Cybernetic Spatial Planning: Steering, Managing or Just Letting Go?

Authored by: Nikos Karadimitriou

The Ashgate Research Companion to Planning Theory

Print publication date:  July  2010
Online publication date:  November  2016

Print ISBN: 9780754672548
eBook ISBN: 9781315279251
Adobe ISBN: 9781315279244


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Understanding spatial phenomena as expressions of complex processes is a concept that has been utilized extensively in studies of cities and the built environment. Similarly, the quintessentially modernist notion that socio-spatial phenomena are amenable to some form of monitoring and control has been, and still is, one of the cornerstones of spatial planning and planning practice, in spite of the postmodernist critique. The growing recognition that the social sciences are dealing with ‘… complex adaptive systems, self organising, self referential, autopoietic, and thus with their own strategies and expectations, with intertwining processes of emergence and adaptation …’ (Geyer and van der Zouven 2001: 11) poses the ultimate challenge for spatial planning: if nothing else, totally accurate prediction in such systems is impossible in principle and thus it is next to unfeasible to foresee the effects of spatial planning interventions.

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