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Onto the second year

The first week of my second year in the master’s program has started. I am really excited about the courses I am taking this fall and the spring, some minor tweaks and additions notwithstanding. It’s a course-heavy, professionally oriented program I’m in here, but as always I’m looking forward to having my ideas about planning extended, challenged and better articulated. They also all happen to fit together in a way that I’m very excited about. The courses I’m taking are:

One of the things I’m liking about my second year over my first is that I have made a much more determined effort to ensure that each and everyone of the classes fulfills a goal I have in the program or contributes tactically to my final project — even if the final form of that is still in flux. For instance, the decision insights class feels to me like it has many things to say on the concept of collaborative rationality — that the stories, intangible instincts and gut feelings that characterize the most common approach to issues of the built environment, can not only be acknowledged but accounted for and documented in a structured decision-making process. Those “feelings” are valuable information, about risk tolerance, values, preferences, and precedent.

It is also in deference to an interest in stories that I am auditing the cross-cultural planning class, which has a large reflective journaling component and is subtitled, “Educating the Heart.” I am notoriously flimsy at choosing a decision and sticking with it, because I try very hard to see things from and honour others’ perspectives, even if as I may struggle to incorporate that desire in all my interactions. Part of my goal with this class is to really root out what it is I believe and why, and to not mistake listening and being accommodating of others’ views as changing my view, or apologizing for it either. I get a lot of skepticism for thinking and believing the things I do from people who have spent a lot more time and been a lot closer to the places where I am hoping to be. At the same time, I welcome the chance to do an insightful interrogation of the stereotypes I hold and the triggers with which I can be manipulated.

Urban Development Planning is the most practice-oriented class I have this semester, and I’m looking forward to grappling with ideas around city marketing and its impact on urban growth decisions, place-making and current “en vogue” ideas about cities, such as the value of mega-events and “creatives”. The urban governance class covers somewhat similar ground, but from a much more theoretical slant through the lens of governance (the interaction of civil society and informal organizations along with formal government in decision-making on urban issues) and questions of power — yes, I’m tickled pink to have an excuse to read Foucault and possibly Castells again. These two classes will touch on but probably never grapple directly with how these things interact with the subtleties of technology, so I’m hoping to spin out some of what I hear into questions about where open data fits into a conception of governance and, for example, David Eaves’ concept of open data being necessary for distributed policy literacy (which I understand to be broader civic knowledge about how the intricacies of policies directly and indirectly affect daily life and issues of import). Finally, Matt Hern, the prof, is one of the co-founders of Car Free Vancouver, and I’m interested to re-interpret my experiences with TransitCamp through the lens of deeper questions inspired by other occurrances in the world. Finally, his book launch last year also has the rare distinction of making me blaringly inarticulate in public — and that’s not the sort of thing I just forgive. ;)

The conceptual twin of the urban governance class is the Introduction to Planning History and Theory class, which scoots through rational comprehensive planning, communicative/collaborative planning and everything in between. I’m taking this one with first-year students in the program, which should make for an interesting combination given I’ve read lots about the latter and am well-acquainted with our school’s critique of the former — which remains the dominant vision of what planners should do.

What’s not on this list, of course, is the work contributing to my final project. I’m leaning back towards a project specific to  planners and technology. Current writing focuses on planning support systems, but generally misses how broader adoption of mobile and web colours and provides new opportunities for communication with members of the public. It’s been interesting to listen to the PlaceVision podcast for a more practice-oriented perspective on the tools, the work, and one summation of what private planning firms find challenging with regards to incorporating technology into planning work.

There are, of course, lots of classes I’d love to take but I can’t (like Visualizing Climate Change), but I’m content. Now to do the work! :)

One Comment

  1. Looks like a great lineup, Karen. Although rational comprehensive planning may reflect professional practice, I’m not sure it’s ideologically dominant anymore! Also, I’d love to see the readings from that urban governance class if you have them. Good luck this semester!

    Posted September 25, 2010 at 8:18 am | Permalink

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