Experimentation as a means of governance for sustainability transitions has been advocated for years by transition scholars and geography scholars. We propose that examining the impact of experimentation requires an understanding of its embeddedness in place as a socio-spatial context. This notion of embeddedness, which conceptually aligns well with the understanding of sense of place, is under-examined in sustainability transitions literature. By conjoining the sense of place and sustainability transition literatures, we conceptualize that sense of place can be one outcome of experimentation fostering sustainability transitions. We examine urban living labs as an open format of urban experimentation, where multiple actors interact with the aim to co-design, test, and implement governance innovations. From the literature, we have distilled three phenomena that relate to a sense of place as mechanisms for transformation: a symbolic understanding or meaning of place; a narrative of place that connects to a transformative vision; and new types of relations between people and place. With this conceptual lens, we analyze our case study, an urban living lab called The Resilience Lab in a neighborhood of the city of Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Drawing from a longitudinal case study research, we contend that urban living labs can connect a sense of change (transformation) with a sense of place by co-creating new narratives of place, by co-producing knowledge on new practices and new relations between people and place, and by allowing the co-design or (re)establishment of places with symbolic meaning. As such, urban living labs facilitate urban sustainability transitions.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.