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

Advertisements
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.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

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.

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

Venice had its own ‘Airbnb problem’ during the Renaissance – here’s how it coped

Guest author: Rosa Salzberg (University of Warwick)

Editor’s Notes: 1) This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

2) In the run-up to the AESOP Congress this summer, many of us will likely explore AirBnB solutions. This timely post shows Venice already faced some aspects of current dilemmas regarding shared urban economies. The “AirBnb problem”: a balancing act?

A balancing act. Picture credit: “Venice, Italy” by Pedro Szekely on Flickr, CC BY-SA.

Cities around the world have had difficulties balancing the interests of visitors with the needs of residents, as holiday rental platforms such as Airbnb have grown in popularity and size. Evidence shows that the conversion of rented homes to short-term accommodation contributes to housing shortages, raises house prices, speeds up gentrification and erodes local communities.

Cities including Amsterdam, Berlin, Barcelona and London have acted to curb these negative effects, imposing new taxes or limiting the number of nights that a property can be rented out. Today, Venice is one of the worst affected cities: the resident population has fallen to its lowest level in centuries and city leaders are looking for ways to mitigate the ill effects of mass tourism.

Yet the city also has a long history of managing the pros and cons of migration and tourism, and finding ways to profit from – but also integrate – foreigners. Indeed, in Renaissance Venice, a huge influx of foreigners fuelled the rise of a large informal lodging sector, which was difficult to tax and regulate and had a major impact on the urban community. Sound familiar?

Renaissance boom town

By the 16th century, Venice was the capital of its own huge empire and a major crossroads of trade and travel between mainland Europe and the Mediterranean. At the same time as painters including Titian and Giorgione were making the city a centre of Renaissance culture, the population surged from around 100,000 to nearly 170,000 in just 50 years.

Unlike today, the people drawn to Venice at the time were mostly international merchants and entrepreneurs, migrants looking for work in local industries, or refugees from war and hunger. But the first tourists also arrived in this period, such as the French writer and nobleman Montaigne, who came to explore the city’s cultural treasures. And all of these people needed somewhere to stay.

Painting of Venice, 15th century

Buzzing. Image credit: Vittore Carpaccio’s painting showing a miracle healing in Venice, circa 1496. Wikimedia Commons.

My research has shown how hundreds of ordinary Venetians at this time saw a chance to make money on the side by renting rooms or beds. Many were women who struggled to earn a living in other ways: people like Paolina Briani, who in the 1580s rented rooms to Muslim merchants from the Ottoman empire, in her home a few minutes’ walk from Piazza San Marco.

By opening up their homes to migrants and travellers, these accommodation providers – unlike the mostly absentee Airbnb owners of today – shared intimate spaces with people who spoke different languages and practised different religions.

Regulating the informal economy

The rapid growth of this informal economy of lodging alarmed the Venetian government. Fearing the spread both of diseases and of threatening political and religious ideas, the government was anxious to regulate and monitor the presence of foreigners in their city. They also wished to minimise competition with the city’s licensed inns – a profitable source of tax revenues.

So, a bit like today, the government made efforts to register and tax lodging housekeepers, and force them to report on the movements of their tenants. Though this regulation was very difficult to enforce because of the informal nature of many lodging enterprises, Venice’s rulers did not try to eliminate this sector altogether.

While wanting to control the movement of people, they also saw that migrants and visitors were crucial to the city’s economy and its cultural power. They wanted to welcome anyone who brought valuable goods, innovative ideas or essential manpower.

At the same time, the government took into account that ordinary Venetians – especially vulnerable and poor groups such as widows – also profited from the influx. And the money that residents made by offering lodging might be essential to their survival.

A delicate balance

To be sure, Venice’s authorities did not welcome all comers. They took aggressive action to stop “undesirables” (such as beggars and prostitutes) from entering the city. They also put more and more pressure on religious minorities to live in segregated spaces – most famously the Jewish Ghetto.

But they also saw the benefits of promoting a diverse and flexible hospitality industry that could serve the interests of locals as well as visitors. Licensed lodging houses were allowed to flourish and, alongside the inns, became a central part of the city’s emerging tourist infrastructure.

Many newcomers who came to stay in residents’ homes – where they might learn something of the local language and customs – went on to settle and integrate into the community. In its regulation of the hospitality industry, Renaissance Venice struck a delicate balance between the interests of foreigners and locals, which was crucial to the city’s economic, cultural and political strength.

Today, such a compromise appears very difficult to achieve. There are differences between then and now: in the reasons people come to the city; in the nature of competing urban needs; and in the likely solutions and policies. But it seems that cities can take a lead from Renaissance Venice, and act to promote meaningful interactions between visitors and residents; for example, as Berlin has done, by banning people from renting out entire flats on Airbnb. The Venice of 500 years ago challenges people to think about “the Airbnb problem” in a more nuanced way.The Conversation

Rosa Salzberg is Associate Professor of Italian Renaissance History at the University of Warwick. 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Relational” ecology : rethinking relationships between man and the natural environment

Guest authors: Damien Deville (Paul Valéry University) and Pierre Spielewoy (Rouen University & French Natural History Museum)

This post is a free translation of an article originally published in the French edition of The Conversation on 21 January 2019.

« Eco-logy » : the science of “home”, “habitat”, or even the natural “environment”. Coined in the late nineteenth century by the biologist Ernst Haeckel, the term has since generated an impressive terminological diversity : plant ecology, urban ecology, conservation ecology, conservation, agroecology, reflecting reflects an increasingly precise understanding of ecological diversity on earth over time.

Photo credit: Palmyre Roigt

However, it is interesting to note that the term has long been anchored in the following paradigm : the understanding living beings by through the construction of two separate realms, the one being human, and the other being nature. Several authors have since challenged this dualistic approach to ecology.

We propose to shed new light on these criticisms and explore a new approach to ecology : the discovery and the potentialities offered by the study of the links between the human and the non-human, which we call “relational ecology”.

Find a new frame

In his book Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, Richard Rorty was interested since the 1970s in the use of the term “nature” in the Enlightenment.

He shows that the term “nature” quickly replaced the term of “God”, becoming a new “absolute” from which philosophers imagine the world without ever questioning the limits of these notions. This philosophical orientation has tended to impose itself globally, with major consequences in the ways of thinking and inhabiting the world.

However, a look on the diversity of cultures and territories tells us that this approach is far from universal. For anthropologist Philippe Descola, the radical separation between culture and nature that results from it, is even one of the specific characteristics of “modern” societies : a position that the author calls “naturalism”. This paradigm considers the interiority of human beings as discrete and thus relatively autonomous from environmental constraints. While this view of the world is widespread in Western societies, it remains but one particular view within the diversity of human-nature relations that characterise individual societies.

By way of example, the Cartesian dualism between those who “think”, humans, and the non-thinkers, the non-humans, has brought to light a division of the world between subjects and objects within political philosophy, which does not provide a sufficient political and legal response to the current climate crisis. This approach confines the non-human to the status of resource to be exploited and reduces the possibilities of its protection, while inhibiting many legal jurisdictions to recognize the responsibility of humans in environmental crises.

It is therefore urgent to find a way out of this dualism to tackle the challenges of our world differently. Relational ecology can constitute a new method of thinking about our relationships with others living beings and territories. We will describe it in its three founding moments: reconsidering diversity, acknowleding vulnerability and imagining new spaces of connection.

Reconsidering diversity

In The Order of Things, Michel Foucault explains the extent to which the practice of « making things similar » (i.e. categorising, or naming) in modern societies is the foundation for the construction of knowledge.

While this logic has been able to produce exceptional scientific results, it does not enable us to consider diversity. Indeed, according to this logic, new knowledge can only be apprehended from an “a priori” of a previous knowledge. Thus this “a priori” carries a risk of neglecting the particularity of the object that is considered. Ecological sciences have fallen prey to this logic as well.

For a long time, animal and plant species have been considered only because of their fundamental distinction with humans. Yet new reseach shows that any species can be seen to display societal behaviour in its own way. The studies conducted by Sabrina Krief’s teams at the French National Museum of Natural History on chimpanzees are an important case in point. And just as great apes have their own cultural codes, crows do mourn their loved ones, beavers are able to alter streams and plants collaborate with another one. Humans are not the only ones who can built complex social worlds.

A tool that takes into account this diversity is what Raimon Pannikar calls the “dialogical dialogue”: to extend the practice of dialogue beyond reason to include sensibility, sensations and emotions, which taken together enable one understand both the specificity and plurality of other beings.

Acknowledging vulnerability

In her book Elements for an Ethics of Vulnerability, French philosopher Corine Pelluchon defends the idea that every living being (humans included) remains permanently vulnerable to others. This vulnerability is first materialized by all the cycles of life and, by extension, the finite nature of bodies. Vulnerability is also evidenced in all the daily acts that connect us to others, such as acts of feeding, clothing, healing, working, or transporting us. To fully acknowledge vulnerability is to accept a relationship based on the interdependence between humans and their environment.

Research in geography and anthropology shows that societies have always been subjected to the constraints of the natural environment, forcing them to adapt and modify their practices and cultures. Conversely, human actions have deeply shaped landscapes and territories. Societal trajectories are therefore the consequence of complex, historically rooted relations between a society and its natural environment.

New spaces of connection

Finally, to do justice to diversity and reconsider human-nature relationships in a more holistic perspective is also means to rethink spaces of connection between humans and non-humans.

Three connective spaces seem particularly interesting.

The first relates to encountering. In her latest book The Mushroom of the End of the World, anthropologist Anna Tsing gives the example of the matsutake mushrooms growing in the deep forests of Oregon, to emphasize that the encounter between human and a non-human leads to something much greater than the sum of the parts. The relationship that is established brings out intelligence, friendship, memories, and dialogue. In short, a world of interactions that is specific to the individuals that engage in it.

The second space of connection is anchored in the spatial planning process. In recognising the singularity of every single region, city and rurality and integrating what anthropologist Tim Ingold calls “a radical ecological sensibility” or a realignment of our personal subjectivity and emotions with territorial actions, we enable new ways of inhabiting territories to emerge and are then able to value a diversity of shared modes of existence between humans and the non-humans.

The manufacture of legal rights is the third relational space. Some authors see in these spaces, which they call spaces of “coviability“, the possibility of creating new norms extend beyond strictly human categorizations. The end result would be a legal system that is enriched by the diversity of both humans and non-humans, and would therefore be less anthropocentric and better adapted to the ecological realities of the world.

By focusing on the relationships that interconnect us, “relational ecology” is a proposal to reintroduce, in both thought and action, spaces of understanding and sharing between humans and non-humans. By doing so, it enables us to refresh our knowledge about the links between societies and their environment, and proposes to focus on territorial diversity in order to provide relevant responses to social and ecological crises.

Photo credit: Palmyre Roigt

Damien Deville is PhD in geo-anthropology of nature at Paul Valéry University in Montpellier, France, and co-founder of the AYYA movement which works to integrate relational ecology methodologies in spatial planning.

Pierre Spielewoy is PhD and lecturer in international environmental law at Rouen University, and CBD (Convention on Bioligical Diversity) project leader at the French Natural History Museum in Paris. Also co-founder of the AYYA movement.

Posted in Beyond planning, Ecology, Heritage and Planning, Methodology and ethics, Nature, Planning, city, and society, Sustainability and resilience, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Upcoming international conferences

You probably know which conference you will be attending next (like the next AESOP Young Academics Conference “Planning Inclusive Spaces” or the AESOP Congress “Planning for Transition” for example). You may also be attending the upcoming ACSP annual congress. Below is a selective list of international conferences. The entries are listed by abstract submission deadine. Feel free to share relevant conferences to: blog@aesop-youngacademics.net, or on the AESOP Facebook group.

February submission

Workshop on Social Innovation in Southern European cities. Gran Sasso Science Institute (l’Aquila, Italy), 4-5 June 2019. Abstracts by 11 February 2019.

RGS-IBG Annual Conference 2019 “Geographies of trouble / geographies of hope” (Royal Geographical Society-Institute of British Geographers) 28-30 August 2019, London. Abtracts by 15 February 2019.

International Conference on Spatial Planning and Sustainable Development, 30 August – 1 September 2019, Chiba, Japan. Abstracts by 15 February 2019.

SPACE International Conferences: 1) Architectural History and Theory & 2) Sustainable Architecture, Planning and Urban Design, both on 3-5 May 2019, London. Abstracts by 17 February 2019.

European Place Making Week 2019, 12-15 June 2019, Valencia, Spain. Abstracts by 25 February 2019.

RSA Annual Conference 2019: Pushing regions beyond their borders, 5-7 June, Santiago de Compostela, Spain. Abstracts by 28 February 2019.

INUAS (International Network of Universities of Applied Sciences) Conference “Housing under Pressure. Dynamics between centers and peripheries” 4-6 November 2019, Vienna. https://www.fh-campuswien.ac.at/index.php?id=2147475 *click for English version. Abstracts by 28 February 2019.

March submission

Production of Climate Responsive Urban Built Environments International Conference, 22-24 May 2019, Istanbul, Turkey. Abstracts by 1 March 2019.

The Asian Conference on Urban Planning and Sustainable Cities UP-CITY 2019, 23-24 March 2019, Hiroshima, Japan. Abstracts by 1 March 2019.

CPUD 2019 4th International City Planning and Urban Design Conference, 14 June 2019, Istanbul. Abstracts by 8 March 2019.

International Conference on Sustainability in Energy and Buildings, SEB-19, 4-5 July 2019, Budapest. Abstracts by 8 March 2018.

The 55th ISOCARP (International Society of City and Regional Planners) Congress “Beyond the Metropolis”, Jakarta, Indonesia 9-13 Sept 2019 – Abstracts by 17 March 2019.

SPACE (Studies of Planning and Architecture Consulting and Education) International Conference 2019 on City Planning and Urban Design, 5-7 July 2019, London. Abstracts by 20 March 2019.

ACSP (Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning) 2019, 24-27 October 2019, Greenville, South Carolina. Abstracts by 26 March 2019.

Global Transformation and Differentiations: International Migration, Urbanization, and Belonging, Antalya, Turkey, April 25-27, 2019. Abstracts by 31 March 2019.

April submission

Cities After Transition Conference 2019: 8th International Urban Geographies of Post-Communist States Conference, 25-29 September 2019, Belgrade. Abstracts by 15 April 2019.

UDCP 2019 (International conference on urban design and cities planning) 5th NZAAR on Natural and Built Environment, Cities, Sustainability and Advanced Engineering, 10 September 2019, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Abstracts by 15 April 2019.

The 7th European Conference on Sustainability, Energy & the Environment – Brighton, UK, July 9–10, 2019. Abstracts by 23 April 2019.

May submission

RSA 2019 Conference (Regional Studies Association – Central and Eastern European Conference), 11-13 September 2019, Lublin, Poland. Abstracts by 21 May 2019.

RSA – All conferences announced here, topical conferences across the whole globe.

November submission

NAISA (Native American and Indigenous Studies Association) Annual Conference, May 7-9 2020, Toronto. Abstracts by Nov. 1, 2019. Stay put for further details.

Other conferences

These conferences are noteworthy, but their submission deadlines are past. Some are relevant professional conferences with set programmes.

March

TICTeC 2019 -The Impacts of Civic Technology Conference from mySociety, 19-20 March 2019, Paris. Registration open. The place to be for digital democracy and civic tech for government.

Rencontres Nationales de la Participation 2019, 11-13 March 2019, Grenoble, France. The best, one-stop professional and research gathering about public participation in place-making and spatial planning in France.

April

American Planning Association’s National Planning Conference, 13-16 April 2019, San Francisco 2019.

American Association of Geographers Annual Meeting 2019, 3-7 April 2019, Washington DC. Poster abstracts by 31 January 2019, other submissions closed.

GISRUK 2019, 23-26 April 2019, Newcastle, UK.
Abstract submissions closed. A major GIS-related conference.

Mid-Term postgraduate RGS-IBGConference (Royal Geographical Society-Institute of British Geographers), 24-26 April 2019, Manchester – Abstracts by 4 February 2019.

IAIA (International Association for Impact Assessment) 2019 Conference, 29 April – 2 May 2019. Abstract submissions closed.

May

ICLALD 2019: International Conference on Landscape Architecture and Landscape Design, 16-17 May 2019, Sydney, Australia.
Abstract submissions closed.

June

ISPM 2019 (International Society of Participatory Mapping) Conference, 17-19 June 2019, Espoo, Finland. Abstract submission closed.

4th International Conference on “CHANGING CITIES: Spatial, Design, Landscape & Socio-economic Dimensions”, Chania, Crete Island, Greece, 24-29 June 2019. Abstract submission closed.

RTPI (Royal Town Planning Institute) Planning Convention 2019, 19 June 2019, London

EURA Conference (European Urban Research Association) 2019, 20-22 June 2019, Dublin. Abstract submission closed.

Creative Construction Conference 2019, 29 June – 2 July 2019, Budapest. Abstract submission closed.

September

ARCOM (Association of Researchers in Construction Management) 2019 “Productivity, Performance and Quality Conundrum” 2-4 September, Leeds Beckett University, Leeds, UK. Abstract submission closed.

36th CIB (International Council for Research and Innovation in Building and Construction) ICT 2019 Conference, “ICT in Design, Construction and Management in Architecture, Engineering, Construction and Operations”, 18-20 September 2019, Newcastle, UK. Abstract submission closed.

November

Rencontres Nationales du Budget Participatif, Paris, November 2019 Stay put for the gathering of participatory budgeting professionals in France, which will likely have a stronger international focus.

Acknowledgements: thanks to Sepideh Hajisoltani, Dato Gogishvili, Orsolya Bokor, Amalka Ranathungage, Jimmy Camacho, Besmira Dyca and Paul Greenhalgh for suggestions of relevant conferences.

Last updated: 6 February 2019.

Posted in Beyond planning, conferences, Dissemination, outreach, communication, impact, Planning, city, and society, Sustainability and resilience, Territory, landscape, land, Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The present of Open Access: the list of OA journals, updated and extended

 

openaccesslogo-wikimedia200x300

Back in 2015, to celebrate that year’s the Open Access week, I decided to put together a list of the OA journals I knew in planning, urban studies and geography, a list which has been afterwards growing thanks to the support of a number of colleagues. It was just four years ago, but it seemed a different epoch: OA seemed a thing of the future. Many still associated OA with poor-quality research and publication. Fast forward to 2019, and OA is the present, as most publishers have launched their own OA journals and most institutional funders require all outputs to be released freely. However, rather than truly opening publishing practices, with the rise of so-called “gold OA”, where publication costs are covered by authors, mainstream OA has become another way for corporate publishers to increase their revenues. The result is that inequalities in the access to knowledge are being shifted from the distribution to the production side, as coming from a wealthier institution and country now gives authors more access to publication.

The good news is that there is a different path to OA, one where access is truly “open” on both sides, that of the readers and that of the authors. I call this “real OA”, because it is the only way access is… truly open. Thanks to open source software like Open Journal System, managing and storing a journal is easier that it has ever been, and many institutions are using resources to manage journals rather than to pay subscriptions. Another good news is that departments and organisations in the areas of planning, urban studies and geography are among the most active on this path. In particular, there are geographical contexts that have long been marginal to the global geography of “international” academic publication that have been pioneering the building of real OA, and especially Brazil and Latin America, Southern and Eastern European countries. During the last few years, the trend has extended to other geographic contexts, with new OA journals and long-established ones (including Fennia and Geografica Helvetica) going full OA.

If the present of scholarly publication is OA, then only real OA can make its future a just one. Editing, publishing in, and making peer-review work for, real OA journals is the contribution we can all give to a better future for scholarly publication.

This is why I decided to take some more time to update and extend the list of OA journals on this YA blog. Besides checking all links, I have added some journals and provided more information: who publishes the journals and whether their pages claim inclusion on indexes.

Let me be clear: I do not believe in indexes. There are many journals with high Impact Factor that publish pointless research; and there are many good journals that are not indexed, or are not yet (among them, self-plug disclaimer, plaNext – next generation planning, the journal of AESOP YA, or the recently launched Transactions of AESOP). I believe the only way to assess the quality of a journal is to take a look at what they publish; and that the right journal to publish is that where readers will be looking for your contribution. And yet, I am aware that in these times of precariousness and anxiety, publishing in indexed journals is important for many of us (I’m not talking to you tenured fellows, you should be publishing in real OA only!). The good news is that, differently from just a few years ago, there are several real OA journals included in mainstream indexes like WoS and Scopus; and there are newer indexes dedicated specifically to OA (above all, DOAJ) and to specific geographic contexts (like Scielo, the ultimate index for Spanish and Portuguese speaking contexts).

Speaking of languages, a great thing of real OA is that it is far from being a mono-lingual enterprise. In an increasingly multi-polar world, the idea that one language allows to be truly “international” is, in my opinion, just a remnant of colonial thinking. Isn’t it crazy that at the same time as “Anglophone” countries become truly multi-lingual the academic planet becomes mono-lingual? It is. Or, better, it would be if it was true. In fact, many languages are increasingly used internationally in academia; and nothing can replace national, regional and local languages if we want to give “access” to readers beyond academia throughout the world. This is why the privileges multi-lingual journals, which seem to be indeed a majority of real OA journals.

In 2019, submit your work to a real OA journal!

just_a_dude_reading_a_book_by_rich_stainthorp-deviantart

Sculpture by Rich-Stainthorp: “Just a dude reading a book” on Deviant Art

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