This thesis aspires to advance understanding of how actor choices relate to embedded structures of rules in communicative planning practice, using insights from the institutional literature developed in organizational science, economics, sociology and planning. Specifically, the thesis argues that a spatial institutional perspective can help planners understand the complex patterns of interaction among actors, and between actors and rules. Actors interact in the spaces created by the interplay between actor choices and rule structures: the institutional environment.
The thesis comprises five papers: two case studies, a literature review and a theoretical paper. A review of the institutional literature reveals insights from other disciplines not yet fully explored in planning, including transaction cost analysis to explain individual decisions and collective action approaches to understanding micro behaviour and macro outcomes. These insights, together with the results of the case studies, suggest that planning theory needs to better understand how individual actors make choices within rule structures and based on the expected behaviour of others.
To address this, the thesis offers the concept of relational rewards, which incorporates theories of social capital and communication externalities into a rational actor approach. This may provide an explanation for why self-interested actors make choices about whether or not to participate in interactive forums designed to meet communicative goals. This approach can also explain how boundedly rational actors without communicative norms may over time develop a propensity to collaborate.
In a practical sense, this thesis challenges planners to think about what selective incentives they offer actors to participate in communicative planning. It encourages planners to identify and characterize the many institutional environments for planning and decisionmaking in transaction cost terms. Planning theorists and practitioners are experienced and adept in understanding and applying a spatial perspective, and can develop a spatial-institutional approach to coordinating actors both across physical space and within institutional environments.