The formation of favourable environments for urban experimentation: contextual dynamics and transformative capacities in Bristol and Medellín

Colen Ladeia Torrens, Jonas (2019) The formation of favourable environments for urban experimentation: contextual dynamics and transformative capacities in Bristol and Medellín. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

[img] PDF - Published Version
Download (5MB)


This is a study of the contexts in which urban experimentation flourishes. I aim to understand how favourable environments for experimentation form and how they may be mobilised to generate the capacities that underpin urban transformations. Experiments - practice-based, learning-oriented, and challenge-led initiatives and projects - feature prominently in contemporary attempts to rekindle urban governance to address climate change and foster sustainability. Despite current research interest, how certain cities sustain vibrant experimentation and whether that generates transformative capacities remain underexplored.
Research on urban experimentation is blooming within the field of sustainability transitions. However, there is little clarity about how place and context matter. The uneven geographies of experimentation are under-conceptualised. Most empirical research traces specific experiments or sequences of experiments associated with a given technology. Hence, there is a neglect of the multiplicity of experimental processes embedded in a particular urban context. To address these issues, I draw, critique and expand on strategic niche management and the geography of transitions, to argue for an alternative analytical strategy and conceptualisation of urban experimentation.
The thesis begins with an extended background chapter engaging with conceptual debates on the role of urban experimentation in urban transformations, followed by three interlocking research articles. The first presents a place-based approach and a case study of the environment for civic energy experimentation in Bristol (UK). The second scrutinises studies on the contexts for urban experimentation, deriving three lenses that facilitate context-sensitive studies to pluralise the debate on how to foment experimentation. The third examines the contextual dynamics influencing the mobility experiments and development of transformative capacities in Medellín (Colombia).
My research contributes to understanding how experiments and context co-evolve, highlighting the recurring dynamics which allow the generation and retention of urban transformative capacity. It enables stakeholders to reflect on how to mobilise experimentation to further urban transformations.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: University of Sussex Business School > SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races > HT0101 Urban groups. The city. Urban sociology
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 16 Jul 2019 13:26
Last Modified: 16 Jul 2019 13:26

View download statistics for this item

📧 Request an update