Conference paper

A comparison of the respective capabilities of public participation practices and anthropological fieldwork to uncover local knowledge

18 Jun 2018

There is growing awareness of the importance of local knowledge (e.g., locals’ spatial needs, perspectives, and desires) in improving planning deliverables. However, this improvement depends on the availability of local knowledge. This article’s objective is to compare the capabilities of public participation practices and anthropological fieldwork to uncover local knowledge and render it accessible and usable. The research sample included two case studies of two major urban artery plans in Tel Aviv and Haifa. In each case, both methods were applied in parallel to the respective communities. Both cases indicated that anthropological fieldwork tools, such as participant observations, spontaneous conversations, in-depth interviews and mental maps are superior channels for broader exposure to components, aspects, and concealed layers of the local knowledge. In contrast to the anthropological method, participatory tools such as structured questionnaires, SWOT analysis, and focus groups are capturing scant and superficial aspects of local knowledge. Therefore, anthropological fieldwork tools should be added to the planners’ toolkit and should be used as an integral means (i.e., practice) of any participatory endeavors in planning processes. In addition, based on the anthropological fieldwork concept, it is recommended that cities use their personnel working across the neighborhoods as mediators between the communities and the planning department. If there is no such personnel infrastructure, a net of mediators should be created. Each mediator could function as an anthropologist in a specific district and activate procedures to capture up-to-date local knowledge regarding environmental nuisances and slated plans, using anthropological tools.

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