Explorations with 'place' for ecologically responsive urban dwelling: a study of more-than-human place (making) and ecological design in two Australian cities

Robertson, S 2019, Explorations with 'place' for ecologically responsive urban dwelling: a study of more-than-human place (making) and ecological design in two Australian cities, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Global, Urban and Social Studies, RMIT University.


Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Explorations with 'place' for ecologically responsive urban dwelling: a study of more-than-human place (making) and ecological design in two Australian cities
Author(s) Robertson, S
Year 2019
Abstract `Sense of place' and `placemaking' are popular terms in urban-focused research and practice. In large part, place-focused efforts promote human connection to place as important for human health, wellbeing and sustainability outcomes in cities. However, the challenges facing cities are social and ecological; they are more-than-human. This PhD thesis examines and takes `western' thinking about place beyond an anthropocentric frame to think through what `place', human engagements with place and human designs for place in urban realms mean for ecologically sustainable urban dwelling. The research explores place as designed and as lived experience to examine the possibilities of reconfiguring human-place connections toward greater ecological responsiveness; a dynamic and enacted yet enmeshed ethic that actively acknowledges the intra-relationships in which humans are always engaged in becomings¿with other-than-human entities and more-than-human worlds.

To explore the potential of this more-than-human framing of place, I first conducted empirical qualitative research with designers and project leaders of `sustainable' residential design projects in three Australian cities. In-depth empirical research followed at two Australian urban residential design projects as examples of place-responsive projects that aim to create more 'sustainable' cities. Data sets were made with the project leaders and residents in these case studies using ethnographic walking, photojournaling and interview methodologies. The resulting data were analysed using a novel approach to narrative analysis and re-presentation. Drawing on this empirical work, the thesis critically examines the hope that stronger human-place connections can achieve positive socio-ecological change by asking if and how ecological responsiveness plays out for those people who live in places designed to be `environmentally sustainable'.

The thesis renders participant accounts with images and poetic-like narrative prose alongside critical analysis of these more-than-human experiences. This analysis brings forth the entanglements of humans and nonhumans in urban realms to emphasise that `place' is always in the making, and that places and place experiences are always defined by more-than-human intra-actions. These more-than-human entanglements of place have implications for the ethics, politics and practices of design and dwelling in cities. In particular, the thesis argues that attending to the micro-entanglements of more-than-human design and dwelling can open opportunities for reconfiguring and reorienting people (and cities to an extent) toward greater ecological responsiveness or processes of socio-ecological change.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Global, Urban and Social Studies
Subjects Urban and Regional Studies (excl. Planning)
Social and Cultural Geography
Urban Analysis and Development
Keyword(s) place
ecological design
more-than-human
cities
sense of place
urban dwelling
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Created: Thu, 07 Feb 2019, 14:29:14 EST by Keely Chapman
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