The Art of Engagement: The politics of public participation and paying attention in place making practice for urban planning

Melissa Nursey-Bray1, Susan Oakley1

1University Of Adelaide


In an increasingly urban and climate change-challenged world, there is a necessity to build connections between spaces, people and environment. Urban spaces require the engagement of citizens to create and shape them into unique signifiers of connection, residence and activity in cities and regions.  Further, Australian cities built on Indigenous country need to find modes of engagement that reconcile the tensions caused by the historical yet enduring invasion of space and place. Placemaking is one mechanism by which connections can be forged and bridges built between these tensions; and become, in and of itself, a mode of community engagement for all citizens. This paper, drawing on Citton’s Ecologies of Attention, interrogates how the use of public art as placemaking can catalyze public participation and engagement with place, environment and culture in cities, change public space and build modes of reconciliation. I argue that art as community engagement becomes a tool that can generate participatory and co-engendered place narratives that in connecting urban ecologies have the facility to build integration between people and place in cities.


Melissa is a human geographer who is interested in the relationship between people and place, and the ways in which communities become involved in environmental decision making. She has explored this relationship in the context of marine/coastal spaces, Indigenous country and urban settlements. Her current work focuses on the geographies of climate adaptation and what inhibits and drives community engagement in this space. She is the Director of the ACE (Adaptation, Community, Environment) Research Cluster, and Head of Department of the Department of Geography, Environment and Population.

Citizen science: knowledge work and the labour of engagement

A/Prof. Matthew Kearnes1, Dr. Declan Kuch1

1Environment & Society Group, School of Humanities and Languages, UNSW, Kensington, Australia


Citizen science projects form an increasingly significant component of the dynamic relationship between science and society. Whilst citizen science initiatives are commonly represented as a means to improve engagement between scientific projects and their constituent publics, citizen participation also forms a critical element of the invisible infrastructure of contemporary research. This is particularly the case in data-intensive areas of biomedical research where citizen participation is invoked in the characterisation, segmentation and transcription of large datasets. In this paper we explore citizen science projects engaged in the distributed interpretation of cellular imagery produced through bioscientific research enterprises. Developing Shapin’s (1989) notion of the ‘invisible technician’ – agents of epistemic and knowledge work which are present but typically rendered invisible in accounts of the scientific process – we explore the tacit labour relations invoked in data-intensive citizen scientific projects. We explore the transactions entailed in resolving the relationship between the affective potential of citizen involvement and the promise of ‘real science’. In closing we review the degree to which data-intensive citizen science conforms to established motifs of scientific method: selectively rendering some forms of labour visible whilst obscuring others; whilst at the same time providing a platform for political engagement and disruption.


Matthew Kearnes is based in the Environment & Society Group, School of Humanities and Languages, UNSW and is a CI with the ARC Centre of Excellence in Convergent Bio-Nano Science & Technology (CBNS).

Matthew’s research is situated between the fields of Science and Technology Studies (STS) and human and cultural geography. Matthew is an associate editor of  Science as Culture (Taylor & Francis) and served on the editorial board Science, Technology and Society (Sage) Matthew also co-convened  the 2018 conference of the Society for the Social Studies of Science.

Examining public participation in New Zealand and the implications for resource management decisions and outcomes

Dr Ronlyn Duncan1

1Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research, Lincoln, New Zealand


Recognising publics are made and emergent, understanding how they are made and factors that shape their creation are important areas for research. This paper presents research that examines how New Zealand’s resource management legislation is shaping conceptions of the public and participation to understand the implications for resource management decision-making and outcomes.  Drawing on interviews with planners in New Zealand working at both district and regional levels of local government – and operating at different points along the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2) spectrum – the research identifies a hierarchy of who is involved in participatory planning processes, when and why. This paper will discuss this hierarchy, the importance of pre-statutory participatory processes and their increasing political importance (e.g. to not only legitimise but also road-test), and the role different types of knowledge and learning could be playing in differentiating practices and creating spaces for participation across the IAP2 typology.


Ronlyn is an interdisciplinary scholar with degrees in both the ecological and social sciences.  She has a PhD in Environmental Studies from the University of Tasmania.  Ronlyn is currently working as an Environmental Social Science Researcher at Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research in New Zealand.  Her current research examines the social, political and cultural dimensions of science and other knowledges for policy and planning to understand the implications for policy implementation.  She is also using social practice theory to overcome pervasive knowledge deficit approaches to policy implementation.

Swiss deliberative planning in peri-urban areas at risk

Mrs Annette Bardsley1

1The University of Adelaide, Adelaide, Australia


Residents living on the fringe of Australian cities face increasing levels of environmental risk, especially due to wildfires. That situation is challenging planners to engage with resident populations to meet their local needs. It is also very difficult to achieve sustainable outcomes because local concerns about hazards can lead to a discounting of environmental values. Switzerland has utilised its highly deliberative political system to understand residents’ expectations of planning at local and national levels. A residents’ survey was undertaken in settlements located on the steep, wooded slopes surrounding Locarno in Canton Ticino to analyse perceptions of spatial planning in relation to environmental values and risks. Apart from the formal process of voting, few respondents engaged with planning processes and did not consider that they had a strong influence over decisions. Nevertheless, local residents are very familiar with local hazards such as rockfalls, landslides and wildfires and their potential impacts, and as they are included in the process of management, are very confident in the work of their planners and first-responders to manage the environmental risk. The processes of deliberation provides the social room for understanding to develop that in turn generates confidence in the authorities’ management of environmental risk.


Annette Bardsley, BA (Hons) Geography & PGDipEd, is completing her PhD entitled ‘Perceptions of Wildfire Risk and Planning in Peri-Urban Adelaide, Australia and in Locarno, Switzerland’, in Geography Environment and Population (GEP), at the University of Adelaide. Annette has worked in conservation planning in Switzerland and in education in Australia.


Advancing deliberation in a hydrosocial field: insights from participatory planning, Kamala river basin, Nepal

Dr Tira Foran1, Dr Hemant Ojha2

1CSIRO Land and Water, Canberra

2Institute for Studies and Development Worldwide (IFSD), Sydney,


We explore the interplay between participatory deliberative processes, and forces that constrain river basin planning in Nepal. Nepal’s 2015 constitution, and subsequent sectoral policies, recognize the need to improve justice for women and marginalized people. We report on ongoing efforts to facilitate participatory, cross-sectoral planning, in the multi-province Kamala river basin. We combine institutional analysis with Bourdieu’s social practice theory to chart dispositions that constrain deliberation over water resource development options. With respect to integrated river basin planning, we find that contradictions exist between norms of democratic participation, and the practices of hydrological analysis and accounting: the latter tend to dominate the field, thus far to the detriment of inclusive institutions. While attempting to facilitate participatory planning, we experienced how interlinked fields of politics and technocracy impede deliberative practice. While the establishment of local and provincial governments (pursuant to the 2015 constitution) creates new opportunities for participation in river basin planning, such opportunities are curtailed by competing priorities and pressures put on newly-elected officials. The devolution of planning to lower levels of society is constrained by nested and interlocked fields of practice. We reflect on possibilities for democratization offered by cross-scale deliberation and attention to systemic contradictions.


Tira Foran is a human geographer based at CSIRO since 2010. He has worked on participatory deliberative approaches to natural resources governance in Nepal and Myanmar.

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