Back to overview

The objects of sustainability - how to improve sustainability with relevant and negotiated geographical objects?

Applicant Debarbieux Bernard
Number 115133
Funding scheme NRP 54 Sustainable Development of the Built Environment
Research institution Département de géographie et environnement Université de Genève
Institution of higher education University of Geneva - GE
Main discipline Architecture and Social urban science
Start/End 01.01.2007 - 30.09.2009
Approved amount 227'092.00
Show all

Keywords (5)

urban and regional planning; ontologies; categories; participation ; performativity

Lay Summary (English)

Lay summary
Sustainable vocabulary


In everyday actions and linguistic usage,geographical space manifests itself as a natural system ofobjects such as “city”, “landscape” or “nature”. Someresearchers, however, dispute the applicability of such spatialcategories - in particular, the juxtaposition of “urban” and“rural” - to an interpretation of present-day urbanizationprocesses and phenomena. It thus appears that the geographicalcategories adopted by different groups within asociety are not always identical. The implications of this aretwofold: First, it complicates the exchange of knowledgebetween citizens and experts; second, differences in categorizationencourage unsystematic action that is inconsistentwith sustainability criteria.

The project will endeavour to analyse andunderstand the mechanisms behind the categorization ofgeographical objects and to relate these to the way in whichthe various players affected by spatial planning schemesactually act. The findings will prepare the ground for thedevelopment and trial of alternative methods of negotiatedand co-operative categorization as part of the politicaleffort to promote sustainability.

The research project comprises three parts:- Analysis of the categories and geographical objects thatfeature in spatial planning discourse and instruments- Analysis of the practical implications of objects and categories,focusing on the ways in which resulting actionsmay trigger non-sustainable spatial demands- Development of alternative methods for the collaborativecategorization of objects in a participatory process thatendeavours to define and elicit consensus on a set offormal, GIS- and IT-compatible objects

The results of the research project are intendedto support those processes underpinning sustainable spatialdevelopment. By furthering the convergence of scientific andeveryday knowledge and clarifying the processes by whichsuch knowledge is attained, the project will pave the way forconceptual and technical (IT-based) tools to promote alternativeforms of participation in spatial planning.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants