Wonderful reads 2020: Dories and Harjo on indigenous feminist conceptions/practices of security in JPER

OMG YAYYYYYYYYYYYY this is a wonderful paper in so many regards. I have struggled in my undergraduate class, and in my own writing about perceptions of security, that planning has a deeply impoverished view of security: rejecting surveillance cameras (sure, no problem but then what? acting like bad things don’t happen is not an option) and then often glossing security as being unimportant, or just responding “Oh, the way to be safe is eyes on the street”, echoing Jane Jacobs, which again, is fine, but white shopkeepers and white eyes on the street are calling the cops on Black people and that doesn’t seem to be keeping people particularly safe, now does it?

This paper is both a wonderful theoretical contribution that recasts security as embedded in community and in “generative refusal” and it also is a fine case study on art and organizing to undo the erasure of settler colonial violence in urban locales.

Read it, just read it.

Here is the citation and the link. It’s behind a paywall, but I suspect we can find you a copy of it:

Dorries H, Harjo L. Beyond Safety: Refusing Colonial Violence Through Indigenous Feminist Planning. Journal of Planning Education and Research. 2020;40(2):210-219. doi:10.1177/0739456X19894382

Settler colonial violence targets Indigenous women in specific ways. While urban planning has attended to issues of women’s safety, the physical dimensions of safety tend to be emphasized over the social and political causes of women’s vulnerability to violence. In this paper, we trace the relationship between settler colonialism and violence against Indigenous women. Drawing on examples from community activism and organizing, we consider how Indigenous feminism might be applied to planning and point toward approaches to planning that do not replicate settler colonial violence.

Wonderful reads 2020: Amoako and Frimpong Boamah on becoming vulnerable to flooding in PT&P

Ok, I know diddly squat about Ghana other than I enjoyed my visit, and I also know diddly squat about flooding, but I LOVE how these authors use assemblage as both a theoretical approach and *almost* a method in constructing the comparative case studies of Agbogbloshie and Old Fadama, two informal settlements.

Assemblage theory is an ontological approach developed by Giles Deleuze Félix Guattari in their book A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. I do not feel qualified to really present the approach, but it seems to me that Amoaka and Frimpong Boamah do a great job of taking it down from the clouds, as it were, and really unlocking the potential of the approach to help us understand how and why vulnerability to flooding happens. It releases the research from the demands of a paradigm: you don’t have to have supply or demand variables. You just examine the variables, knowing they are mutually constituted and influencing, and explore how they are assembling in the context.

My PhD students read the paper with me. There are a couple places in the cases where I think the narrative gets a muddled, but that happens to all of us and it doesn’t negate the fact that this is a very nice exemplar of really using theory to deepen empirical work.

Here is the citation and the link. It’s behind a paywall, but , I suspect we can find you a copy of it if you request it:

Clifford Amoako & Emmanuel Frimpong Boamah (2020) Becoming Vulnerable to Flooding: An Urban Assemblage View of Flooding in an African City, Planning Theory & Practice, 21:3, 371-391, DOI: 10.1080/14649357.2020.1776377

Assemblage thinking has emerged over the last two decades as an important theoretical framework to interrogate emerging complex socio-material phenomenon in cities. This paper deploys the assemblage lens to unpack the vulnerability of informal communities to flood hazards in an African city. Focusing on Agbogbloshie and Old Fadama, the largest informal settlements in Accra, Ghana, this paper employs multiple methods including archival analysis, institutional surveys, focus group discussions, and mini-workshops to study the processes of exposure and vulnerability to flood hazards in these two communities. We find that being vulnerable to flood hazards in these informal settlements emerges from historically contingent, co-constitutive processes and actants: the city officials’ modernist imaginaries and socio-cultural identities of residents in informal settlements; the social material conditions experienced by residents in these settlements; and the translocal learning networks of government and non-government actors that simultaneously (re)produce oppressive urban planning policies and grassroots resistance to these policies. The paper concludes with a call to urban planners and allied built environment practitioners to understand flood vulnerability as both a process and product of these complex interactions.

Wonderful reads 2020: Duminy and Parnell on city science in PT&P

I admit, I am one of those people who does all the eye-rolling when city science comes up because it way-too-often comes in the following form: Planners Have Failed to Solve the City, and Thus SCIENTISTS with their RIGOR are here to help. And then it boils down to a bunch of atheoretical and dehumanized equations, sometimes with BIG DATA attached.

In this “debate” piece, James Duminy and Susan Parnell say “not so fast, and don’t be so darn biased in your thinking” and they are, in general, right that knee-jerk dismissals are lazy and, over time, likely to be wrong. Now, I have to say, I am not convinced ulitimately by what they have here–they have reconceptualized science in ways that I suspect are really useful in order that there might be a possibility of city science, which is theoretically intereting but I suspect would make many a scientist get squinky. (That doesn’t disqualify the reconceptualization.) I do think they are onto something when they say perhaps the general model for a city science could come from citizen science (interesting). That releases the possibiities from the strangulation of academic hierachies in the first place. And they are right; if you dismiss it as impossible, you miss what it is possible to show with it.

I always like essays that make me examine my own intellectual biases and this one did it.

This baby does NOT have a paywall so you can go ahead and read it from here.

James Duminy & Susan Parnell (2020) City Science: A Chaotic Concept – And an Enduring Imperative, Planning Theory & Practice, 21:4, 648-655, DOI: 10.1080/14649357.2020.1802155

Debates surrounding the ‘new’ city sciences are polarized. On the one hand, a new generation of tech-savvy data scientists, spatial modellers, and analysts confidently express their ability to predict and explain city processes at unprecedented scales of complexity. On the other hand, those trained to see the world as fundamentally shaped by contingent meanings and subjectivities may see in such approaches little more than old positivism in new bottles, or perhaps a hubristic overstep of urban non-specialists onto their turf (Derudder & Van Meeteren, 2019).

Wonderful reads 2020: Carole Turley Voulgaris @turleyvoulgaris on transit forecasting in JAPA

I’m interested in forecasting in the same way I am interested in divination. If planning is really about trying to create future imaginaries and understanding futures, forecasting is its quantitive arm. Today’s entry in the stuff I’ve enjoyed reading this year is about how experts who work with forecasts understand them. Transit New Start project forecasts have improved over time—which makes sense. The more people do, the better we get at it; the more projects we start, the more data on passenger behavior we get.

(People used to get mad at me because I was appalled at the CA HSR cost projections and not the ridership projections, but I stand my ground on that. HSR in CA would be an entirely new service. But we should know full damn well how much it costs to pour concrete in California. Passenger forecasts are extremely hard in my mind, for a lot of reasons that not the fault of either the analysts or the project promoters. That said, the incentive to diddle them is real and there’s a reason for the upward bias.)

This is a neat paper because she’s able to interview at least one person associated with all of the 82 New Start Projects that have been funded. It’s nice to see them all examined in retrospect. I look forward to seeing more of Voulgaris’ ideas here. One thing I’ve really wished for is that planners are not the only people who introduce new services, and I wonder sometimes if the world of market research and social marketing would yield some interesting insights on the field of passenger forecasts in transit and in influencing people to try transit.

Here is the citation and the link. It’s behind a paywall, but if you ask me or the author, I suspect we can find you a copy of it between the two of us.

Carole Turley Voulgaris (2020) What Is a Forecast for?, Journal of the American Planning Association, 86:4, 458-469, DOI: 10.1080/01944363.2020.1746191

The forecasts transit agencies submit in support of applications for federal New Starts funding have historically overestimated ridership, as have ridership forecasts for rail projects in several countries and contexts. Forecast accuracy for New Starts projects has improved over time. Understanding the motivations of forecasters to produce accurate or biased forecasts can help forecast users determine whether to trust new forecasts. For this study I interviewed 13 transit professionals who have helped prepare or evaluate applications for federal New Starts funds. This sample includes interviewees who have had varying levels of involvement in all 82 New Starts projects that opened between 1976 and 2016. I recruited interviewees through a snowball sampling method; my interviews focus on the interviewees’ perspectives on how New Starts project evaluation and ridership forecasting has changed over time. Interview results suggest that ridership forecasters’ motivations to produce accurate forecasts may have increased with increased transparency, increased influence on local decision making, and decreased influence on external (federal) funding.

Takeaway for practice: Planners can evaluate the likely trustworthiness of forecasts based on transparency, internal influence, and external influence. If forecast users cannot easily determine a forecast’s key inputs and assumptions, if the forecaster has been tasked with producing a forecast to justify a predetermined action, and if an unfavorable forecast would circumvent decisions by the forecaster’s immediate client, forecasts should viewed with skepticism. Planners should seek to alter conditions that may create these conflicts of interest. Forecasters seem to be willing and able to improve forecast accuracy when the demand for accurate forecasts increases.

Wonderful reads, 2020: Patsy Healey on Judy Innes

I have been struggling in 2020 with keeping up this blog, and one thing I wanted to get to was really discussing Judy Innes’ legacy. I tended to be a bit on deliberative planning theory, as I fall more into the grumpy Neo-Marxist camp than in the “let’s talk things through” camp. But Judy Innes exerted an important influence on planning theory, and her contributions deserve to be recognized.

Fortunately, Patsy Healey, one of my favorite theory writers, didn’t share my inability to get some good, constructive thoughts together, and she put together this lovely retrospective for Planning Theory & Practice, which is available to all without paywall. My favorite comment is a rebuke to my own grump tendencies:

Judy’s 1995 paper generated intense debate among the ‘planning theory’ community, as it competed for attention with those developing an alternative challenge to the positivist hegemony, based in a development of neo-Marxist political economy. This was evolving strongly in Europe at the time and was represented in the US by scholars such as Susan Fainstein and Micky Lauria. The result was a critique which argued that the communicative planning theorists failed to recognise the dominant capitalist forces structuring policy-making and planning practices. Judy’s search for improved decision-making within the current structure was merely fixing a system which generated gross injustices and needed to be fundamentally changed. Any search for ‘consensus’ among stakeholders masked major divisions within social formations. At one level, this debate was implicitly about whether to accept or reject the core axioms of liberal democracy. Judy herself never lost her commitment to the founding principles of American democracy. But it was also about how power is distributed in social formations and about how change in governing practices comes about.

It’s a perpetual tension that Healey doesn’t resolve, either. Making the incremental best of a crummy situation is quite often better, however marginal, than the notion that the revolution is forthcoming if we only pound the table hard enough for it. (Or, that those we assume the revolution would benefit actually share that belief or want a revolution.)