President´s address

 

Dear members and friends of the AESOP community,

Welcome in Prague for the 2015 annual AESOP Congress!

In these challenging and troubled times, the unpredictable and contested nature of our shared spaces forces us to develop innovative planning research, in the light of intellectual freedom, democratic enhancement of differences, cooperation, ethics and justice. This requires a deep sense of responsibility, individually as well as collectively, considering our ethical sensitivity, civic engagement and research commitment as parts of a wider social practice.

This issue – and the consequential dialectical tension – is at the core of the AESOP Prague Congress; in fact, the gap between sprawled powers and blurred sense of responsibility is the focus of the 2015 Congress debates. According to its intriguing title “Definite space – fuzzy responsibility”, the Prague Congress asks us: who should take responsibility for how cities and regions are being changed?  Our community will face this difficult question, with hundreds of papers and presences in Prague. This is a great occasion in order to consider whether anything systematic can be said about how such ethical and political issues arise, hence how they might be understood, and addressed today.

The AESOP Prague Congress also provides an opportunity for researchers in planning to think about the implications for their work of the changes in governance and planning which have been both a spur for, and object of, their academic work. In large measure, these derive from a perennial set of ethical issues surrounding research which seeks to inform public policy. There are ethical challenges which are distinctive of the kind of research which at least some planning researchers undertake, in contexts of social tension and/or conflict, sometimes associated with clear oppression and injustice. These circumstances are only more extreme versions of the challenge to any planning scholar, because the definition and use of space is bound up with social justice in the broadest sense, and the way power – and governmental responsibility – is exercised in society.

Consequently, one of the purposes of the Congress is to explore ways of thinking about planning which considers the social context of ethical perception and public political behaviour. By doing this, we hope to shift the emphasis of discussion from individual and/or occasional probity to those circumstances that help planners and public officials develop and use sound ethical judgement: in public life, in society, in our cities as well as in our schools. Although the moral landscape within which planning is undertaken is not an easy one to read or traverse, the Conference debate and contributions will certainly identify significant planning issues which can constitute part of an agenda for discussion among researchers and policy-makers.

Due to the excellent and terrific work of the Prague Local Organizing Committee, the AESOP Congress 2015 is providing the best environment for all this, and I wish a fruitful and intellectually attractive experience to all the participants!

 

Francesco Lo Piccolo