Participatory multi-modelling as the creation of a boundary object ecology: the case of future energy infrastructures in the Rotterdam Port Industrial Cluster

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Abstract

Finding leverage points for sustainability transformation of industrial and infrastructure systems is challenging, given that transformation is emergent from the complex interactions among socio-technical system elements over time within a specific social, technical and geographical context. Participatory multi-modelling, in which modellers and stakeholders collaborate to develop multiple interacting models to support a shared understanding of systems, is a promising approach to support sustainability transformations. The participatory process of modeling can serve as a leverage point by facilitating social learning amongst stakeholders, in which models can function as boundary objects that facilitate dialogue between stakeholders from different social worlds. We propose that participatory multi-modeling allows for the creation of a boundary object ecology, which involves a set of interacting and co-evolving boundary objects emerging throughout the modeling process. To explore this, we analyse the participatory multi-modelling process in the Windmaster project in the Rotterdam Port industrial cluster to understand which design choices were key to the creation of boundary objects. Our analysis shows that two types of design choices were key: design choices that enabled translations between participants, and those between participants and their organisation. We conclude that conceptualising participatory multi-modelling as a process of an evolving boundary object ecology, creating and adapting multiple interacting boundary objects provides a novel perspective that is useful for analysis and design of future participatory multi-modeling processes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)901-918
Number of pages18
JournalSustainability Science
Volume16
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Keywords

  • Backcasting
  • Boundary object
  • Energy infrastructure
  • Participatory modelling
  • Sustainability transition
  • Transdisciplinarity

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