The process of social construction of uncertainties and risks in urban development and planning

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Name of the project : The process of social construction of uncertainties and risks in urban development and planning

Type of project : Internships


The impact on the human and natural environment is an increasingly common issue in the planning, implementation and coordination of infrastructure and urban planning projects. This holds true for both large projects (e.g. LGV [high speed rail lines], highways, large stadiums, etc.) but also and increasingly micro-projects (housing developments, joint development zones, shopping centers). A challenge can be considered a risk by associations, residents or locally elected officials based on in-depth knowledge of the territory and/or specialized/expert studies.

The risk a project may pose for the environment, especially if it goes against regulatory texts on environmental protection, can be used by stakeholders to oppose the project during public debates, public inquiries, or at other stages in the decision-making process. Such opposition can cancel, postpone or modify a project. Requests for judicial review are increasingly frequent, which can cause uncertainty or social risk resulting in a risk of delay and financial risk (for the project and local authority or the client managing it).

The process of the construction of territorial issues in terms of uncertainty and risk, and consequently the construction of a chain of uncertainties or risks (first social, then political, then financial, etc.) must be further explored due to an increasing number of risk-based conflicts and the challenges this raises in terms of consultation, participation and public policies for planning and environmental protection. The construction of “false risks” – like fake news – should also be explored.

To understand the rhetoric of actors opposed to a project and the building of uncertainties and risks, this internship will focus on textual analysis of the different actors’ positions (keywords searches, for example) in public debate registers, public inquiry reports, consultation, the press, etc., and interpret them.

The purpose of this exploratory research is the study of how to represent the construction of risk, which can help in visualizing the way an impact anticipated at a given point in the consultation process is turned into risk.

Name of supervisor(s) : Geneviève Zembri-Mary (LATTS/UCP) et Catherine Domingues (LaSTIG/IGN)

Name of student(s): Daya Messaoudi (Université Paris Nanterre)

Start and end of the project : 16 April 2020 - 30 September 2020

Duration : 6 months