Ref: Porta S (2006), What if Icarus chooses the labyrinth?, in Porta S (ed), ‘Il più lungo errore del mondo?’ Il recupero dei quartieri di edilizia sociale: una questione anche disciplinare, Libreria Clup, Milano, 103-115.

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This article is the transcription of my talk at the seminar coordinated by Luc Faraldi entitled: “Questions de terrain ou la récalcitrance de l’observation”, held in Paris on February 6 2004 at the Ecole des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Laboratoire de démographie historique. The text, here slightly changed, is published in French language in the seminar’s working papers: Faraldi L. (ed), 2005, “La partecipation des habitants et la démocratie locale”, Ministère délégué à la ville et a la rénovation urbane, Délégation Interministérielle à la ville, Saint-Denis, FR. (Sergio Porta).

It seems to me that the “new” participatory paradigms in urban processes are characterised by two, both opposing, components: one antipolitical and one anti-technical. Where politics are in participative processes? Or it would be better asking: where institutional politics are? Or again: where representative politics are? But also: where competence is in participative processes? Where are disciplines? Where technically informed representations? As an architect and an urban designer I often have had to reflect about the usefulness of my point of view within complex, and sometimes politically oriented, decisional arenas, as well as within processes open to direct social participation. What arguments is it worth producing? And especially: how should I produce them? Is it acceptable that my argument is so complicated that I cannot explain it to my baker? Or my colleague who is an expert in statistical sciences? Or even the director of my department who is involved in another area of my same discipline? I would like to spend a couple of words in this text on the second group of problems, beginning from another question that hopefully includes all the others: how can we avoid that technically informed arguments become another “abrasive machine” resulting in an impoverishment of the real world’s diversity rather than in its enrichment? In a sense…

NB_English text at the bottom of the article.