Strategic Navigation in an Ocean of Theoretical and Practice Complexity

Authored by: Jean Hillier

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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As my embarkation point for the voyage that is this chapter, I take a quotation from Salman Rushdie’s Haroun and the Sea of Stories. When the boy, Haroun, looked into the sea of stories:

[h]e looked into the water and saw that it was made up of a thousand thousand and one different currents, each one a different colour, weaving in and out of one another like a liquid tapestry of breathtaking complexity; and Iff explained that those were the Streams of Story … And because the stories were held here in fluid form, they retained the ability to change, to become new versions of themselves, to join up with other stories and so become yet other stories. (Rushdie 1990: 72)

In the Ocean of Stories that is planning theory and practice we see human and non-human stories, flowing, interconnecting, congealing and transforming the molecular and molar lines of trajectories. It is increasingly accepted by academics and practitioners that a city is an ‘endless kaleidoscope of possible viewpoints’ or landmarks; a ‘mobile panorama of interacting events’ (Cooper 2005: 1693). We are beginning to regard cities, human and non-human actants not as ‘things-in-themselves’ but as complex, multiple and mutable elements of connections and disconnections, relations and transitions. The recent introduction of a range of concepts, including complexity, multiplicity, emergence, becoming, assemblage and so on represents a relatively new and important shift in thinking of theorization and, by extension, of methodology (Venn 2006) in planning.

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