Authors: Jonas Torrens, Johan Schot, Rob Raven and Phil Johnstone

Highlights

  • Transitions studies assume places may as act as protective spaces (seedbeds) for experimentation, neglecting other dynamics.
  • We examine other understandings of the formation of favourable environments for urban experimentation with sustainability.
  • We distinguish three lenses that may be used to analyse these environments: seedbeds, harbours and battlegrounds.
  • Analysts should consider if interactions between protection, connectivity and conflict are generative for experimentation.
  • A plural understanding of these dynamics can enhance approaches for governing urban experimentation and urban transitions.

Abstract
Urban experimentation (UE) is seen as crucial for enacting transformations towards sustainability. Research in this domain has flourished, but still lacks theoretical coherence. We review this emerging literature, combining methods for problematisation and critical interpretive synthesis, to address two questions: how does the extant literature conceive of the contexts in which experimentation emerge, and what dynamics are thought to be implicated in reconfiguring these contexts into favourable environments for UE? Traditionally, transition studies assume that cities may act as protective spaces for experimentation, but recent studies suggest other salient dynamics. We identify three lenses – seedbeds, harbours, and battlegrounds – which articulate the assumptions and dynamics associated with different understandings of the urban context. We argue for plural accounts of how UE thrives in particular places and offer a way ‘to follow’ the co-evolution between a multiplicity of experiments and their environment, through interactions between protection, connectivity, and conflict.

This paper is cited as: Jonas Torrens, Johan Schot, Rob Raven and Phil Johnstone (2019) Seedbeds, harbours, and battlegrounds: On the origins of favourable environments for urban experimentation with sustainability, Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions, volume 31, pages 211-232, DOI: 10.1016/j.eist.2018.11.003

Copyright © 2021 Johan Schot