Article written by DPDF 2008 Critical Studies of Science & Technology Policy Fellow Tischa Munoz-Erickson.
This paper examines how knowledge–action systems — the networks of actors involved in the production, sharing and use of policy-relevant knowledge — work in the process of developing sustainable strategies for cities. I developed an interdisciplinary framework — the knowledge–action system analysis (KASA) framework — that integrates concepts of the co-production of knowledge and social order with social network analysis tools to analyze existing configurations of knowledge–action systems in the city of San Juan, Puerto Rico, and how these are shaping both what we know and how we envision the future of cities. I applied KASA in the context of land use and green area governance and found that a diverse network of actors are contributing diverse knowledge types, thus showing potential for innovation in governance. This potential is conditioned, however, by various political and cultural factors, such as: (1) actors dominating knowledge about land use are the same ones that control urban land resources, (2) conventional planning expertise and procedures dominate over other alternative ways of knowing; (3) multiple visions and boundary arrangements co-exist in the city, and (4) boundary spanning opportunities limited by assumptions that knowledge and action should be done in distinct spheres of city planning. This study shows that developing adaptive and innovative capacities for sustainability is not solely a matter of harnessing more science, but about managing the politics of knowledge and visions that emerge from complex governance systems.