Future Scenarios As an Epistemic Practice in Urban Transportation Planning

Monday, 11 July 2016: 11:45
Location: Hörsaal 34 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Hannes KRÄMER, Europa-Universität VIadrina, Germany
My paper will give an insight into a current research project about contemporary practices of processing and managing the future. Based on ethnographic data about the working practice of urban transport and traffic planners, I am going to show how urban futures are being imagined, stabilized and installed by using scenario techniques. Those scenario methods can be considered as a central mean of transportation planning.

At the same time the work with scenarios can be understood as a certain “epistemic practice” (Knorr-Cetina), which can be distinguished from other forms of future imagination within the planning process. Their role of scenarios lies not so much in the calculation of a probability of occurrence but rather in being conceptualized as opportunities to enable imaginations. But how are such imaginations built? Which parts do they consist of? How do they persuade? Drawing on in-depth material on the work of traffic planners, scenario techniques become evident as an interaction of actors (different persons, groups, hierarchies), objects (paper, presentations, post-its) and techniques (computer-based, simulation models, calculation programs).

Therefore, to understand the meaning and usage of scenarios, such sociomaterial settings need a close attention. My presentation analyses how scenarios are used in concrete situations to produce “present futures” (Luhmann). Additionally, not only the way of scenario planning comes into sight, but also the future itself becomes an object of inquiry. Which parts of a certain future are detailed in scenarios? All together my contribution aims at a better understanding of scenario-planning as a technique and of the ways and forms of future it introduces.