Academic journal article The Town Planning Review

Strategic Navigation across Multiple Planes: Towards a Deleuzean-Inspired Methodology for Strategic Spatial Planning

Academic journal article The Town Planning Review

Strategic Navigation across Multiple Planes: Towards a Deleuzean-Inspired Methodology for Strategic Spatial Planning

Article excerpt

I regard strategic spatial planning as an adaptive practice concerned with what can be done in the face of uncertainty. Inspired by Deleuze and Guattari, I present a multiplanar theorisation of strategic spatial planning as strategic navigation, involving both the broad charting out of a trajectory of the longer-term future and also for shorter-term, detailed plans and projects with collaboratively determined goals. I develop a methodology for translating the theory into strategic practice, which incorporates a critical engagement with actual conditions and how they came to be (tracing), together with an attempt to unpack what are the conditions for change (mapping and diagramming). Opportunities and risks could be explored allowing the potentials of new trajectories to emerge. I conclude that since the future is inherently unpredictable, the role of strategic spatial planning is to recognise relationalities to facilitate strategic navigation of future trajectories.

[T]he metaphor of navigation [...] comprises several components. Firstly, the obvious idea of a journey (trajet), of effective movement from one point to another. Secondly, the idea of navigation implies that this movement is directed towards a certain goal, that it has an objective. [...] During the journey one encounters risks, unforeseen risks that may challenge your course or even get you lost. Consequently, the journey will be one which leads you to the place of safety through a number of known and little known, known and unknown, dangers. Finally, in this idea of navigation, I think that we should retain the idea that this journey to the port, across the dangers, implies - in order to be undertaken well and to reach its objective - knowledge, technique and art. Such knowledge is complex, both theoretical and practical. It is also conjectural, which is, of course, very close to the knowledge of piloting.

The idea of piloting as an art, as a theoretical and practical technique necessary to existence, is an idea that I think is important and which would merit analysis in more depth. (Foucault, 1982, 2, my translation)

Michel Foucault engaged the metaphor of ships and navigation (pilotage) on several occasions in his exploration of ideas of spatial planning/town planning and governance (1982; 1983a; 1983b; 1983c; [2001] 2005; [2004] 2007). I argue that such metaphors resonate strongly with conceptualisations of strategic spatial planning in complex and increasingly uncertain circumstances. Equally relevant and echoing Foucault's (1967) suggestion that a boat is 'a floating piece of space', Deleuze and Guattari also refer to a 'maritime model' in which 'to think is to voyage' ([1980] 1987, 482). Voyaging, for Deleuze and Guattari, is 'the manner of being in space, of being for space' ([1980] 1987, 482). This is a conceptualisation of space as a passage: of change; of in-between; as a relation between actual and potential worlds (Deleuze and Guattari, [1991] 1994, 17).

As the Introduction to this Special Issue has indicated, traditional forms of strategic spatial planning are increasingly out of synch with the rapid pace of change, complexities and uncertainties of the world that they attempt to plan. There is a need for development of a new, more flexible, form of strategic planning, which, 'if there is to be one, must advance towards a future which is not known, which cannot be anticipated' (Derrida, 1994, 37). Such planning work involves 'taking risks, the consequences of which can be thought about, but cannot be known' (Healey, 2008, 28).

The Introduction also argued the case for a post-structuralist approach to strategic planning: one that overcomes the limitations of and goes beyond approaches based on the resurgence of pragmatism. Mainstream American-inspired pragmatism may be criticised for being unable to address power relations adequately, for assuming that shared social and political values will find a balance between conflictual alternatives and for underestimating the complexity of the world, with consequent dangers of falling into short-sighted practicalism and expediency (Russell, 1908; Beauregard, 2000). …

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