The process of social construction of uncertainties and risks in development: the case of high-speed rail lines (Phase 2)

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Name of the project : The process of social construction of uncertainties and risks in development: the case of high-speed rail lines (Phase 2)

Type of project : Internships


The impact of planning on the human and natural environment is an increasingly common issue in configuring, carrying out and concerting infrastructure and town planning projects. It impacts both major projects, such as high-speed rail lines, highways, large stadiums, etc., as well as – and increasingly – micro-projects like housing developments, ZACs and shopping centers. An issue can be considered a risk by associations, residents or local elected officials on the basis of detailed knowledge of the territory and/or specialized and expert studies. The risk of the project for the environment, especially if it goes against regulatory texts on environmental protection, can be used by actors to oppose projects during public debates or public inquiries, or in decision-making processes at other times. Such opposition can cancel, delay or modify projects. Appeals for reprieve or litigation, which are increasingly frequent, can result in uncertainty or social risk, as well as risk of delay and financial risk (for the project and the local authority or client managing it). The territorial issues building process in terms of uncertainty and risk (and hence the construction of a chain of uncertainties or risks—social, political and financial) needs to be deepened due to the multiplication of conflicts based on risk and the challenges this poses in terms of consultation, participation and public policies for planning and environmental protection. The construction of “fake risks,” comparable to fake news, will also be explored.

In order to understand how the rhetoric of opponents to a project is constructed, and the construction of uncertainties and risks, the intern will carry out a textual analysis of these actors’ positions (keyword searches, for example) in public debate registers or public inquiries, consultations or press reports, and interpret them. The goal of the internship is to test and expand the approach developed during a previous internship (phase 1) on a collection of positions of actors (elected officials, associations, companies, residents, etc.) from the ongoing dialogue being facilitated by the public and private works supervisor for the Southwest Grand Project high-speed rail line.

This second internship, based on this issue, aims to use the results of the first internship to build an automatic annotation model. The consistency of manual annotations is a prerequisite for any attempt to automate document annotation in order to identify the different elements characterizing risk or opportunity, and their evolution. The objectives are therefore multiple:

  1. – to consider the inconsistencies in the annotations of different annotators in order to improve the annotation guide;
  2. – to repeat the manual annotation stage and check the consistency of manual annotations;
  3. – to define an annotation model that allows users to automatically annotate more varied texts (and in large numbers), and not just actors’ specifications.

The method could be symbolic in extending the model proposed in the first phase or based on machine learning (in which case the annotation model would make it possible to produce the annotated files more quickly, allowing for model training).

Ultimately, this exploratory research aims to lead to a study on ways of representing the construction of risk, potentially allowing for a visual display of how an impact anticipated at a point in the consultation process becomes a risk.

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

Name of student(s): Sid Ali SADI (Université Paris Diderot)

Start and end of the project : 12 April 2021 - 30 September 2021

Duration : 5 months