Urban Climate Experiments: A Para-Site
Location M212
Date and Start Time 03 September, 2016 at 16:00
Sessions 1


  • Friederike Gesing (University of Bremen) email
  • Michael Flitner (Bremen University) email

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Discussant Nona Schulte-Römer (Helmholtz-Zentrum für Umweltforschung GmbH - UFZ)

Short Abstract

Amidst increasing standardization of transnational climate governance, collective urban experiments challenge the normaliziation of climate change in the city. The track explores collaborative approaches to the coproduction of transnational spaces in localized experiments and networked structures.

Long Abstract

Cities have been identified as key actors of transnational climate change politics: as sociomaterial infrastructures causing substantial GHG emissions (Christ, 2014), as a political space where climate is rendered governable (Bulkeley and Betsill 2013), and as nodal points in emerging hybrid and polycentric networks of climate governance (Hakelberg 2014). While cities struggle for recognition on the global political stage, a normalization and standardization process takes place that fits climate mitigation, and increasingly adaptation, to strategic agendas of urban development and economic innovation policies. At the same time, Bulkeley and Broto (2013) argue that urban climate governance mainly takes place outside of formal policies and plans, but as experimental practice of diverse actors.

The track aims to collect work from this complex arena of climate experiments. How do marginal actors engage in experiments that form and transform the sociomaterial infrastructure and the political space of the city - especially under crisis conditions? How are experiments framed vis-à-vis the normalization of urban climate change responses and the emergence of accounting and standardization tools? How is the transnational space coproduced in localized experiments and networked structures?

The session will be organized as a para-site: an "overlapping academic/fieldwork space" open to fieldwork collaborators or "para-ethnographers" (Holmes and Marcus 2008).

Traditional paper presentations are welcome, however, we encourage authors to consider experimental formats, including co-presentations.

This track is closed to new paper proposals.


Epistemic communities, professional expertise and the city: The case of global ecological problems in large Canadian cities.

Authors: Louis Guay  email
Julie Hagan (Laval University)  email

Short Abstract

The purpose of the paper is to focus on the part experts and epistemic communities play in the urban policies with respect to global ecological problems such as climate change and biodiversity. This is based on a case study of large Canadians cities.

Long Abstract

Cities are called for to act on global ecological problems, in particular climate change and, to a lesser degree, biodiversity. Research has shown that their role is increasingly significant (Bulkeley, Castan Broto and Edward, 2015). The purpose of the paper is to focus on the part experts and epistemic communities play in the urban policies with respect to global ecological problems. This is based on a case study of large Canadians cities. The question is then the following: how has urban planning responded to global ecological change? When fields of expertise and areas of knowledge are highly specialized, there is no overarching urban expertise available. Different kinds of expertise need to be connected. Thus, the research asks whether there exist connecting institutions such as boundary organizations for sharing knowledge, developing a common understanding of problems, and preparing policy solutions for decision makers (Star and Griesemer, 1989; Star, 2010). Boundary organizations are to be understood horizontally and vertically. Verticality leads to multi level governance, whereas horizontality leads to interaction and 'trading zones' between different kinds of expertise (Collins, Evans and Gorman, 2001; Galison, 1987; Gorman, 2010). The paper aims at contributing to research on expertise and epistemic communities in practice in an urban context. Global ecological problems are complex, often wicked, and are difficult to govern (Hartmann, 2012). The paper will examine how the experts groups collectively construct the scientific and technical knowledge necessary to environmental urban policy-making and planning.

Research in the wild for the city and with the citizens: The climate game and other actions

Author: Josep Perelló (Universitat de Barcelona)  email

Short Abstract

How can we act collectively on climate issues? We combine a self-reflection experience, collective relevant scientific results and civic actions in a research in the wild located at the city of Barcelona.

Long Abstract

"The benefits and burdens associated with climate change and its resolution must be fairly allocated." From: Mary Robinson-Climate Justice Foundation.

When trying to understand ourselves, we should also ask how we behave collectively. OpenSystems research group have developed many experimental setups out of the lab as a research in the wild where matters of fact are deeply interwined with matters of concern. We therefore study human traits in public and in a participatory way but at the same time we implement civic actions as part of the same experimental action. We went out to different sites of Barcelona with a pop-up citizen science experiment. The challenge was to better know how can we act collectively on climate issues. A social dilemma was situated in a playground environment. We there asked citizens about their habits for carbon footprints. We also observed how citizens balanced their self-interest and the benefit of a collective global warming action. In this way, we first offer a self-reflection experience to participants related to climate action. And we secondly generate relevant scientific results: poorest players in the game were the most generous, and those that were 3 times richer contributed 1/3 less to the climate action. There is afterwards a reforestation action with the participants. The experiment was made in colllaboration with a designer's collective: Domestic Data Streamers. We are currently working with the artist Natalie Jeremijenko to take particular actions with in the neighborhood of Raval from Barcelona. We will also present this ongoing research.

Experimenting with cities and citizens' responses to climate change

Authors: Lucía Liste (Norwegian Uni. of Science and Technology)  email
Sara Heidenreich (Norwegian University of Science and Technology)  email

Short Abstract

How are Norwegian cities and citizens responding to the pressing challenge of climate change? By dialoguing about two different climate change governance initiatives we aim to engage with innovative co-presentation formats and examine lessons for the governance of urban transitions.

Long Abstract

How are Norwegian cities and citizens responding to the pressing challenge of climate change? Drawing on our research experiences with two diametrically opposed yet concurrent initiatives, we aim to engage in a dialogue that examines how transitions towards more sustainable forms of city are shaped and performed in Norway. The first initiative is 'Cities of the Future' (CoF), a top-down, innovative and knowledge-intensive program running from 2008 to 2014. CoF was a networked structure to foster comprehensive collaboration among governance levels for the sustainable development of metropolitan areas. The second experience is our participation in the IEE-funded project 'useITsmartly'. This project engaged high school students in finding solutions for behavioral change towards more energy efficient ICT use and for communication strategies that lead to action and practice changes.

By dialoguing about these experiences we aim to engage with innovative co-presentation formats and examine similitudes and differences between two radically different approaches to climate change governance. What kind of lessons can we draw for the governance of climate change from putting these two experiences together?

This track is closed to new paper proposals.