A pragmatic phenomenological approach in environmental planning


Pieters, W. (2003) A pragmatic phenomenological approach in environmental planning. [Masters Thesis]

open access
Abstract:This report describes a philosophical approach to issues of environmental planning. Although interventions in the landscape are often subject to extensive protests, a systematic critique of the presumptions involved in the design is missing. A thorough analysis of the issue requires a philosophical point of view.
The limitations of current criticism can be overcome if we can provide an overview of the origins of the understanding of the landscape in western culture, and mention where a new approach should differ. This overview is derived from Ton Lemaire (2002), who sees the western attitude to the landscape as a spectator position. It is argued that the influence of the landscape on the lives of people can be better understood if we focus on the relation between people and the landscape, instead of the landscape as objective structure independent of human experience.
The philosophical foundation for such an approach is found in the movement of postphenomenology. Postphenomenology describes the relation between humans and their environment in terms of intentionality (directedness towards the environment) and mediation (influencing of the relation by other existences, especially technologies). However, the postphenomenological approach does not include concepts to discuss the social aspects of the relation between people and their environment. Since people use the landscape together, and since human experience and acting is influenced by the behaviour of others, we have to include social aspects in postphenomenological analysis in order to apply it to issues of environmental planning.
The main question of this thesis is: How can the postphenomenological method of analysis be extended such that it is applicable to evaluation of developments in environmental planning, by describing processes of mediation by presences in the landscape?
Scientific developments in the twentieth century show the possibility to discuss social aspects in terms of habits. A philosophical theory including habits is offered by the movement of instrumentalism or pragmatism, of which John Dewey is one of the best known and purest representatives. Habits allow an explanation of experience and existence including social aspects. Dewey rejects the distinction between subjects and objects in philosophy. Instead, he argues that each existence exhibits behaviour based on selectivity: bias or preferences in behaviour. Because human selectivity is something different from selectivity of atoms, we have to describe different modes of selectivity in human behaviour.
The different modes of selectivity are distinguished by an analysis of the paradigms in artificial intelligence that model intelligent behaviour. There are three such paradigms: signal-based reasoning, case-based reasoning, and model-based reasoning. The first explains intelligent behaviour by signal processing, the second by remembering situations and applying solutions to new situations, the third by interpreting the experience in terms of a model and inferring the required action from the model properties. Signal-based reasoning and model-based reasoning can be linked to concepts in postphenomenology. The missing aspect in current postphenomenology is case-based reasoning: intelligent behaviour by habit. When we introduce this aspect into postphenomenology, we are able to discuss social aspects of intentionality and mediation.
To introduce the concept of habits into phenomenological analysis, we have to adapt the explanation of the intentional relation in terms of subjects and objects, since pragmatism does not allow such a distinction. Instead, we explain the intentional relation in terms of the directedness of an existence exhibiting selectivity in behaviour towards its environment. Different modes of selectivity indicate different aspects of intentionality. We distinguish between bodily intentionality (signals), habitual intentionality (cases), and intellectual intentionality (models). Each of these aspects enables a different type of mediation: bodily mediation, habitual mediation, and intellectual mediation. The new approach is called pragmatic phenomenology.
In the application of our approach to various cases in environmental planning, we show the value of the concepts we introduced. In the cases, the conceptual framework with the different aspects of mediation is used to describe the effect of changes in the landscape on human experience and existence. The discussion of the examples serves as an illustration for the results and the possibilities for further research.
The influence of changes in the landscape of human experience and existence can now adequately be described in terms of the different types of mediation. These can be anticipated in planning and policy making, such that landscape design becomes more sensitive to the actual relations between people and their environment. We recommend further research by an extensive case study and an investigation of the way in which changes in the landscape mediate the relation between the designers themselves and the landscape.
Item Type:Masters Thesis
Electrical Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Science (EEMCS)
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Link to this item:http://purl.utwente.nl/publications/65177
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