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'Trading zone' is a concept introduced by Peter Galison in his social scientific research on how scientists representing different sub-cultures and paradigms have been able to coordinate their interaction locally. In this book, Italian and Finnish planning researchers extend the use of the concept to different contexts of urban planning and management, where there is a need for new ideas and tools in managing the interaction of different stakeholders. The trading zone concept is approached as a tool in organizing local platforms and support systems for planning participation, knowledge production, decision making and local conflict management. In relation to the former theses of communicative planning theory that stress the ideals of consensus, mutual understanding and universal reason, the 'trading zone approach', outlined in this book, offers a different perspective. It focuses on the potentiality to coordinate locally the interaction of different stakeholders without requiring the deeper sharing of understandings, values and motives between them. Galison’s commentary comes in the form of the book’s final chapter.



Chapter 0. Introduction

The discovery of the work of Peter Galison on trading zone has been for us a singular process of inquiry.

Alessandro Balducci, Raine Mäntysalo

Chapter 1. Planning as Agonistic Communication in a Trading Zone: Re-examining Lindblom’s Partisan Mutual Adjustment

This chapter re-examines Charles E. Lindblom’s theory of

partisan mutual adjustment

(PMA), by reflecting on the recent ideas on cross-cultural cooperation and communication, developed in sociological studies of science and technology. While the critical arguments of the so-called communicative (or collaborative) planning theorists on PMA are well known and well placed, they may have overlooked the complexities of planning communication. Especially Peter Galison’s concept of

trading zone

offers a fresh outlook on these complexities. In this chapter, Lindblomian bargaining and compromise seeking are reinterpreted in terms of creating a local trading zone between the stakeholders representing different cultures of meaning and value. This approach challenges two assumptions that have become commonplace in the planning theoretical debate around PMA:


, that trading between interests would not necessitate mutual dialogue and generation of a realm of shared understandings and,


, that approaching planning communication as trading between interests would mean adopting the political ideology of (neo)liberalism.

Raine Mäntysalo, Alessandro Balducci, Jonna K. Kangasoja

Chapter 2. “Trading Zone”: A Useful Concept for Some Planning Dilemmas

In this chapter I use the concept of trading zone to reflect upon a planning experience of which I have been directly responsible: the strategic plan for the Milan’s province. In the first part I briefly describe the process and the results of this very intense experience. It was conceived to be an inclusive planning process capable to involve and therefore convince all the relevant actors to converge on the vision proposed. In the second part, describing the many difficulties of the process and the few positive results, I hold that while the participatory approach risks to be quite neo-technocratic and is unable on the end to deal with radical conflicts, the trading zone concept encourages to look for the elaboration of an intermediate language that allows the production of partial agreements and the discovery of boundary strategies accepted by different parties. The suggestion of the chapter is that this change of perspective is not only important to deal with the problems of participatory planning but also for planning in general.

Alessandro Balducci

Chapter 3. Idea Competitions: Contemporary Urban Planning in Urban Regions and the Concept of Trading Zones

This chapter presents some thinking about two recent European idea competitions. Both cases, which date to the first decade of the twenty-first century, allow us to reflect upon the way in which contemporary urban planning is experimenting new ways of facing problems of communication and coordination in large urban regions, thus moving beyond the limits and boundaries of statutory planning and the administrative limits and the traditional definition of the city. Reading these cases through the lens of the trading zone approach seems to reveal some interesting elements for interpretation which will be summarised in the fifth paragraph dedicated to general conclusions. In fact, in an attempt to discuss and probe Galison’s

trading zone

approach within the field of spatial planning, the chapter explores the role that idea competitions play in contemporary planning processes. The hypothesis is that, given the disputed nature of planning in a complex, multicultural, uncertain and fragmented urban condition, idea competitions can act today, implicitly or explicitly, as innovative planning devices that can face new problems such as those of communication and coordination, in particular in challenging contexts, like those of large urban regions. A second hypothesis complements this first one: idea competitions can be analysed as challenging places for both the production of knowledge as well as public decision-making. In this sense, the trading zone approach offers positive support to our understanding of the complex function that the production and exchange of knowledge (expert and tacit) plays in spatial decision-making processes, given today’s general crisis in the legitimacy and efficiency of traditional models of public action.

Valeria Fedeli

Chapter 4. Trading Between Land Use and Transportation Planning: The Kuopio Model

During the last 20 years the city planner of Kuopio, Finland, architect Leo Kosonen, has been developing a new approach to urban planning, where land use and transportation planning considerations merge. A conceptual-figurative model has resulted, where the urban structure is understood as consisting of three different types of urban structure based on the mode of mobility each promotes: Walking City, Transit City and Car City. This tripartite city typecasting has become quite successful as an instrument in coordinating different planning, urban design and development approaches and political decision-making in Kuopio. It has also gained a lot of attention in other cities and at the national level, and the model has been applied and developed further in other locales with the aid of research. In this chapter, the case of Kuopio is analysed by applying the trading zone concept of Peter Galison. The general applicability of the concept in the realm of planning is further discussed with implications to power relations and context-specific mutual adjustment.

Raine Mäntysalo, Vesa Kanninen

Chapter 5. SoftGIS Development Process as a Trading Zone: Challenges in Implementing a Participatory Planning Support System

This chapter studies and evaluates the development processes of the SoftGIS methods through four different case studies during 2005–2011 where nine SoftGIS applications were developed in nine different cities in Finland. The Internet-based SoftGIS applications aim to gather residents’ locality-based experiences of their living environment. SoftGIS aims to achieve new and innovative methods to support research and participative urban planning practices as planning support systems (PSS).

Often the tools as planning support systems (PSS) that aim to foster the collaboration between planners and citizens are developed separately by researchers and industry who also have limited knowledge of the users’, such as urban planners and residents, actual needs. This creates the problem of an implementation gap, which refers to the mismatch of the supply and demand of planning support tools.

To narrow down the implementation gap and to embed these tools more effectively into practice, a more user-sensitive and iterative development process is needed. To open up these multi-actor development processes, the engagements and roles of different actors are studied through the concept of a trading zone that allows describing different forms of cooperation during the development process. The research and development processes of different SoftGIS applications are considered as trading zones where information is shared among the stakeholders.

The findings of this study aim to narrow down the implementation gap of PSSs by indicating the importance of the development phase. The development phase and process of the planning support systems should receive more attention to realise a functional system for all stakeholders. To reach this goal, the main focus should be on the social process instead of technical development work, and on a more continuous learning process, which is needed throughout from the development phase to implementation to reduce the implementation gap.

Maarit Kahila-Tani

Chapter 6. A Neighbourhood Laboratory for the Regeneration of a Marginalised Suburb in Milan: Towards the Creation of a Trading Zone

This chapter presents the case of a neighbourhood regeneration programme. It focuses on the experience of Ponte Lambro, a neighbourhood of 4,000 people in the south-east of Milan. The programme, started in 2006, is ongoing. It has accomplished the renovation of the social housing stock and public facilities, the creation of new housing units and the improvement of green spaces.

In order to support the programme, Milan City Hall established a Neighbourhood Lab tasked with the promotion of public participation, building communication channels, coping with the difficulties that change might create and informing local community about the development of the programme. Both authors, as appointed consultants, have been responsible for the management of the Lab.

Five years into the regeneration programme, it is possible to interpret the life of the laboratory as a trading zone’s building process that passed through different stages along its development.

This chapter describes the evolution of the laboratory according to the prototype conditions formulated by Collins et al.

The laboratory began work in a situation of lack of communication, of distrust between the local authority and residents and of great heterogeneity in terms of cultures, languages and forms of knowledge. It tried to encourage the collaboration, presenting the regeneration programme as a “boundary object”, a space of opportunity to fill in with projects by different actors. The laboratory made a great effort to translate technical languages for the residents, to build mutual trust and to create a sense of ownership of the programme. As a result, an “interactional expertise” has emerged.

In the final section, the chapter tries to answer to more generic questions: under which conditions can this case be a lesson for other similar situations, and to what extent can the TZ theory be useful to interpret how an integrated urban approach really works


Claudio Calvaresi, Linda Cossa

Chapter 7. The Locality of Boundary Practices

The increasing amount of multiple actors and interests has increased the unpredictability, volatility and uncertainty of participatory planning processes. This chapter discusses the potentiality and usability of the concepts of boundary interaction boundary organisation and trading zones in the context of planning. In addition, two participatory planning cases from Finland, Tampere, are examined from the perspective of emerging situational boundary practices. Looking at the interaction of multiple actors from this angle emphasises the role of local knowledge and the social relationships that affect land-use management and planning. The chapter offers some support for the notion that these concepts have the potential to facilitate linkages between different actor groups and divergent social worlds. The temporal and situational arrangements are highlighted, as it is in the particular context in which issues are opened up to the public and possibilities to boundary interaction outside traditional municipal institutional settings either appear or don’t.

Helena Leino

Chapter 8. Trading with Enemies? The Trading Zone Approach in Successful Planning Processes in Sicily

This chapter examines two cases of successful planning in Sicily, within a Southern Italy context characterized by a high level of social fragmentation, a strong territorial relevance of the Mafia, widespread corruption and incapacity of public action, and a general absence of civil society.

In both cases, planners revised their approach to problem-solving, thereby ‘developing new procedures and terms to address the complex and specific problems they were tackling’ (Fuller


, p. 51).

This chapter interprets these cases as an example of trading zone, whereby planning tools were able to effect a positive change for cities, places, and practices.

Two cases do not constitute a ‘regularity’ (Galison


, p. 18), although the ‘thinness’ of their success in such ‘extreme contexts’ prompts us to explore the processes that unfolded within the ‘thickness’ of the established culture, with its norms of domination, individualism, and ‘particularism’.

It seems important to understand what has really been done here and how different actors with apparently irreconcilable differences and interests have cooperated and achieved surprisingly good results in urban planning. To further this, the aim is to contribute to planning theories and practices and to understand how the trading zone approach could enhance the capacity of urban governance in these difficult and ‘extreme’ contexts; it will not only contribute to the current lexicon of planning theories and practices but also help establish new strategies ‘to encourage positive outcomes’ in multiple urban contexts.

Daniela De Leo

Chapter 9. Place as Trading Zone: A Controversial Path of Innovation for Planning Theory and Practice

In this chapter I will argue that place-making can be regarded as a “trading practice” involving different actors who compete, negotiate and eventually agree upon specific socio-spatial arrangements we can call “places”. Places should not be regarded as naturalistically given nor as imbued with some long-lasting “identity”; rather, they should be seen as arrangements of power relations in space, elective contexts for subjectivities to emerge, clash and develop, and thus as inherently political.

As a practice of social production of space, place-making is not necessarily based on a dialogue aimed at resolving disputes and finding agreements on values and beliefs; rather, it appears to be mostly based on an ability to cooperate “while still disagreeing”, as focused observation of place-making practices will bear out. In this perspective, the trading zone theory developed by Galison – based on the idea that effective cooperation between different groups and subcultures is not necessarily a matter of value sharing, of agreeing about the full signification of what is exchanged – may work as a useful conceptual frame for a theory of place-making as a trading practice in space and, as the case study presented here seeks to do, offer an interesting perspective to learn from, to rethink social innovation in the urban space and how planning acknowledges it.

Laura Lieto

Chapter 10. Trading Zone and the Complexity of Planning

In this chapter, we explore the applicability of the

trading zone

approach by addressing the complexities that frame and penetrate all contested planning issues. Planning issues are thoroughly political, and the ‘political’ is thoroughly complex. The complexities in planning include not only issues of ontological and epistemological differences about what should be done and what is a ‘good city’ but also questions such as what kind of processes of decision making, information gathering and valuation should be incorporated in planning. By addressing the political, communicative and technical ‘dimensions’ of planning through two illustrative planning cases, we discuss how trading zone as a concept resonates with these complexities and whether it can bring theoretical and practical insights into planning. We find the nature of planning to be often more complex than the illustrations of trading zone formation thus far have portrayed. Hence, complexities may restrain the applicability of the trading zone concept as a planning tool. Overcoming the seemingly irreconcilable differences between actors in any planning case calls for creative, dialogical, locally sensitive and flexible planning. These issues are at the heart of the trading zone approach. Therefore, the trading zone approach can be suitable in a range of descriptive and normative uses within planning, when applied with due attention to different aspects of complexity.

Vesa Kanninen, Pia Bäcklund, Raine Mäntysalo

Chapter 11. Trading Zone as a Sensitizing Concept in Planning Research

This chapter charts the theoretical terrain between planning theory and social studies of science and technology. It reflects on the intellectual undertaking of ‘translating’, or adopting, into the planning field, the concept of trading zone developed by Peter Galison in the field of social studies of science and technology (STS). The chapter proposes to view the concept of trading zone as a

sensitizing concept

rather than a definitive concept, following the distinction by Herbert Blumer. Methodological development is needed in order for the concept of trading zone to become an analytical tool in the study of on-going planning practices. The chapter ends with still timely reminder by Blumer, of the need to develop a methodological stance, which respects research objects as ‘persons with a self’, that is to say, as persons who have their unique interpretive horizons, meaning making facilities and agency, all of which need to be incorporated into an analysis of joint action.

Jonna K. Kangasoja

Chapter 12. Conclusions and Afterthoughts

In urban planning research, trading zones can be approached as practical toolkits for mutual coordination between different groups. While acknowledging political difference as a legitimate condition in itself, we may try to establish local planning strategies that could coordinate the activities of the different groups, despite even fundamental differences in values and epistemic understandings. Originally, the concept was introduced as an interpretive tool in dealing with communication problems in conditions of cultural-epistemological heterogeneity. But can the concept be “stretched” to aid us in trying to resolve deep political conflicts in planning? In itself, the trading zone concept does not bear political implications. Trading zones may be found and generated in both collaborative and coercive conditions. The theoretical implications of the concept are highly relevant in addressing the communicative planning theory dilemma. The realm for its empirical uses, both normative and descriptive, is wide.

Raine Mäntysalo, Alessandro Balducci

Chapter 13. Trading Plans

One might think that architecture and planning are as far from the history, sociology, and philosophy of science as one could get. What could negotiations over construction in a wooden village in Tampere (Finland), contested parking spaces in Naples, and struggles over façade renovation in Mafia-confronted Bagheria (Sicily) possibly have to do with coordinating action and belief in science? As the authors of this volume illustrate through an exploration of city planning in twenty-first century Italy and Finland, a great deal. Passageways between science studies and planning studies are subtle and productive—as it turns out, they began almost a hundred years ago.

Peter Galison


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