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Respons Paper: Obduracy in Urban Socio-Technical Change
Unbuilding Cities: Obduracy in Urban Sociotechnical Change
Anthropology of Tourism
Thursday, 14:45 - 16:15
John Ertl
Maharani Dian Permanasari
Graduate Student of
Cultural Resource ...
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Obduracy in Urban Development


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a reading response of "Obduracy in Urban Socio-Technical Change"

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Obduracy in Urban Development

  1. 1. Respons Paper: Obduracy in Urban Socio-Technical Change Unbuilding Cities: Obduracy in Urban Sociotechnical Change Anthropology of Tourism Thursday, 14:45 - 16:15 John Ertl Maharani Dian Permanasari Graduate Student of Cultural Resource Management Program Cities in developed countries are considered to be dynamic and flexible spaces —never finished but always under construction (pg.10). The process of making significant adjustment in the design of the cities will take a lot of efforts, time, and money. Once built, cities with its elements and existing urban structures become fixed, obdurate, immobile, and securely anchored in their own histories as well as in the histories of their surroundings. In this passage, Hommels emphasizes the confrontation between the obduracy of the “old” or existing urban structures and the “new” ideas for urban development. The study focusing in three Dutch urban redesign projects: the facelift of a city center/downtown area (Hoog Catharijne) as part of the Utrecht City Project; the reconstruction of an urban highway in Maastricht; and the spatial renewal of the suburban district called Bijlmermeer. Viewing Cities as Technological Artifacts The author view cities as large socio-technological artifacts and as the result of human interactions, constructions, and representations, which includes the material and the immaterial. Thus, applying the STS (Science, Technology, and Society) concepts, which were earlier applied to other technological artifacts development, will be suitable to study the cities. Hommels demonstrates the usefulness of STS tools and explores the role of obduracy in sociotechnical change. She states that obduracy and urban change are major concerns for both urban scholars (or other academic audience) and for practitioners such as architects and urban planners. Therefore, she use obduracy as a focal point in exploring on how STS and urban studies might benefit each other. The author aims to show how focusing on obduracy makes it possible to look at urban form and processes of change by elaborating and extending three different models of obduracy. In doing so, she refutes four “commonsense” explanations of urban obduracy below: Obduracy of Technology: Three Conceptual Models In the analysis of obduracy, focusing on the persistence of decisions involving the design and building of urban technologies may be quite useful. Three models are presented in table below: • “change is too expensive” • Financial considerations can be a reason to keep things as they are, but they can also be a reason to start unbuilding processes. Economy (lack of money) • conflicts of interests are crucial, and the process of seeking agreement on what should be done is very time-consuming Communication (interaction process) • The more powerful actor keep things as they are (or to change things) • Power balances may change frequently during unbuilding processes Monolithic idea of power • obduracy cannot be explained only by reference to the physical properties, because a wide range of cultural factors are also important Material reasons Dominant Frames Embeddedness Persistent Traditions Explanatory mechanisms Obduracy explained by constrained ways of thinking & interacting Obduracy explained by close interconnectedn ess of social & technical elements Obduracy explained by long-term persistence of traditions Concepts & metaphors Technological frames; paradigms; mental models; professional worldviews Actor networks; irreversibility; fixity & mobility of space Momentum; trajectories; path dependence; city-building regimes; archetypes Disciplinary background/ intellectual tradition Social construction of technology; history of planning Actor-Network theory; urban geography Large technical system approach; history of technology; urban history; evolutionary economics Type of explanation Interactionist Relational Enduring The Frames model emphasizes obduracy in design processes, in which actors with diverse views are involved in planning and “unbuilding” activities and analyzing their potentially conflicting ways of thinking and interacting. Embeddedness emphasizes the interrelatedness of human and non-human elements in an urban socio-technical ensemble. Focus on persistent traditions highlights how cultural and collective traditions influence the development of technology over time. Personal Remarks This chapter provides some interesting models of thinking about built environment. The term “obduracy” itself is relatively new for me because I understand the context about it in different language. In my previous Design Major, I took a course of “Design in Built Environment” and the “Persistent Tradition” model is often being used in the development of design, architecture, or urban and regional planning. As for the projects in developing a city, Indonesia (particularly Bandung, where my university located) often involve the public in some design actions. The recent development involving the public is engaging a city forest, creating public parks, holding culinary festivals, etc. 1
  2. 2. Anthropology of Tourism Thursday, 14:45 - 16:15 John Ertl Maharani Dian Permanasari Graduate Student of Cultural Resource Management Program From the passage, three models of obduracy creates some chances to explore -to which extent they can be applied to develop a sustainable city with well-connected elements and structures: not only as a healthy and prosperous place which providing safe places for people to live, but also giving comfort by being accessible, attractive, and lively in diverse community. Obduracy and Product Design in Cultural Resource Management Regarding with my current research project, the enduring conception of obduracy in the long-term persistence of traditions plays a significant role, since I am researching about “eating culture” and how it affects the design development of the products (eating utensils). Applying design thinking method, the research output will have to be a problem-solving system or product that prioritize the users’ need. Although innovation is one of the basics in design thinking, the role of obduracy is needed in order to create design constraints, thus differentiate product design with art. Respons Paper: Obduracy in Urban Socio-Technical Change 2 Image source: sustainable-cities “Good art sends a different message to everyone. Good design sends the same message to everyone.”