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Observing cities: role of the observatories in assessing change and innovation in cities

isabelle Dedieu
Kings College London
isabelle Dedieu
Kings College London
Open Panel

Abstract

As Czarniawaska notes, institutions and in particular cities have few memory (2003) however there is a need to create memory for institutions and organizations, as learning agents’ practices, discoveries or understandings should be embedded in organizational memory (Argyris and Schon 1978). Based on empirical research, I will explore the quest, logics (and illogics), methods and devices that underpin and shape the making of an institutional memory. The fabrics of memory indeed imply drawing typologies of knowledge and practice mainly by thematising them. Finally, I will trace out the creation, organisation and distribution of memory, for instance through the creation of networks of observatories, as a way to collect, store, document, record and organise knowledge on cities, best practices, cases studies as means to enhance the capacities of actors and local institutions. Also, the role of new information and communication technologies will be addressed. The paper will engage with the fabrics of institutional memory as an important feature of the mechanics of learning in cities. I argue that focusing on memory will help to assess the content, shape, and geographies of policy networks, to assess change and innovation in cities and to understand what is put into circulation and dissemination. It will investigate the fabrics of one particular city-network, beyond the ‘North-South’ divide, made of experts and urban actors that aims at exchanging knowledge about practices, processes or experiences. The case study will be an E.U program called URB-AL, based on networks between cities in the EU and in Latin America.