Infrastructuring Public Consultation in Town Planning— How Town Planners Translate Public Consultation into a Socio-Technical Support System
For public consultation in town planning, town planners can employ various software systems to improve the dialogue with citizens. This article looks at attempts to do so by following the work of a team of municipal town planners across four stages of public consultation held between 2012 and 2015. The study is based on detailed semi-structured interviews, field notes from regular visits to the planners’ office, and a database of public consultation comments and attendance at consultation events across the stages. Using an approach that considers planners’ work in the selection and implementation of software within institutional objectives and constraints as “infrastructure” work, we examine the joint deployment, use and effects of nine software tools and arising practices for public consultations. Our findings demonstrate how the infrastructure work of planners involved numerous interpretations about the possibilities for software adaptation and the effects of software use, which were enabled and constrained by consultation and planning requirements. The results also indicate a role for researchers in helping planners mediate between formal processes and public concerns, and illustrates how this technological-institutional struggle in infrastructuring work forms an essential part of town planners’ practice.