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VAN ASSCHE , Kristof
In this paper (1), we propose a revisiting of the concept of context in spatial planning, especially in the analysis of the rapidly growing sector of interactive, collaborative, communicative planning. In interactive planning projects, different stakeholders with different backgrounds, interests, negotiate a plan for an area. Communication, interpretation, and therefore the concept of context, as everything outside the actual communication that influences its meaning, become correspondingly more central to planning theory and practice. We briefly analyze the refinement of context- analysis in post- structuralist interpretation theory, and next introduce key concepts from Niklas Luhmann’s social systems theory. After a brief expose on the emergence of interactive planning approaches, and a critique of modernist versions of interactive planning, we use the concepts derived from Luhmann and the post-structuralists to analyze the construction of context in interactive planning, and to analyze the planning process as a context in itself. Luhmann’s complex typology of social systems and their specific modes of self-reproduction, adds greatly to the insight in the complexities of context- construction, in the separations and dependencies of the various little worlds that participate in an interactive planning process. It is argued that modernist conceptions of space and planning led to a lacking insight in real-life planning processes, and to context- insensitive plans. A reinvigorated analysis of context is proposed, as a way to increase the awareness of the realities of context-construction, and consequently to open up the possibilities for a more equitable and a more context- sensitive planning.