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Concert’Eau : a game to experiment the difficulties of pluralism in water management

Congress: 2008
Author(s): Richard-Ferroudji Audrey, Barreteau Olivier, Garin Patrice
UMR G-EAU "Gestion de l'Eau, Acteurs et Usages" Cemagref - Cirad - ENGREF - IRD Cemagref - 361 rue Jean François Breton BP 5095 34196 Montpellier Cedex 5 - FRANCE Tel : (33)(0)4 67 04 63 54 Fax : (33)(0)4 67 63 57 95

Keyword(s): experimental sociology, water management, engagement, participation, pluralism
AbstractFrench Water policy promotes participative management of river basins with their multiple users. Then participatory devices allow the expression of several contradictory objectives, values and personal relations with the river basin as surrounding. Participants have to cope with this expressed plurality to reach a collective decision. We designed a experimental sociology setting to allow a group of people to experience the difficulties of coping with plurality in a decision making process. Concert’eau is a simulation game in which the players have to embody and promote principles of justification and face events in a shared virtual river basin. A first team has to promote the principle that the river is a resource whose uses must be technically and economically optimised. For an other team the river is alive and man should live in harmony with it by protecting natural balance and environmental beauty. For a third team the river is a common good which must be managed with respect to general interest. The last team has to promote tradition and patrimonial management in consensus building. The game was constructed with ethnographic inquiries in two Mediterranean rivers in the south of France:the Lentilla and the Llech. In this place, the predominance of agricultural water uses is questioned by environmental issues and the development of urban and recreational water uses. Sharing water is at stake. We used sociological theories to model pragmatic engagement with the environment (Thévenot, 1999). Concert’eau is supposed to be a generic representation of a collective decision process, with contextual elements borrowed from the case studies. It was built according to a companion modelling approach (Bousquet et al., 1999) based on a cycling process where the construction of the model is confronted to the field processes, including discussion of assumptions and feedbacks on the field processes. Game sessions have been made either with graduate students (environmental engineering, agricultural engineering, development studies, sociology) or three times with people already involved or prepared to be involved in dialogue processes for river basin management. The first experiments showed that the same patterns due to this pluralism emerge from the gaming session as from real situations of dialogue. Players who failed to reach strong consensus were disappointed and used other means to reach a decision such as state arbitrage or informal agreement. These results improve our understanding of the difficulties involved in participative democracy and suggests recommendations to help participatory processes. Bousquet, F., O. Barreteau, C. Le Page, C. Mullon, and J. Weber. 1999. "An environmental modelling approach. The use of multi-agent simulations." Pp. 113-122 in Advances in environmental and ecological modelling, edited by F. Blasco and A. Weill: Elsevier. Thévenot, Laurent. 1999. "Pragmatic regimes governing the engagement with the world." Pp. 29 in The practice turn in contemporary theory, edited by K. Knorr-cetina, T. Schatzki, and V. Savigny Eike. London: Routledge.
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