THE BRIEF FOG ISLAND TAVERN DISCOURSE ON LAWS AND MORALS


– You writing a letter to the editor there, Bog-Hubert?

– Huh? What makes you think so, Vodçek?

– Well, scribbling furiously in your notebook and crossing out half of what you wrote, as far as I can see from this inverted perspective, anyway: must be something with a word limit, like a letter to the editor. Am I right?

– Nah, sorry. I was just reading some article in Abbé Boulah’s NYRB latest issue , about evolution of ethics and morality, a review of some fat book. And I don’t think that any comment about it other than ‘BS’ with an exclamation mark or two can be kept short enough for a letter to the editor.

– Good grief — and this in my lowly tavern? What makes you spend any more time on that profound conundrum, then?

– Well, … wait, why do you say ‘conundrum’?

– Hmm… can’t really tell you — it was just the first word matching the profundity of the topic that came to my mind.

– So you think it’s profound, huh? I tend to agree, but why make it so complicated? And why do serious, educated people throw it in with evolution and theories like that?

– To come up with some explanation or basis for ethical and moral rules that is somehow scientific, not just arbitrary?

– I got stuck on the arbitrary part too. Brings up the question of how’s doing the arbitrating, for one?

– It isn’t just arbitrary, though. Just looking no further, for a first step, than some society that has to deal with how its members act. Some behavior they don’t like, say, because it hurts another member of that society: what to do about it? So they make a rule: we don’t do things that hurt each other.

– And if somebody does such things?

– Good question. You want me to say something simple and stupid like ‘an eye for an eye’, etc. We do the same thing to the rule-breaker? Doesn’t always work right.

– Why not?

– Let’s see. For example: if you steal somebody’s savings, well, you have to give them back, if you didn’t already spend it all, well, let’s not investigate, you’ll have to give it back, if you don’t have any savings — which is why you did the deed in the first place, there’s no ‘eye for an eye’. And if you kill my child, by accident or intent: if you don’t have kids, there’s no ‘eye for that eye’ either, and if you did have a child, it sure wouldn’t be the right thing to do for that kid. So there’s got to be some better way.

– Yeah, well: there are laws that specify what substitutes for those eyes, right? And that’s what I was wondering: what’s the essential difference between laws and morals?

– Ah: better question. So let’s look at laws, first. A community, or society, decides what kind of acts and behavior it doesn’t like and wants to keep its members from doing.

– What about things people like to have the community members do?

– Another good question! Because that gives us a first possible way of dealing with your question of what to do — for either kinds of things and behavior. For we can say: as a community, we provide some good things for all our fellow members regardless of what they do or don’t do — that why we are a community, in the first place — and we can offer some good things in reward for doing things we like. Incentives. Now the first rule we can make about doing ‘bad’ things — that we don’t like: we can threaten to take away some of the good things — the incentives first, and then some of the essentials, for really bad stuff. Like freedom: if you do some things that really hurt people or their savings or kids and such, we put you in a place where you can’t do that, which means that you can’t go to do things you like to do either, even if they don’t hurt anybody.

– So laws are trying to prevent people from doing bad things. If you do them anyway, we’ll do this, that etc. to you. Threats of punishment and follow-through if the threats don’t work. Well: that should do it, shouldn’t it?

– What do you mean, do it?

– Let’s assume for the moment that we can make laws that cover all the good things we like people to do, and all the bad things we don’t want them to do — everything! — why would we need any ethics and morals? Case closed. Sure, there are details to be worked out: what are those do’s and don’t’s, and what kinds of incentives and punishments should be provided — that will need some serious discussion.

– Yes, and don’t forget the problem of finding out what people did. If there’s evolution in this, it’s mainly in the evolution of the gadgets we can give law enforcement to go after the ‘bad’ guys. But hey, that’s just the point: there are some things that are hard or impossible to find out, and some where it’s hard to tell who is right: the person who says ‘the other guy did something bad to me’, or the other guy who says ‘that guy just want to hurt me by saying I did those bad things: he’s really the bad one!’ And on the ‘good’ side do we really want to do good things for the incentives and rewards — that’s not really being good, is it?

– I see what you’re getting at. You’re saying that there are some things we should do or don’t do, just for the sake of their goodness, and our own wanting to be good, in one way or other. And it’s for those societies need moral ‘rules’ — that society itself doesn’t or can’t react to with rewards or punishment but just admiration or disrespect, disapproval?

– Yes, except that even admiration and disapproval can be powerful incentives or deterrents. But you were jumping ahead a step or two there, weren’t you? There are some acts or behaviors that are good or bad, but if we don’t find out, we may treat a person as an upstanding moral one even if they are secretly evil and rotten: if we want to say something about those…

– Ah. I see. You’ll have to invent a higher power — one who will know your secret noble or evil thoughts and deeds and will reward or punish you in the hereafter. And that’s the moral system.

– Yes. Or it’s internal: called your own conscience. That’s knowing how bad you really are, that will punish you with guilty sleepless nights and poor digestion…

– Let’s not go there. It could drive a fellow to drink.

– You put the finger right on the sore spot, my friend. And I’m here to help you with that…

– What a guy. Ok. One glass of Zin. The gloriously evolved one from Sonoma County. Just one, eh?

– Good choice. The Fog Island Tavern Reward for good thinking and conversation. Cheers.

–o–

EVALUATION IN THE PLANNING PROCESS: EVALUATION TASKS


An effort to clarify the role of deliberative evaluation in the planning and policy-making process

Thorbjoern Mann

EVALUATION TASKS / SITUATIONS

The necessity for this review of evaluation practices and tools arises from the fact that evaluation tasks and judgments and related activities occur at many stages of planning projects. A focus on the most common task, the evaluation of a proposed plan or a set of plan alternatives in preparation for the last action, may hide the role and impact of many judgments along the way, where explicitly or implicitly not only different labels but also very different vocabulary, tools and principles are involved. Is it necessary to look at these differences, to ask whether there should be more of an effort of coordination and common vocabulary in the set of working agreements for a project?

This section will at least raise the question and begin to explore the different disguises of evaluation acts throughout the planning process to answers these questions.

Many plans are started as extensions of routine ‘maintenance’ activities on existing processes and systems, using established performance measures as indicators of a need for extraordinary steps to ensure the continued desirable function of the system in question. In such tasks, the selected performance criteria, their threshold values demanding action and most of the expected remedial steps and means, are part of the factual ‘current conditions’ data basis of further planning.

To what extent are these data understood as part of the planning project — either as ‘given’ aspects or as needing revision, discussion, change — when the situation is so unprecedented as to call for activities going beyond the routine maintenance concerns? Such situations are often referred to as ’problems’, which tends to trigger a very different way of talking. There are many different ‘definitions’ or views, understandings of problems, as well as different problem types. To what extent is an evaluation group’s decision to talk about the situation as a problem, a specific problem type, already an evaluative task? Even adopting a view of ‘problem’ as a perceived (by somebody!) discrepancy between an existing ‘IS’ state of affairs and a view of what that state ‘OUGHT’ to be, calling for ideas about ‘HOW’ to get from the IS to the OUGHT.

Judgments about what ‘is’ the case do call for judgments, perhaps even measurements, of current conditions: assessments of factual matters, even as those are perceived — again, by whom? — as ‘NOT-Ought’. Judgments specifying the OUGHT — ‘goals’ , ‘visions’, ‘desirable’ states of affairs — belong to the ‘deontic’ realm, much as this often is obscured by the invocation of ‘facts’ in the form authorities and of polls of percentages of populations ‘wanting’ this or that ‘OUGHT’: the ‘good’ they are after. The judgments about the ‘HOW’ — means, tools, etc. to reach those goals may look like ‘factual-instrumental’ judgments — but also getting into the deontic realm; some possible ‘means’ are decidedly NOT what we OUGHT to do, no matter how functionally effective they seem to be.

The ‘authority’ source of judgments that participants in planning will have to consider come in the form of laws and ‘regulations’. Examined as ‘givens’, they may be helpful in defining, constraining the ‘solution space’ for the development of the plan. But they often ‘don’t fit the circumstances’ of a current planning situation, and raise questions about whether to apply for a ‘variance’, an exception to a rule. Of course, any regulation is itself the outcome of an evaluation or judgment process — one that may be acknowledged but usually not thoroughly examined by the planners of a specific project. The temptation is, of course, to ‘accept’ such regulations as the critical performance objective (‘to get the permit’), conveniently forgetting that such regulations usually specify m i n i m a l performance expectations. They usually focus on meaningful concerns such as safety and conformance to setback and functional performance conventions — and neglecting or drawing attention away from other issues such as aesthetics, sustainability, environmental or mental health impact of the resulting ‘permitted’ but in many other ways quite mediocre and outright undesirable solutions.

Other guidance tools for the development of the plan — buildings, urban environments, but also general societal policy and policy implementation efforts — are the ‘programs’ (briefs’) and equivalent statements about the desired outcome. One main consideration of such statements is to describe the scope of the plan (in buildings; how many spaces, their size and functions , etc.) in relation to the constraint of the budget. In many cases, such descriptions are in turn guided by ‘standards’ and norms for similar uses, in each case moving responsibility for the evaluation judgments onto a different agency: asking for the basis of judgment of the provision of such expectations is becoming a complex task in itself.

The ‘participation’ demand for involving the eventual users, citizens, affected parties in these processes seems to take two main forms: one being general surveys — asking the participants to fill out questionnaires that try to capture expectations and preferences; the other being ‘hearings’ in connection with the presentation of in-progress ‘option decisions or final plans. Do the different methodological basis and treatment of these otherwise laudable efforts raise questions about their ultimate usefulness in nurturing the production of ‘quality’ plans?

The term ‘quality’ is a key concern of a very different approach to design and planning — on that explicitly denies the very need for ‘method’ in the form of systematic evaluation procedures. This is the key feature (from the current point of view) of the ‘Pattern Language’ by Christopher Alexander. Its promise (briefly and arguably unfairly distorting) is that using ‘patterns’ such as the design precepts for building and town planning of his book ‘A Pattern Language’ in the development of the plan will ‘guarantee’ an outcome that embodies the ‘quality without a name’ — including many of the aspects not addressed by the ‘usual’ design process and its regulation and function-centered constraints.

This move seems to be very appealing to designers (surprisingly, even more in other domains such as computer programming than in architecture) — any outcome done in the proper way with the proper patterns is thereby ‘good’ (‘has the ‘quality’ ) and does not need further evaluation. Not discussed, as far as I can see, is the fact that the evaluation issue is merely moved to the process of suggesting and ‘validating’ the patterns — in the building case, by Alexander and his associates, and assembled in the book. Is the admirable and very necessary effort to bring those missing quality issues back into the design and planning process and discussion undercut by the removal of the evaluation problem from that discussion?

The Pattern Language example should make it very clear how drastically the treatment of the evaluation question could influence the process and decision-making in the planning process.

Comments: Missing items / issues? Wrong question?

–o–

EVALUATION IN THE PLANNING DISCOURSE: TYPES OF JUDGMENTS

An effort to clarify the role of deliberative evaluation in the planning and policy-making process.

Thorbjoern Mann

EVALUATION:  TYPES OF JUDGMENTS

Different kinds of judgments can be distinguished according to the purpose for which they are made and communicated:  Some judgments are aimed at supporting or indicating decisions,  a c t i o n s:  to accept or reject a plan proposal, to initiate processes. Others are are just intending to provide  d e s c r i p t i o n s, about what things, environments, buildings, plans are like. Such descriptions   can be merely informative, but the label ‘judgment’ is often held to mainly apply to ‘evaluation’  expressions of goodness, value, appropriateness, to the things we evaluate, ‘a p p r e c i a t i v e judgments and that these judgments are ‘subjective’. Is it important to recognize that expressions of  description  of those objects which we expect to be ‘true’,  ‘objective’  matters of fact are often also only      e s t i m a t e s, that is, judgments of degrees of certainty that things are really so? (and that these judgments are  personal and seem more subjective than objective?) 

Classes of  judgments usually distinguished in evaluation discussions are

  • ‘Descriptive‘ and ‘Evaluative’ judgments;  
  • ‘Offhand’ (‘spontaneous’) and ‘Deliberated judgments; 
  • ‘Overall’ (about the ‘whole’) and Partial judgments (about parts, sub-aspects etc.)

This  leads to the following sets of judgments:

  • ‘Action’ or decision-oriented judgments and arguably evaluative:  
    • overall     offhand      and    
    • overall  deliberated
  • Descriptive:
    • overall  offhand,
    • overall  deliberated  
    • partial offhand   
    • partial  deliberated
  • Evaluative
    • overall offhand,
    • overall deliberated
    • partial offhand
    • partial deliberated

If we admit  m e a s u r e m e n t s  as a kind of description judgment,  ‘e s t i m a t e s‘  of results of measurements (that have not yet been done, or predicted for the future) will  also have to be added; and though the aim may be to have both measurements and estimates be as close to actual ‘objective’ properties as possible, are these estimates subjective or objective? There are scientific protocols (precise description of where, when, by what means and tools measurements have been taken, so that they can be repeated by anyone, anytime, anywhere and yielding the same results, etc.)  that must be met to claim validity of objectivity claims:  Do we need to be more exigent about similar protocols for predictions, forecasts?

Additionally, the distinctions between judgments seen as ‘objectively’ true or ‘factual’ , as opposed to ’subjective’ opinions, are the subject of persistent controversies: are evaluative judgments objective or subjective? Has the legitimate and ‘responsible’ human quest to base decisions on facts and truth, that is, objective premises that confer certainty and authority, led to tendencies  to not take subjective judgments as seriously as objective judgments or measurements?

The distinctions are not clear-cut. It is tempting, for the sake of simplicity and clarity,  to declare ‘objective’ descriptions as related to features of the object evaluated, (which then everybody should accept as such, whether we like it or not, provided those protocols have been met) and ‘subjective’ evaluations as pertaining to the effects generated in the person (subject) doing the evaluating, and as such changeable and personal taste, ‘about which we cannot argue’. But consider a  judgment such as ‘affordable’ — eminently personal and thus subjective: I cannot afford the multi million-dollar yacht or mansion a billionaire has no trouble buying. Isn’t that judgment based on the objective fact of the cost of the yacht exceeding the amount of money in my bank account?  Or we observe — objectively? — that some people like a certain building and call it ‘beautiful’,  while others do not:  even if we declare the judgments of the latter group ‘wrong‘  or misguided, (on what ‘objective’ grounds?) — are they not still judgment facts that will influence the decisions made?  Some, like C. Alexander, are arguing that aspects like beauty and value are “matters of objective fact”.  Is the implication that differing judgments — opinions — should be dismissed?  Can these differences be resolved? How should they be handled in public deliberative evaluation efforts?    

Which brings us to the distinction between ‘i n d i v i d u a l’  judgments by single participants in the process, from ‘g r o u p’  judgments or indicators based on all those individual scores. Is it appropriate to speak of a ‘group judgment’ — groups are seldom if ever one unified entity that ‘have’ a unified judgment;  there usually are significant differences in the judgments of individuals and sub-groups within a collective? Sure a group can agree on a judgment. But even using the term ‘group judgment‘ and demanding its pursuit as a patriotic or solidarity, moral duty,  can be seen as an effort to enforce the views of one party in the group over the objections of another, dismissing the latter’s concerns. It may be better to just consider the different kinds of statistical descriptions of the set of individual judgments:  different statistical indicators that can guide the group’s decision in different ways.

How all these issues should be dealt with in the design of support systems for the planning discourse is very much a matter needing discussion, since extreme positions on some of the issues would have significant implications for the role of  evaluation in the process.

Evalmap6 Judgment–o–

EVALUATION, DELIBERATION IN THE PLANNING DISCOURSE

An effort to clarify the role of deliberative evaluation in the planning and policy-making process
Thorbjoern Mann

EVALUATION / DELIBERATION

‘Evaluation‘ and its related term ‘deliberation’ is understood in many different ways. A simple view is just the act of making a value judgment about something: about a plan: is it ‘worth’ implementing? To many, it evokes a somewhat cumbersome, bureaucratic process that itself constitutes a problem. Seen from the perspective of theories like the Pattern Language, for example, it is a ‘method’ from which the Pattern Language ‘frees’ the designer: not needed, even ‘part of the problem’ of misguided design and planning process. So does the idea need some clarification, discussion?

Some answers to this question might be found by examining the reasons people feel such efforts are necessary: Beginning with trying to make up one’s own mind when facing a somewhat complicated situation and plan, trying to consider all pertinent aspects, all significant causes of the problem a plan is supposed to fix, also its possible consequences, its ‘pros and cons’; trying not to forget important details, expected benefits and costs and risks if things don’t turn out quite as we might wish.

Such ‘mulling’ about the task in order for an individual person to arrive at a judgment may not require a very systematic and orderly process. Things may be somewhat different when we are then asked to explain or justify our judgments to others, and even more so when participants in a project discourse try to get other parties to not only become aware of their concerns and judgments, but even to give them ‘due consideration’ in making decisions. Or when clients or users are asking designers, planners and ultimate decision-makers to make the decisions in developing the plan ‘on their behalf’: The burden of explanation (of what they would consider a viable answer to their needs or wishes falls first on the former, and then on the latter, pointing out how their plan features will meet those expectations. The common denominator: explaining the basis of one’s judgment to others, for the purpose of justification or persuasion — to accept the plan. The basic pattern in that process is to show how o v e r a l l judgments or quality scores depend on various   p a r t i a l judgments, or ultimately on some ‘objective’ quantifiable features (‘criteria’) of the plan. (The very term ‘objective’, used in asserting its distinction from ‘subjective’ judgments and ‘opinions’, is of course itself a major controversy, to be dealt with in a later segment.)

The shift of burden of explanation mentioned above is an indicator of a fact that is often overlooked in discussions about evaluation issues: that evaluation occurs in many different shapes and forms, in many different stages all along the planning process, not just in the final occasions of accepting or rejecting a proposed plan, or selecting ‘the best’ of a set of proposed alternatives by a competition jury. Should a better coordination be developed between those different events, and the often very different terms used?

The claims and arguments used in the different evaluation tasks use different terms, and draw on different sources and methods for obtaining the ‘evidence’ for claims and arguments. The near obsession with ‘data’ (or ‘facts’) in this connection overshadows the problems associated with the relationships between facts describing the current ‘problem’ situations to be remedied, the ‘facts’ about the expectations, concerns, wishes, needs of different groups in the affected populations (which themselves are not ‘facts’ …yet) and the ‘facts’ (but also just estimates, predictions) generated by systems models about the ‘whole system’ in which current problem, plans and future consequences are embedded.

A final aspect should be mentioned in this connection. There will be, in real life, many situations in which people, leaders and others, will be called upon to make quick decisions, with no time for lengthy public discourse. These decisions will be ‘intuitive’, often ‘offhand’ decisions for which there is insufficient information upon which they can be reasonably based. We expect that decisions must be made by people whose (intuitive?) judgment can be trusted. This suggests that we think some people have ‘better’ intuitive judgment than others. So where does better intuition, better judgment come from? Experience with similar situations is one likely source. There are claims that having experienced the process of organized, systematic deliberation and evaluation may also contribute to improve decision-makers‘ quality of intuitive judgment. What is the evidence for this, and what, if any implications should be considered?

Given the speculative nature of many of these considerations, it seems that there is a need for more thorough study and discussion of these issues; what are the implications of assumptions we make for the design of better planning discourse platforms? What other aspects should be added to the picture?

–o–

Abbé Boulah’s Hack-Rigged Funding Scheme

In the Fog Island Tavern:

Hey Vodçek — has Abbé Boulah been in today?

And a good morning to you, too, Bog-Hubert. No, haven’t seen him yet. What’s stirring your urgency to see him?

Well it’s a mystery. I was out in the Gulf trying to get to Rigatopia — you know, the new refugee society on that abandoned rig, when my GPS conked out and I had to navigate by compass, the old-fashioned way. Turns out I’d forgotten to re-set the compass declination to the new position of that wandering magnetic North Pole. So I ran into a different rig, nearby, but was warned off by radio to go anywhere near it. Secret prison rehab project or something. Near Rigatopia? Sounded like another one of Abbe Boulah’s crazy schemes: do you know anything about it?

Ah Bog-Hubert: You’ve been over in your Tate’s Hell bog cooking stuff to long. Yes, it’s Abbé Boulah’s new project. He’s gotten another abandoned oil rig for it. But this one has prison inmates on it, working on a new kind of ‘community service’ to try to get reduced sentences.

Doesn’t surprise me. Abbé Boulah again. Prison inmates? What kind of community service — there’s no community out there? And why secret?

Patience. Remember Abbé Boulah and his friend up in town working on that global planning discourse project?

Of course:  I was working on that one too.

Oh yes, I forgot. Well, one day, here, Abbé Boulah was talking about it with a guy who turned to to be a bit of a planning discourse-cum-argument-evaluation-sceptic — a ‘NAA’ —’never argue-arguer’, Abbé Boulah calls them. This one thought it’d be impossible to get any serious mainstream company to write the programs for that kind of public platform, and funding the implementation even for small local prototypes. So Abbé Boulah sat there fuming for a while, using up a good part of my Sonoma Zinfandel supply, and came up with this idea to get imprisoned hackers to work on the project. You know, some of those brilliant computer freaks who were caught showing humanity how naively vulnerable our precious IT systems have become.

Brilliant guys, eh — but not brilliant enough to avoid getting caught?

Well, turns out some of them were sold out by their peer hackers. You know there’s fierce and unfair competition even in that murky kingdom too. And I think the FBI has hired some such experts…

But hey, sounds like an interesting idea?

We’ll see how it works out. Anyway, he got some judges convinced that incarcerating these people at great expense to society is a sinful waste of brilliant minds and public money, and to set up a program to offer these guys reductions of their sentences if they worked on writing the programs needed for this project. And similar projects. So Abbé Boulah got a friend of his — a brilliant fellow, once a student of his buddy up in town — who’s been busy getting people whose lives have been disrupted by all the stupid wars in the Middle East to learn programming to get well-paying jobs — to rehab another abandoned rig. Where these people can be kept safely to work on that project.

Hmm. Sounds a little like putting the fox to work on guarding the hen-house, though?

Well, the things they come up with will be thoroughly tested, of course.

Tested, how?

Easy. They put separate hacker or hacker teams to work on trying to hack the system designs. Promising those guys rewards — three years of life off, if they can break the competition’s system… And vice versa. Anyway, it’s an inexpensive way to get those programs written, putting those minds to productive use, work no other company wants to do. And possibly getting those people not only a chance of keeping their skills honed but also a better chance of rehabilitated legitimate existence once released.

So Abbé Boulah is out there on that rig now, is that what you are saying?

Not sure. He’s a difficult fellow to keep track of. Of course somebody has to tell those guys what the platform is supposed to do. And he’s getting some sailing and fishing in on his breaks…

I knew it. Having a great time doing interesting stuff… I’ll drink to that.

Cheers!

—o—

EVALUATION IN THE PLANNING DISCOURSE: ISSUES, CONTROVERSIES, (OVERVIEW)

Thorbjoern Mann

An effort to clarify the role of deliberative evaluation in the planning and policy-making process.

Many aspects of evaluation-related tasks in familiar approaches and practice, call for some re-assessment and improvement even for practical applications in current situations. These will be discussed in more detail in sections addressing requirements and tools for practical application. Others are more significant in that they end up questioning the entire concept of deliberative evaluation in planning on a ‘philosophical’ level, or resist adopting smaller detail improvements of the first (practical) kind because they may mean abandoning familiar habits based on tradition and even constitutional provisions.

The very concept of deliberative evaluation — as materialized in procedures and practices that look too cumbersome, bureaucratic and elitist ‘expert-model‘ to many — is an example of a fundamental issue that can significantly flavor and complicate planning discourse. The desire to do without such ‘methods’ is theoretically and emotionally supported by concepts such as the civic, patriotic, call and need for consensus, unity of purpose and even ideas such as swarm behavior or ‘wisdom of the crowds’ that claim to more effortlessly produce ‘good’ solutions and community behavior. A related example is the philosophy behind Christopher Alexander’s ‘Pattern Language’ . Does its claim that using patterns declared ‘valid’ and ‘good’ (having ‘Quality Without a Name — ‘QWAN’) in developing plans and solutions, e.g. for buildings and neighborhoods, will produce overall solutions that will ‘automatically’ be valid / good etc. and thus require no evaluation ‘method’ at all to validate it?

A related issue is the one about ‘objective’ measurement, fact, ‘laws’ (akin to natural laws) as opposed to ‘subjective’ opinion. Discussion, felt to consist mainly of the latter, ‘mere opinions’, difficult to measure and thus lacking reliable tools for resolution of disagreement is seen as too unreliable a basis for important decisions.

On a more practical level, there is the matter of ‘decision criteria’ that are assumed to legitimize decisions. Simple tools such as voting ratios — even of votes following the practice of debating the pros and cons of proposed plans: the practice (accepted as eminently ‘democratic’ even by authoritarian regimes as a smokescreen) in reality results in the concerns of significant parts of affected populations (the minority) to be effectively ignored. Is the call for reaching decisions better and more transparently based on the merit of discourse contributions and ‘due consideration’ of all aspects promising but needing different tools? What would they look like?

An understanding of ‘deliberation’ as the process of making overall judgment (of the good, value, acceptability etc.) a function of partial judgment raises questions of ‘aggregation’: how do or should we convert the many partial judgments into overall judgments? How should the many individual judgments of members of a community be‘aggregated’ into overall ‘group’ judgments or indicators of the distribution of individual judgments that can guide the community’s decision on an issue? Here, to, traditional conventions need reconsiderations.

These issues and controversies need to be examined not only individually but also how they relate to one another and how they should guide evaluation procedures in the planning discourse. The diagram shows a number of them and some relationships adding to the complexity, there are probably more that should be added to the list.

Additions, connections, comments?
–o–

EVALUATION IN THE PLANNING DISCOURSE – AIM

An effort to clarify the role of deliberative evaluation in the planning and policy-making process
Thorbjoern Mann

PURPOSE / AIM

The purpose of this effort is drawn from evaluation issues encountered in the planning discourse platform project. What does it take to reach decisions based on the merit of discourse contributions? It first seemed enough to identify the various evaluation tasks we find throughout the planning process, in different disguises, to find common denominators and a coordinated vocabulary between these. Would this mean adopting one common perspective of the role and purpose of evaluation — among the several not universally shared perspectives, or a new one? If the platform aims at openness to all such perspectives, how should this discrepancy be dealt with?

More specifically: if new IT tools are used to facilitate evaluation tasks, is there a danger that these could be to narrowly based on one such perspective, become entrenched and end up excluding other views? It seemed necessary to go back to re-assess the basic concept of evaluation and its role in the planning and policy-making discourse. Whether that re-assessment could resolve the differences between different philosophical positions and lead to common ground, or identify incompatible approaches among which participants must choose in each specific planning situation, — open at this point — would set the direction for the platform design.

Within each perspective this effort will have to consider, there are several issues that should be examined for better solutions. New technology may offer solutions to problems traditionally dealt with by inconsistent means and shortcuts. So a more limited and modest aim of the project is to explore new ideas and possibilities for their constructive application in the planning discourse.

Comments? Suggestions? Wrong question?