'Energy regions': The transformative power of regional discourses on socio-technical futures
'Guiding visions' play an important role in the transition management approach as a central means of mobilizing social actors and the co-ordination of dispersed agency. 'Energy regions' in Austria are an interesting example for the strategic promotion of such guiding visions in the context of regional development. We describe the case of Murau, an alpine district in which a strong actor network has been built around a vision of systematically exploiting renewable energy sources and at the same time saving the region from economic decay. The vision gained much authority and has been institutionalised at various levels of regional governance. It furthermore was supported by and played an important role for regime level attempts to influence socio-technical change. Development and social propagation of such visions are inherently political and contested processes involving much strategizing and anticipation of conflict. We describe particular discursive strategies applied in niches - such as the combination and translation of sentiments into localised visions and demonstrations of feasibility. These strategies can be understood as systematic attempts to support discursive shifts at regime level by means of local activities, and aim to modify rather durable power structures. We suggest ways to analyse such discursive practices in order to orient strategic action in the course of such processes: analysing 'guiding visions' and their interference with other emerging trends; extending analyses across spatial scales (e.g. translations) and across thematic fields (e.g. convergence of agendas); and focusing on processes of stabilisation, institutionalisation and mutually reinforcing developments.
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