#acsp2014 recap Planning as Practical Reason session

I was asked to be a discussant for a session called Planning as Practical Reason: Theory and Applications for Engaging Community. We had five presentations and three completed papers.

by Orly Linovski (assistant professor, University of Manitoba) linovski@ucla.edu

By Sangmin Kim
KIM, Sangmin [University of Southern California] sangmink@usc.edu

by Karen Umemoto at the University of Hawaii at Manoa kumemoto@hawaii.edu and Tai-An Miao [University of Hawaii at Manoa] taian@hawaii.edu

Wound up being a really nice session.

Orly Linovsky started us off with a discussion on her wonderful dissertation work examining differences in urban design between Los Angeles and Toronto. Her work focusses on designers who seem to make a strong distinction between what is “creative”–and the purview of the private sector, and what is “managerial”, the purview of the public sector. This is one of those moments in the idea of practical reason that gets me nervous about the concept; that is, the self. There’s a temptation to “I, me, mine” in drawing on experience and intuitive ways of knowing that really does require disciplining among others to temper it, and those others really can not be an elite echo chamber in order for it to work. Otherwise, as Linovsky finds here, there are many branding and self-interested reasons for asserting and replicating the idea that only some are allowed to be creative. The private sector is innovative, the public sector is regulatory, etc etc. Charlie Hoch noted that that “those days” of Great Man designers are over; I’m not convinced, actually, that those days are over. The star economy of designers seems to be alive and well to me, only now played out at a global scale. That spatiality and staging strikes me as important to Linovsky’s problem–the dichotomy of “who is allowed to innovate, who is allowed to create v. who is allowed to regulate” seems to me to be more reflective of LA’s neocorporate city governance that aligns nicely with market hierarchies.

Sangmin Kim, who is one of my students, also discussed her research on community-scale governance in different locations in Korea examining the capacity of government-sponsored, top-down attempts to create community programs versus instances where community members organize themselves around ideas that matter to them, which suggests the positive aspects of the “I, me, mine” and self in practical wisdom: people will volunteer for what they care for.

Karen Umemoto discussed work she is doing with her colleagues at the University of Hawaii at Manoa on restorative justice with juvenile offenders, trying to bypass the traditional, punitive methods of public institutions and keep the kids in their communities. As *everywhere*, the criminal justice system in Hawaii has terrible reach and consequences on impoverished, indigenous communities, and institutional modes of being just are not working for anybody. They aren’t working to prevent crime, and they are not reforming youth. Umemoto and her colleagues worked with public institutions and communities through the Ho‘opono Mamo Civil Citation Initiative, bringing indigenous knowledge into juvenile justice.

My critiques mainly had to do with place and spatiality in all the papers; juvenile justice, like everything else of course, has a deeply spatial and place-based influence on these children’s lives. Umemoto, in particular, is bumping up against public administration, which is a field that in my (not) humble opinion, desperately needs more spatial thinking. Linovsky is grappling with a world where the public sector has its own defined spatiality–the city, the region–and where designers themselves operate in markets well beyond that, or at least, many hope to.

Blargh–Ed Soja, you won! One of your most rebellious and insubordinate students is now spatializing all over the place. 🙂