Research Agenda

The collaborative research centre SFB 1265 brings together some 60 researchers from the disciplines of sociology, architecture, urban planning, geography, media and communication studies with the aim to investigate the radical changes in socio-spatial orders since the late 1960s. We proceed from the assumption that – given the intensification of transnational economic activities, far-reaching changes in the political geography on a global scale and the development and proliferation of digital communication technologies – the world has changed in ways that cannot merely be described in terms of globalisation. Our central hypothesis is that these conflicting transformation processes are more tangible if they are understood as re-figuration of spaces.

While modernity’s concept of space is abstract, scaled and based on the container model, we start from the assumption that the constitution of space is, first, polycontexturally structured meaning that an ever-increasing number of different spatial arrangements are operative in (trans-)actions simultaneously. Secondly, we assume that polycontexturalisation correlates closely, if not conditionally, on the mediatisation of communicative actions, owing to the digitalisation of communication technologies – a fact that allows and obliges actors to act on different scale levels at once, in virtual as well as face-to-face modes. The mediatisation of actions and global circulation of human beings, goods and technologies result – according to our third hypothesis – in translocalisation processes, i.e. a dense interconnection of different sites and places, resulting in a gain in relevance for the specific location.

In order to capture the characteristics of re-figuration in empirical research in analytically meaningful ways, investigations are spanning from the level of subjective experience and vernacular knowledge of space to the level of the spatial interrelation between circulation and order, and, on a mediating level, communicative actions, interactions and practices connected with them. Empirical research of the 15 individual projects is organised into three topical key areas: “Knowledge of Space”, “Spaces of Communication”, and “Circulation and Order”, led by interdisciplinary teams of experts from six different disciplines in the engineering and social sciences. Interdisciplinary collaborations require innovative ways and the integration of rather diverse methodological approaches, data and forms of presentation, a challenge which the Methodology Lab led by the ethnographer of science, Dr. Séverine Marguin, sets out to meet. Joint theory building and advancement will be pursued in theory tandems, as well as in the project areas, cross-sectional groups, workshops and plenaries themselves.

 

Key research questions are:

 

  • Which features are constitutive for the re-figuration of spaces?
  • Are there new relational arrangements in terms of space to be observed in the actions performed?
  • What is the role of individual experiences, emotions and knowledge stocks, which role do collective actors such as political networks or migrant communities play in these processes?
  • How are changes in the subjective, individual knowledge of space connected to institutional changes related to space?