An exploration of the dynamics of consensual approaches in biodiversity planning for the wider countryside : evaluating the usefulness and applicability of actor-network theory
This research examines the usefulness of applying theoretical principles from the Sociology of Translation and Actor Network Theory to the scenario of biodiversity planning in Oxfordshire between the early nineteen nineties and 2001. It develops a model derived from a social constructionist approach to considering Nature, and seeks to apply it to empirical data on the development of Oxfordshire's Local Biodiversity Action Plan. The data is considered in relation to the four poles of the model which are the 'scientific knowledge or technical' pole; the 'institutional' pole; the 'production of practices' pole and the 'nature protected' pole. The idea that is applied is that scientific knowledge that is generated for a purpose becomes the accepted wisdom and consequently is institutionalized. From this acceptance of the importance of scientific or technical authority, practices will then be generated (for example, land or water management strategies) and these then protect particular elements of nature; essentially what society, and more specifically, the actors involved with problematising the issue deem as being elements that are important to preserve. Also, there is a time and space dimension built into the model since the author builds on the ideas of actor-network theorists who argue that a network is not a flat shape but that actors may act at a distance (e.g. global actor) but still be linked into a localized network. Similarly, actors may be incorporated from different times but may be held into place within a given network because their views or actions are part of a stable agreement (e. g. text/intermediary object) that has encapsulated a number of different actors. The actor-networks presented in this thesis are heterogeneous in nature in that they incorporate elements of nature and the human world as different actors represent the views of others. The research explores stable and unstable networks that are founded within consensual approaches through partnership working between many different types of organisation.