The professional ‘languages’ in urban development – the need for better ‘translations’ to support decision making
Conference contribution, 2018
Given current challenges in urban development, there is urgent need to not only improve our understanding of urban processes but also scrutinise the tools and skills necessary to successfully intervene in them. In this paper, we identify ‘languages’ central for different professions in the urban development process: natural languages, such as English or Swedish; mathematical languages, such as algebra and arithmetic; and geometric languages, such as geometry or topology. Most simply, we may relate these to the following practices in urban development: urban governance, urban economics and urban design.
Skills for handling these languages are distinctive for these professional practices and a prerequisite for successful urban development, but there is also need for ‘translations’ between the languages, something far less addressed. As a consequence, we may find steering documents constituted by all these languages, skilfully constructed one by one, but together incongruent. This may obstruct strategic and operative decision making, and obviously impedes efficient urban development.
In this paper, these languages are scrutinised in a close reading of steering documents in a major Scandinavian urban development project, including not only texts but to equal degree geometric representations and numbers, to identify such incongruities. The aim is to contribute to means for better ‘translations’ between professional ‘languages’ to support collaboration between professions, more transparent foundations for decision makers and more successful urban development processes.