From participatory design to a listening infrastructure: A case of urban planning and participation

Moore, K. & Elliott, T. (2016). From participatory design to a listening infrastructure: A case of urban planning and participation. Journal of Business and Technical Communication, 30.1: 59-84.

Moore & Elliot respond to a problem in urban planning projects that are focused on participatory design as a guiding/framing ideology. Any public planning project is complicated by the need to collect mass amounts of data, and participatory design becomes especially complicated by this. The authors suggest that a “listening rhetoric” can be a useful frame for those initiating public projects. A “listening rhetoric” can help urban and transportation planners enact a participatory design while also accounting for tacit knowledge—the knowledge that is not easily communicated through oral or written feedback.

Moore & Elliot’s article is especially valuable for my project, and not only because it’s one of three articles in the sub-field of technical and professional communication that addresses concerns of public participation in relation to urban/transportation planning. The article represents the democratizing mission of technical and professional communication researchers and their hope for rhetoric to solve a public communication problem. It also points to how public planners have no obligation to listen, much less adopt participatory design (a democratizing approach in itself) as a framing approach to their methodology. In other words, it points to the hope for citizen participation on the part of technical and professional communication researchers and the cultural values and practice of public planning.