1 de junho de 2015

‘BECOMING LOCAL – Generative places, smart approaches, happy people’


24th - 25th September 2015

Porto University - Faculty of Engineering

Theme of the conference

Along the decades, planning has been evolving from expert-led or top-down approaches to more community-led, interactive and participatory approaches, valuing the social capital of local communities and putting citizens at the centre of planning processes. Research has been emphasizing the importance of local contexts to set goals and establish priorities through adaptive learning processes. Additionally, it is relevant to identify places here understood as ‘generative places’, where the emergence of local initiatives based on knowledge-based creativity and interactive learning occur. In other words, places should demonstrate the capacity to flourish and reinvent themselves - hopefully revealing their true genius loci, meaning the location’s unique character - most of the times through spontaneous processes based on community action and groups of individuals' initiatives.

BECOMING LOCAL means that the contemporary rationale should zoom in to ‘local’ spaces and places, policies and practices, and everyday life; this way, the human capital (citizens and their social and cultural background) play an important role as key agents of urban change and, in particular, of defining what is meaningful within the city. The understanding and the production of these meaningful places is, nowadays, increasingly confronted with diversified real (material) and virtual (immaterial) spheres of urban spaces, either private or public. Planning has to be prepared to embrace both these spheres of the city, as they both contribute to the construction of meaningful places.

Moreover, the idea that the use of technological or smart driven approaches in planning processes can, firstly, facilitate political discourse and participation by strengthening the link between citizens and governors, and secondly, better respond to people needs and improve the quality of life of citizens, has been around in different contexts and dimensions. Several projects, applications and approaches are making evident that we are forced to live and use technology in our daily activities and inevitably in the city arena. Technology affects our behaviours and the way we move and live in urban areas at various levels. However, regarding the access to (new) technologies (transports, communication/ICT networks, etc.), a certain asymmetry still exists due to the vulnerability of some communities and deprived families. Also, the operative structures of public institutions and private representative bodies of local people interests are often different. Additional, in some regions, physical distance is not yet counterbalanced with technological proximity. Thus, participatory planning processes may be less efficient and even threatened. Though, it is imperative to investigate and discuss how these technological tools can lead to the idea of what is usually designated as e-inclusion and most importantly how it can promote, ultimately, social cohesion and integration.

Intensifying the role of citizens by, either community-led, interactive, or participatory approaches, is consensually argued as responding more directly to people’s needs and aspirations. Nonetheless, the level of quality of life, and even the level of happiness, is far from being truly and completely achieved. Urban planning has been concerned in creating better places, but nowadays is also focusing in increasing the levels of happiness, following the wider trend in discussing what makes people happier.

In the Conference some raising questions are expected to be discussed:
  • What are the processes that make some places flourish, and others not? What initiatives are at the bottom of the process?
  • What are the roles of planning and design in those spontaneous processes of urban transformation? How is the articulation and mediation of the different agents/stakeholders in the making and along the process?
  • How can the concept of ‘generative place’ be further defined and explored (based on the variety of real cases)?
  • Do these generative places contribute more to the meaningful of the city?
  • What are the emerging research methodologies and positions in the studies of generative places? What are the problems of being at the cutting edges?
  • What are the main technological tools that are being used in urban spaces (mainly, public open spaces, transports and mobility)?
  • Do they have been contributing to increase social equality, creativity, cohesion and integration? If not, what are the main problems? Is e-inclusion a determinant key in reaching more equitable and liveable places?
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