What’s the role of theory?

What’s the role of theory?

This presentation is about the role of theory and of a theoretical framework in urbanism studies. It contains the following claims:

1. Theory is necessary to inform and enlighten practice

2. Practice and theory work iteratively, with one feeding the other

3. The model of theoretical application in the human sciences and in urbanism is quite different from the one used in the physical sciences

4. A theoretical framework is a system of ideas that helps you structure your thoughts and your narrative

5. A theoretical framework suggests communities of practice where knowledge inhabits, that is, communities that study similar  issues, that adopts the similar logics of enquiry leading to similar questions, similar methodologies to answer those questions and consequently similar answers

6. One needs to look further than his/her own community of practice, because knowledge needs to be produced and communicated to a larger academic and non-academic audience (design needs to be validated beyond the design community, for example, because it has social and political relevance). Otherwise, one risks becoming “Humpty Dumpty” (see lecture below). This has to do with TRANS-DISCIPLINARITY and with the need to reach out to other (often non-expert) kinds of knowledge

7. Critical analysis entails ACTION, rather than  practice alone. Action has a much more active connotation, because it entails an  understanding of theory AND practice AND application in the real world. We must walk away from  a mechanistic understanding of the world, towards an active critical understanding of urban issues.

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