12. Round Table: Teoriasta käytäntöön / From Theory to Practice

Puheenjohtajat Mervi Ilmonen VTL, tutkija, Aalto-yliopisto
Sampo Villanen, VTM, tutkija, Tampereen yliopisto

TYÖRYHMÄSESSIO I / SESSION I: Torstai / Thursday 13:30-15:00

Sampo Villanen: Facing the multitude of urban theory and methods – some key questions

Karen Buurmans-Niemi: Producing Connections, Understanding Space: An Explanatory Framework (abstract below)

Discussant: Christian Schmid, ETH

 

Työryhmäkuvaus / Session Description:

Työryhmässä on tavoitteena pohtia tutkimusmetodologiaa, joka tässä määritellään teoreettisten käsitteiden ja käytännön empiiristen tutkimushavaintojen väliseksi suhteeksi.
Tutkimuksessa yleinen vaikeus on yhdistää teoriaa ja empiriaa luontevasti ja selitysvoimaisesti. Monesti teoria ja teoreettiset käsitteet uhkaavat jäädä empiriasta ja käytännön havainnoista irrallisiksi.

Käytämme yhtenä esimerkkinä tästä kaupunkitutkimuksen ja -teorian kompleksista klassikkoa Henri Lefebvreä. Tilan kolminainen dialektiikka, oikeus kaupunkiin, kokonaisvaltainen/totaalinen ihminen tai rytmianalyysi ovat tunnettuja ja suosittujakin käsitteitä, mutta niiden empiirinen soveltaminen kaupunkien todellisuuteen on osoittautunut hankalaksi. Miten Lefebvren tilan tuotannon teoriaa voi yhdistää empiiriseen tutkimusteoriaan? Mitkä käytännön tutkimusteoriat mahdollistavat Lefebvren käsitteistöjen kääntämistä empiiriseen analyysiin?

Yleisemmin kysymme, miten teoria liitetään käytäntöön? Mikä on tiedon suhde toimintaan? Minkälaisia selittäviä teorioita on käytettävissä? Voiko sosiologisen teorian kolmella lajityypillä (yleinen teoria, tutkimusteoria, aikalaisdiagnoosi) kuvata myös kaupunkitutkimuksen teoreettista perustaa?

Pyöreän pöydän keskustelu avataan aiheeseen johdattavilla alustuksilla ja kommenttipuheenvuorolla. Läsnäolijoiden osallistuminen keskusteluun omin esimerkein ja kysymyksin on enemmän kuin suotavaa.

Keskustelu käydään englanniksi.

 

From Theory to Practice

The aim of this session is to scrutinise methodological issues and problems in research. Methodology is here understood as a relation between theoretical concepts and empirical research notions.

A common difficulty in research is to combine theory and empirical observations in an elegant and explanatory way. Quite often the theory and theoretical concepts remain rather unconnected to the practical observations, the two parts being more or less disjointed. An example of this are the many well-liked and well-known concepts introduced by Henri Lefebvre. The spatial three-part dialectics, the right to the city, l’homme total, or rhythmanalysis are often used concepts but their application to empirical research has mostly remained weak. How can Lefebvre’s theory of production of space be combined with empirical research theory? What empirical research theories make it possible to transfer the concepts of Lefebvre to empirical analysis? More generally, we are asking how are theories translated into practice? What is the relation between knowledge and practice?

What kind of explanatory theories are available? Are the three types of theory in sociology (general theory, research theory, Zeitdiagnose) applicable for more general urban theory as well? The workshop will be organised with presentations on specific problems or solutions of combining theory and practice. The intro talks present relevant notions or observations to the topic.

The participants are more than welcome to present their own examples and questions concerning the topic.

The language in the group is English.

 

Abstract: Producing Connections, Understanding Space: An Explanatory Framework

Karen Buurmans-Niemi

The fields of Urban Design and Planning feature a vast body of knowledge and a rich spectrum of practices. However, this body appears disjointed and the spectrum scattered and interrupted. Disconnection occurs on two main levels: (1) between theory and practice, aggravated by the shift from traditional design practice driven theory formation towards modern academic research; (2) within the academic community between research relaying on technical and applied background and research drawing from the social sciences, humanities, and related studies. To re-employ Lefebvre’s dichotomy of space, the latter can also be understood as a division between primary foci on the product of design and planning (the actual built environment) and on the underlying planning process.

Some recent contributions, such as Unwin’s “Waste of Space”, have polemically identified the idea of socially constructed space as one of the reasons for the widening gap between theory and practice. Generally, there has been a growing recognition of the disconnections and a call for synthesis and greater coherence. Hillier, for example, speaks of The City as a Socio-technical System and the need to negotiate between the “mathematical” (technical) and “humanist” (social) aspects of planning. Gunder promotes reinstating Urban Design (the physical form) as an integral part of planning education and practice, while Madanipour suggests Urban Design makes Planning “more forward looking”.

This paper proposes an explanatory framework that attempts to contribute towards greater synthesis. The framework does not aim, a priori, at replacing existing tools, techniques and theories, but rather at providing a backdrop against which they can be interpreted in complementary terms without disregarding their respective backgrounds.

The two main dimensions of the framework matrix incorporate the distinction between process and product space. Both dimensions are split in three layers representing the environmental, social and individual levels of space, where “environment” roughly corresponds to Hillier’s “mathematical”, and the two others to “humanities” aspects of planning. Instead of separating the notions of time and space, the framework introduces time as a third dimension to the matrix, which allows the whole framework to be elaborated towards a dynamic model of the urban system.