true unique fashion, Sandra managed to grow into a beautiful mother whilst developing her academic career almost without pause.

She did a million things at the same time, relentlessly, and she managed to shine through most of them. That light she irradiated will live on in her work, projects, as a little voice inside our heads whenever I’ll be looking for the right words, in all her friends and colleagues and people she tried to help, and of course in Elena, her daughter. 

A selection of papers

(2010). with Cossu, M., Urbanity beyond nostalgia: discovering public life at the edge of the city of Rome. In Suburbanization in Global Society (pp. 131-152). Emerald Group.

(2011). Evolving urban citizenship and the erosion of public space in Ponte di Nona, Rome. Cremaschi and Eckardt, Changing Places, pp. 63-81.

(2011). with Violante, A.,, Rome-Model: rising and fall of an hybrid neo-liberal paradigm in Southern Europe. In Annual RC21 Conference, Amsterdam (pp. 7-9).

(2011). The desire of ethnically diverse neighbourhood in Rome. The case of Pigneto: an example of integrated planning approach. Future Urban Research Series, (4), 601-614.

(2011). with Cremaschi M., “Strategie vs. strateghi: una riflessione a partire dall’esperienza del Piano Integrato Urbano Sostenibile della città di Arezzo”, Atti della XIV Conferenza Nazionale SIU, Torino, 24-26 marzo 201, Planum, The European Journal of Planning online, ISSN 1723-0993,

(2013). Eticity ed., “Rappresentazioni urbane/Urban Representations Quaderni di Urbanistica Tre, 3, I, sett.-dic.

(2013). with Manzo, L. K. Desire for diversity and difference in gentrified Brooklyn. Dialogue between a planner and a sociologist. Cambio. Rivista sulle trasformazioni sociali3(6), 71-88.

(2013). with Banfi, E., Snowboarding on Swiss Islam: petit guide illustré pour découvrir l’islam en Suisse. Ed. Alphil-Pr. univ. suisses.

(2015). with Fioretti C., Casa e immigrazione nei piccoli comuni, tra inclusione abitativa e sviluppo locale. Proceedings of the National Conference of the Italian Society of urbanism. Venice, 11th-13th June. Planum Publisher. 841-848.

(2016). Aria di montagna, percorsi di integrazione nei Lepini. In Fioretti, C. “Inclusione fragile. Migrazioni nei piccoli comuni del Lazio/ Fragile inclusion. Migrations in small municipalities of Lazio”, i QUADERNI – URBANISTICA tre 11(4).

(2016). with Lees, L., Resisting ‘austerity gentrification’ and displacement in Southern Europe. Sociological Research Online, 21(3), 1-8.

(2017). Exploring the incidence of ownership: evolving forms of tenure in iconic garden communities. The case of Sunnyside, New York and Garbatella, Rome. Planning Perspectives, 32 (1): 1-22.

(2017). Fare spazio all’accoglienza, note a partire dallo SPRAR di Roccagorga, Italia. Mondo Migranti. 1

(2018). with Rivas-Alonso, C., Resisting gentrification. Handbook of Gentrification Studies, 393.

(2018). with Lees and Rivas-Alonso, C. Resisting Planetary Gentrification: the value of survivability in the fight to stay put. Annals of the American Association of Geographers108(2), 346-355.

(2019). “Pratiche e discorsi anti-sfratto a Roma in clima di austerità” in Roma in Transizione. Governo, strategie, metabolismi e quadri di vita di una metropoli, Coppola A. e Punziano G. eds., Planim Publisher, Milano. ISBN 978-88-99237-13-4.

(Under revision). Urban displacement in Southern European cities during a time of permanent austerity. Evidence from Italy, Spain and Greece, ACME: International Journal for Critical Geographies, special issue Narrating displacement: Lived experiences of urban social and spatial exclusion.

(Under revision). with Rivas-Alonso C. “Anti-gentrification practices and the every day life” in Resistances: Between Theories and the Field serie speciale Resistance Studies: Critical Engagements with Power and Social Change, Sarah Murru e Abel Polese eds., Rownam & Littlefield International, London.

(Under revision). with Rivas-Alonso C. e Lees L. “Segregation, Gentrification and Social Mix”, in Companion to Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Urban and Regional Studies, Anthony Orum, Javier Ruiz-Tagle, Serena Vicari eds., Wiley-Blackwell, London.

(in press). with Rivas-Alonso C. e Lees L. “Resisting Planetary Gentrification: The value of Survivability in the Fight to Stay Put” in Justice and the City, edited by Heynen N., Aiello D. Keegan C. & Luke N., Routledge, ISBN: 978-1-138-32274-5.

(in press). “Probing the right to buy: changing forms of tenure in Garbatella, Rome” in Iconic Planned Communities: Challenge of Change, Freestone R., Corbin Sies M. and Gournay I. eds., Pennsylvania UP, Philadelphia.

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Conference locations and sustainability aspirations: towards an integrative framework?

Editor’s note: The blog of the AESOP Young Academics network is a great place to share and showcase your research about a wide range of topics related to spatial planning. Here is a timely case in point, published on the final day of the YA conference 2019 in Darmstadt. 

Authors: Fabian Wenner (Munich University of Technology), Freke Caset (Ghent University), Bart de Wit (Ghent University).

Academic conferences convey many benefits. They facilitate knowledge exchange, foster personal networks and expose participants to different and inspiring spatial and socio-institutional environments. They may furthermore offer escape from daily routines and provide the chance of experiencing new, perhaps exotic, places. Unsurprisingly, over the last decade academic conferences have grown strongly in number and size. This is a trend that has been supported by the expansion of universities and the differentiation of disciplines, but also by the relative reduction of the costs and effort to participate. Some conference series have developed into global events attracting scholars from all over the planet.

These general trends also affect the academic disciplines concerned with spatial planning and research. Take the case of the Association of European Schools of Planning which was founded in 1987 and has meanwhile diversified into a number of sub-associations, each with their own conferences, such as AESOP Young Academics, the AESOP Transport Laboratory of Thought or the International Academic Association of Planning, Law, and Property Rights, alongside the almost 1000 attendees strong annual meeting.

The proliferation of international academic conferences nonetheless poses some considerable questions concerning its sustainability. From an economic sustainability point of view, conferences should aim to bring together a large and diverse group of attendants at low financial and non-financial costs. From an environmental point of view however, the climate impact of international conference mobility is increasingly recognized as problematic and has recently received much scholarly attention. From a social sustainability perspective, international conference organisers should ideally pay attention to the spatial distribution of conferences, since they allow local participants to tap into global knowledge networks. At the same time, they may generate other positive externalities such as local added value in the hospitality industry.

Organising a conference thus comes with a range of (more or less explicit) decisions, which result in differentiated ecological, economic and social sustainability outcomes. Our recently published paper in disP – The Planning Review “Conference Locations and Sustainability Aspirations: Towards an Integrative Framework?” focuses on two of these decisions in particular: the deliberation regarding conference location(s) on the one hand and conference format on the other hand.

As for conference locations, there may be a deliberate focus on geographical proximity between the conference venue and the pool of participants. Alternatively, a more secluded location or additional touristic benefits in less accessible or more ‘peripherally’ located areas may be explicitly desired. Another, arguably prevailing, logic is ad-hoc, based on candidacy and thus involving a fair dose of coincidence. As for the conference format, a variety of possibilities also exist. For example, while the majority of academic conferences are single-venue meetings, there have been recent experiments with multi-venue conferences, where a conference is hosted simultaneously across several venues which are interconnected by video-telecommunication. Conferences may also change locations from year to year, typically rotating among member institutes, or they can be organised at the same location each time.

Each particular combination of conference location and conference format alternatives will lead to different sustainability outcomes in terms of ecology, the economy and society. We contend that these considerations and their implications seem particularly relevant to the disciplines of spatial planning and research, as balanced sustainability is a widely acknowledged disciplinary goal. Nonetheless, there seems to be only little debate on this topic among scholars working in the field.

Against this backdrop, the paper develops a conceptual framework for conference location and format decisions. Afterwards, the framework is applied to the 2017 edition of one of the largest annual academic conferences within the domains of spatial planning and research: the AESOP conference.

Following these theoretical and empirical explorations, we conclude that one of the combinations of format and location decisions distinguished in our conceptual framework may be of particular interest in order to meet meaningful sustainability aspirations. A rotating multi-venue format with centralised secondary venues seems most promising in delivering the most sustainable outcomes. Depending on the geographical reach of the conference, a replacement of one global with multiple continental venues or one continental with multiple national/regional venues, supported by teleconferencing, could drastically reduce the environmental impacts of conference-related travel. In terms of social sustainability benefits, such actively-pursued, programmed spatial rotation of venues among members could furthermore ensure a fairer distribution in outcome rather than a “neutral” location application process, disseminating more widely the local planning issues and challenges of the host locations. From an economic perspective, we nonetheless hypothesise reduced advantages in terms of the agglomeration economies, exchange of knowledge and the potential for serendipitous contact. The exact outplay of these economic effects will nonetheless depend on the number of secondary venues and other parameters involved. Positive economic benefits may however arise due to increased efficiency gains (reduced travel times and, most likely, travel cost).

Hence, a crucial avenue for further research is to increase our understanding of the extent to which the social practice of interaction with fellow academics at conferences, and the scientific progress that may arise from it, could be jeopardised by this new type of academic conference. Future research and practical experiments should therefore aim to elicit preferences, values and expectations of academics in order to identify the conditions that are necessary to render multi-venue conferences an attractive and broadly-supported option.

On our (sustainable?) way to Venice… the AESOP 2019 Congress will be the next big conference for the AESOP community. Photo credit: Roberto Trombetta on Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0

We conclude with the contention that in particular spatial planning and research organisations dealing with sustainability issues should translate these concerns more explicitly through their decisions on conference format and location. More than in other disciplines, location is crucial, as the “laboratories” of planning are the very cities and regions. While currently these considerations may be of a pragmatic nature, we assert that conference committees should aim for emission-minimising and spatially-balanced conference locations in the longer term by pursuing a more active strategy.

Fabian Wenner is Research and Teaching Associate at the Chair of Urban Development at Munich University of Technology; Freke Caset is PhD researcher in Geography at Ghent University; and Bart De Wit is a geomatics expert at the Deparment of Geography at Ghent University.

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