It has been 40 years since Berkeley Professors Horst Rittel and Melvin Webber articulated the concept of “wicked problems,” problems that are challenging because they are ill-defined, complex and constantly changing. In their seminal article in Policy Sciences, they argued that the profusion of wicked problems throughout social policy domains such as urban design and city planning posed dilemmas for the scientific approach to problem-solving, which was developed to deal with “tame” problems.
The notion of wicked problems is still widely embraced by designers and policy makers working on issues ranging from climate change to healthcare reform. Yet this formulation, rooted in modernism and emphasizing positivist science and technology, has been subsequently challenged by alternative epistemological approaches such as Marxism, feminism, and post-structuralism.
The Wicked Problem SYMPOSIUM on Saturday, October 26, will critically interrogate the history and evolution of Rittel and Webber's idea of the “wicked problem,” and appraise the utility of wicked-problem thinking in the light of contemporary issues of significance to society from a broad and interdisciplinary perspective.
The related WORKSHOP, on Sunday, October 27, will address the more specific topic of Rittel and Webber's work as it pertains to the issues of urban and regional sustainability, and will feature talks that will later be featured as papers in an accompanying issue of the journal Landscape and Urban Planning (LAND). The extended conference is jointly organized by the College of Environmental Design (CED) at the University of California, Berkeley, the Global Institute for Urban and Regional Sustainability (GIURS) at the East China Normal University, Shanghai, and LAND.
Register now at http://wickedproblems-ced.eventbrite.com/.
Events will take place in 112 Wurster Hall, unless otherwise noted.
Saturday, October 26, 2013—Symposium:
For more information about the symposium, call (510) 642-0831 or email CEDdean@berkeley.edu.
REGISTRATION AND COFFEE
Welcome and Opening Remarks (Jennifer Wolch, CED and Wei-Ning Xiang, GIURS)
Remembering Rittel and Webber (JP Protzen and Michael Teitz, CED)
The History of Wicked Problems (JP Protzen, CED, Moderator)
Michael Batty, UCL
Barry Katz, IDEO/CCA
Alice Agogino, UC Berkeley
Hugh Dubberly, Dubberly Design
11:45 a.m.-1 p.m.
Theoretical Critiques of Wicked Problems (Ananya Roy, CED, Moderator)
Avigail Sachs, University of Tennessee
Niraj Verma, Virginia Commonwealth University
Eric Paulos, UC Berkeley
Wicked Problems Today (Wendy Ju, CED, Moderator)
Björn Hartmann, UC Berkeley
Terry Winograd, Stanford
Kim Erwin, Institute of Design at IIT
Wicked Problems in Planning, Ecology and Environmental Ethics (Judith Innes, CED, Moderator)
Judith Innes, CED
Bryan Norton, Georgia Tech
Brian Head, University of Queensland, Australia
Sunday, October 27, 2013—Workshop:
For more information about the workshop, please email email@example.com.
Paper presentations: The adaptive, participatory, and transdisciplinary (APT) approach to working with wicked problems: Empirical studies and theoretical explorations
- Wicked games of urban planning: How deliberative practices can help us create a collaborative playing field, Harri Raisio, Juha Lindell, Niklas Lundstrom, Pirkko Vartiainen, University of Vaasa, Finland
- Design experiments — A method for working with wicked problems, Torben Dam, Ole Fryd, Jan Stovring, and Antje Backhaus, University of Melbourne, Australia
- Precedents and wicked problems, Ole Fryd and Liao Kuei-Hsien, University of Melbourne, Australia; National University of Singapore, Singapore
- Wicked problems played locally: Networks and communities in decision-making for energy from waste and road users pricing in the UK, Andrew Flynn;Nick Hacking;Francesca Sartorio, Cardiff School of Planning and Geography, UK; Welsh School of Architecture, UK
- Conceptualizing creative adaptation to rural shrinkage, Anne Tietjen and Gertrud Jorgensen, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
- Eco Area Ratio (EAR) as a wicked problem: An ecological planning tool to “tame” the problem of urban densification in the case of Taipei, Perry P. J. Yang, Georgia Institute of Technology, USA
10 a.m.-12 p.m.
Paper presentations: The adaptive, participatory, and transdisciplinary (APT) approach to working with wicked problems: Urban and regional sustainability
- A social-ecological approach to assessing linkages between ecosystem services, livelihoods, and environmental governance in the Kagera Basin in Eastern Rwanda, Ahmed Khan, Hongmei Lia, Linxiu Zhang, Xiubo Yua, Erasme Mbanzamihigoa, Gisele Umuhumuza, Thierry Nhoza, United Nations Environment Program-International Ecosystem Management Partnership, Beijing, China; Rwanda Environment Management Authority, Rwanda Natural Resources AuthoritKigali, Rwanda
- Managing wicked natural resource problems: The collaborative challenge at regional scales, Brian Head, The University of Queensland, Australia
- An inclusive planning research on avoiding NIMBY risks of urban facilities at all stages basing on game relationship of multiple interests groups—A case study of public participation in urban regeneration of Diantou Historical District, Changting, Fujian, Xiang Zhang;Jian-gang Xu; Yang Ju; Fei Zhang, Nanjing University, China
- The wicked nature of environmental and social distress in the Niger Delta: Informing public discourse with political ecology, Charisma Acey, Ohio State University, USA
Paper presentations: Exploring wickedness through the lens of epistemological, methodological, and ethical significance: Awareness, acceptance, and adaptation
- Operationalizing wicked problem-solving to create desirable futures: The design agenda, Gavin Melles, Mattias Arvola, Stefan Holmlid, Swinburne University, Australia; Linkoping University, Sweden
- Doubling down: The wicked problem of forming transdisciplinary teams to address wicked problems in socio-ecological systems, Patricia E. Norrisa, Michael O'Rourkeb, Alex S. Mayerc, Kathleen E. Halvorsend, Michigan State University, USA; Michigan Technological University, USA
- The nested, wicked air-conditioning solution, Larissa Larsen, Nick Rajkovich, Marie O'Neill, Carina Gronlund, University of Michigan, USA
- Civic design organizations: An approach to “wicked” problems, Melissa Saunders, The Energy and Environment Project, USA
- Meta-decision modeling of wicked landscape design problems: Resolving conservation versus development value conflicts in Tanzanian, Vietnamese and Peruvian socio-ecological systems, Asim Zia, University of Vermont, USA
- Wickedness and regulation: A case study of off-highway vehicle use, Brian Muller, University of Colorado, Boulder, USA
GROUP DISCUSSIONS AND WRAP-UP
Artwork courtesy of Patrick Hoesly under the Creative Commons Attribution license.