A Speculative Exploration into the Current Planning Paradigm through Academic Planner Perspectives
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This thesis centres on research aimed at understanding the essence of the current planning paradigm, identifying the factors that facilitate or hinder paradigm shifts, and determining the prevailing paradigm that governs contemporary scholarly pursuits within planning in an academic setting. This is achieved through an approach based on findings from interviews with planning academics. The first objective, vital to this thesis, scrutinizes whether the prevailing planning paradigm represents a novel trend, a continuation of previous paradigms, or perhaps a synergy of both. It seeks to unveil the core attributes of the existing paradigm and questions if we are operating within the thresholds of an unrecognized new approach in planning. Furthermore, recognizing the critical role of the factors that influence paradigm shifts stands as a focal point in this thesis. The research aspires to elucidate the circumstances and elements that either catalyze or restrain potential shifts in planning paradigms. It delves into understanding the intellectual environment surrounding these shifts, accentuating the critical role played by prevailing perspectives on truth and discourse. The intellectual landscape is bifurcated into two dominant paradigms: the traditional liberal paradigm, founded on the philosophies of stalwarts such as Descartes, Locke, and Mill, and the critical social theoretical paradigm, deeply influenced by diverse viewpoints including postmodernists, feminists, postcolonial theorists, and critical race theorists. This study navigates the delicate balance between these paradigms, dissecting their roles in fostering or hindering open discourse and critical examination. By spotlighting the intrinsic value each paradigm brings to the table and the challenges they pose, the research endeavors to craft a roadmap for a more balanced intellectual environment. It underscores the necessity for fostering open dialogue, critical evaluation, and respect for varying cultural contexts, thus nurturing an environment conducive to progressive shifts aligned with societal transitions, equity, and social progress. This is important as paradigm shifts have been largely corrective in nature and frequent shifts help keep planning up to date with rapidly changing societal reality. Lastly, the thesis is invested in determining the prevailing paradigm of truth within this academic sphere. It seeks to delineate the predominant assumptions, methodologies, and values that characterize this discipline. This involves an analysis of the frameworks adopted by scholars and researchers in their relentless pursuit of truth and knowledge creation, paving the way for a richer and more nuanced academic dialogue in planning theory. Regarding methodology, this study adopts a pragmatic approach to scrutinize evolving paradigms in the planning field, primarily utilizing Thomas's general inductive approach for qualitative analysis to identify trends within data collected from interviews. This methodology facilitates the transformation of extensive interview data into concise summaries, directly aligning findings with the research objectives and fostering the formulation of insightful theories. Interviews with planning academics from various Ontario institutions were conducted despite the hurdles presented by the Covid-19 pandemic. This process, albeit impacted by the pandemic, yielded rich insights from 11 academic planning experts. The interview questionnaire was crafted to delve into current trends, barriers to paradigm shifts, and the prerequisites for facilitating change in the planning field's approaches. It also probed the participants' perceptions of "truth" and the significance of viewpoint diversity in strengthening the discipline's knowledge base. This thesis is a preliminary exploration into current trends and has several weaknesses. Since an inductive approach was used to analyze data, the presence of larger trends is assumed based on interviewee opinions. Several diverse data sources should have been used to bolster the veracity of these identified trends. Due to time and monetary constraints, this thesis focused solely on interviewing planning professors. Other potential data sources could have included students, administrative staff, planners within the private sector, planners within the public sector, and recent studies published by academic planning institutions, among others. This could be a focus for future research. Only Ontario institutions were considered as the original intent was to conduct interviews face to face and driving distances were considered, as such other planning institutions outside of Ontario were excluded from the study. Another weakness is that only 11 experts were interviewed, increasing this sample size would improve confidence in the veracity of the claims made within this thesis. Due to all of these limitations, the conclusions of this thesis should be considered weakly justified, and additional research will be required in the future to verify the accuracy of the claims made. This study provides a dive into the shifting currents of academic planning, uncovering a distinct move towards a social justice paradigm. Emphasizing equity, diversity, and inclusivity, the research underscores the planning profession's expansion beyond mere technical urban design into the realm of balancing economic, environmental, and social imperatives. The dialogues captured shed light on the profession's adaptability, revealing its commitment to creating communities that mirror the diverse needs and contributions of their members. A major finding is the notable convergence towards a critical social justice perspective, which values interpretive truths and has a heightened awareness of power dynamics. However, the journey towards this shift is intricate, with potential differences in its application and understanding, indicating the need for continuous reflection and examination. The transition from traditional liberal paradigms to a more context-dependent, power-conscious paradigm poses both opportunities and challenges. The research suggests that while this shift promises a more inclusive urban planning outlook, it may also face challenges, including potential epistemic closure and possible conflicts due to diverse interpretations. In essence, the findings spotlight the evolving landscape of academic planning, highlighting the rise of a social justice paradigm and the complexities accompanying such a paradigm shift. The research concludes with a call for persistent discourse, exploration, and critical assessment to ensure a balanced, sustainable, and inclusive urban future.
Cite this version of the work
Johan Chandy (2023). A Speculative Exploration into the Current Planning Paradigm through Academic Planner Perspectives. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/19971