Citizen participation in the post-political era

Organizers

  • Sveinung Legard (OsloMet Handelshøyskolen)
  • Kristin Reichborn-Kjennerud (OsloMet – AFI)
  • Sissel Hovik (OsloMet Handelshøyskolen)
  • George Anthony Giannoumis (OsloMet, Institutt for informasjonsteknologi)

Call for abstracts

Urban development is often a challenging zone of conflict. To mitigate this, city governments and planning authorities have long been mandated to engage with residents on urban development proposals.

In recent years formal consultative requirements have been integrated with wider moves to implement participatory modes of governance (McCann, 2017).

Changes in local neighbourhoods typically motivate residents and local businesses to mobilize politically, particularly when urban development negatively affects them in their everyday lives. Conflict is often sharpest in inner city districts where development pressures are greatest, and densification or gentrification alter urban character and social networks.

Mobilization against the consequences of urban development may take a range of forms, from engagement with city governments through to formal participatory or consultation mechanisms, to direct political action.

Politicians and civil servants are more preoccupied with participation than ever because they believe that input from residents will make solutions better and reduce conflict levels if residents are won over. It’s a paradox, at the same time, that residents are invited to participate more and more, while the authorities have less and less power over the actual urban development.

Planning in the post political era, where the public sector uses New Public Management control systems, leaves less decisions open for democratic deliberation. Arnsteins’ classic participation ladder problematizes how residents are often asked to give their opinion only of whether the fence should be red or blue.

Most often they are not given the opportunity to co-decide on important matters in their neighbourhood, that impact their lives. This creates potential conflicts and stalemate because residents feel manipulated.

In this session we wish to discuss what type of participation and mobilization that takes place in central city districts. These areas are often gentrifying areas, under pressure from densification, touristification and increasing living costs.

How do different groups of residents organize to impact local development, and what channels and strategies do they deploy to urban policies? Likewise, how does the government open up for citizen participation and how does that work in practice?

In the session we are also concerned with power in urban development. Who gets to assert influence over urban issues, and what consequences does this have for urban governance and democracy? Here, private entrepreneurs and market forces play an important role. Thus, we encourage papers and presentations that thematize both how public control systems and capital works in to create socially sustainable living environments.

Finally, we are interested in how digitalization affects mobilization and citizen participation in an urban setting. How do, for example, residents use social media to organize around urban development issues, and how does digitalization affect what the government does to give citizens, including the silent voices, a voice. The overarching question here is whether new social media and digital spaces promote democratize urban planning and policy or not.

Themes

We encourage contributions that connect to the topics below;

  • Are public organizations invitation to participation just surveys to collect information or can they be effective in influencing policy, and how?
  • Under what conditions are the official (digital) channels for participation effective in influencing policy
  • What strategies are residents using to influence policy (official platforms, their own platforms, digital platforms etc)
  • To what extent can participation prevent the implementation of measures that is benefiting the whole city
  • What is the difference between NIMBY and participation for the common good?
  • Do we have direct democracy/participation systems that are good enough to hear “the silent voices” and what is needed to make that happen?

Submit an abstract

We ask that abstracts limited to 200-300 words be sent directly to the organizers of the different sessions. Please see the session pages for details.

Please share this call with your colleagues or other interested parties. We hope to see you in Oslo come October!

On language

The conference primary language is Norwegian and Nordic languages, but many of our sessions will be conducted in English. All sessions welcome contributions in English, unless explicitly stated otherwise.