Keywords: urban planning, transdisciplinary research, decarbonization, climate change, transition, street design, complexity, psychogeography, cinema, visual geography
Engaging the unsolvable in planning theory & practice: Wicked problems are those that may be unsolvable for reasons of complexity, uncertainty, or disagreement. However, many wicked problems such as climate change or social injustice demand responses at the level of urban planning, which tends to be solutions-oriented. This begs the question, how can a solutions-oriented field effectively engage essentially unsolvable problems? Research in this area is often transdisciplinary, involving complexity theories and systems perspectives.
Radical approaches to post-carbon transition: Fossil fuels are sufficiently embedded into modern global systems (economic, political, and social) for sociologist John Urry to have written that “burning fossil fuels to generate heat, power and movement is the most significant feature of the modern world.” The global community appears to now be forced to choose between runaway climate change and rapid decarbonization, and either option is fraught with almost unfathomable implications. Focusing on the latter, what are the consequences of decarbonization? How might urban society be reshaped by this socio-technical transition, and what alternatives to the current “carbon regime” are feasible or desirable?
Psychogeography: At its most basic level, psychogeography is the study of how the spatial affects the psychological. With ecelctic roots in literature, philosophy, art, architecture, semiotics, and of course psychology and geography, psychogeographic research typically examines how interpretations of space and design impact emotional states and social practices, exposing in the process the fact that design generally and spatial interventions in particular are never neutral. Research methods include various forms of urban exploration, documentation, and visualization.
Realities & representations in visual geography: Geography, whether human or physical, is an inherently visual discipline. Visual geography is an emerging sub-discipline concerned with the depiction of spaces and spatially embedded practices in visual media such as film, photography, and painting. Cities, in cinema, are frequently both setting and character, and the ways in which cities perform and are peformed in films can either open up new ways of seeing and understanding or reify stereotypes and simplifications. Research casts a critical lens on the framing process of visual art in order to expose the implications of observed-observer dynamics: the what, where, who, how, why, and so what of place-performance.