Reaching for simplicity; citizen participation, complexity theory and the transport megaproject

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“I would not give a fig for the simplicity on this side of complexity; I would give my right arm for the simplicity on the far side of complexity” Oliver Wendell-Holmes Jr. At every stage in a research project an academic is faced with the problem of acknowledging complexity, attempting to process its implications and reaching for the elusive simplicity that we hope exists on the far side. For a researcher in the field of landscape architecture this is a particularly pressing problem, due to the nature of the landscape itself as a complex emergent system. My PhD is a participatory research project, which aspires to acknowledge the role of all participants in this system as “researchers, as agents of change, and as co-constructors of landscape knowledge” (Deming and Swaffield, 2011: 202). So, in studying the implications of complexity theory for public engagement with a transport megaproject, what glimpses might there be of simple solutions? Complexity theory can help us to comprehend the nature of landscape, its problems and their possible solutions, because it offers a way of understanding how landscape works. It gives us the perspective of ‘emergence’, from which we can aspire to conceptualise the landscape in a pragmatic way. The term ‘emergence’, in the technical sense used by complexity theorists, was coined by English philosopher G.H.
Book of proceedings: Annual AESOP Congress, Spaces of Dialog for Places of Dignity, Lisbon, 11-14th July, 2017
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