ACSPRI Conferences, RC33 Eighth International Conference on Social Science Methodology

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Network Analysis as a Method for Grasping Urban Structures: The Case of Changing Urban Development Policies in Hamburg and Rotterdam

Bettina Lelong

Building: Law Building
Room: Breakout 9 - Law Building, Room 102
Date: 2012-07-11 03:30 PM – 05:00 PM
Last modified: 2011-12-21


The main purpose of this paper is to highlight the conditions which promote major changes in spatial urban development policies. Changes are often complicated by the multidimensionality of urban development and the conflicting interests of the actors involved. Local public actors face constraints while trying to control the decision making processes. They have to negotiate interests and create alliances to mobilise sufficient support for their plans.
Despite the complex and constraining conditions, major changes emerge and get established politically. By using two case study cities the paper scrutinizes how constellations of regional and local actors and their interactions influence the processes. As a research method, a network analysis approach is chosen, which is able to explain actors’ behaviour via the structure of the networks studied and the quality of the ties. The applied methodological approach combines the policy network approach with structuralist-constructionist concepts of Social Network Analysis and elements of the network governance approach.
The empirical data has been collected in the context of a PhD dissertation, it includes qualitative interviews with forty public, private and intermediate actors. The paper compares the processes which led to the political establishment of the large-scale urban planning projects “HafenCity” Hamburg (Germany) and “Kop van Zuid” Rotterdam (The Netherlands). The analysis follows a deductive as well as an inductive approach and is divided into four levels: 1) the structural features of the overall network, 2) the individual positions, 3) the governance mechanisms between the involved actors and 4) the “cultural content of action”.
By comparing the two case studies, the network analysis reveals two types of networks which show different logics of action: Hamburg can be seen as an example of an exclusive network based as far as possible on secrecy, Rotterdam as an inclusive network constantly needing to overcome opposition. Besides this general distinction, there are certain conditions seeming to support major changes in both case studies likewise. These include initially small networks and their careful and selective expansion, the decisive role of actors in “tertius iungens” positions, tactical mechanisms and the mutual trust of the actors involved in the network. Moreover, ”publics” as special moments of social opening seem to improve the ability of actors to overcome cultural differences and to unite for “fresh action”.