Authors: Laura Lieto*, Federico II University
Topics: Europe
Keywords: new materialism, assemblage, planning regulation, informality
Session Type: Paper
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Engaging things in planning regulation

The paper deals with planning’s constitutive tension toward other discipline domains by looking at new materialism, actor-network theory and assemblage thinking. Its main purpose is to outline a relational understanding of the socio-materiality of city life and provide new theoretical and practical options for planners engaged in day-to-day challenges in which regulatory technologies are required. From a methodological standpoint, the paper views the city as more than simply a collection of humans and their institutions or built forms. Rather, it presents the city as a collaboration – an assemblage of assemblages – of humans, material objects, nature, and technologies. Crucial to these assemblages are not just the norms and regulations that mediate the relationships among these elements, but also the everyday city which ‘acts’ as a socio-technical entanglement where general/abstract principles animating planning norms become practical matters of concern. In this vein, the paper rejects the dominant position that planning norms and standards are just constraints to freedom and creativity, and envisages them as political statements about what is collectively desired and about the type of city that we want (democratic, just, environmentally sound, cosmopolitan). Of particular concern, in this perspective, is informality i.e. those activities that resist or evade formal rules. As a conclusion, the paper outlines informal practices as the empirical ground to discuss the validity of norms and rules once they enter the socio-material world, and to understand how they deal with anomalies and exceptions.

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