Research Agenda

The collaborative research center CRC 1265 brings together some 60 researchers from the disciplines of sociology, architecture, urban planning, geography, media and communication studies, urban anthropology and art 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 globalization. Our central hypothesis is that these conflicting transformation processes become more tangible if they are understood as a refiguration of spaces.

The first funding period of the CRC 1265

In its first phase, the research program focused on fleshing out the concept of the refiguration of spaces. The CRC’s work therefore concentrated on elaborating upon basic concepts of social theory related to the spatiality of society and on empirically identifying the qualitative features of refiguration. In this respect, the CRC identified four socially dominant spatial figures: territorial space, network space, trajectorial space, and place. These figures each exhibit different logics which can, in turn, generate tensions and conflicts. While modernity’s concept of space is abstract and based on the container model, the CRC was able to show that the constitution of space has today become increasingly polycontextural, meaning that an increasing number of different but simultaneous spatial references now come to impact actions. This polycontexturalization is closely tied to the increasing and spatial mediatization of communicative actions driven by digital communication technologies, which forces actors to act on different spatial scales at once. The mediatization of actions and the global circulation of human beings, goods and technologies lastly result in translocalization processes, i.e. dense interconnections between different sites and places. With this work, the CRC has taken an essential step towards an empirically grounded theory of contemporary social change as processual, spatial-communicative refiguration.

The second funding period of the CRC 1265

In its second phase, the CRC’s research focuses on (1.) social conflicts in and between different spatial figures. This conflict-theoretical approach is further linked to (2.) an in-depth exploration of the phenomenon of polycontexturalization and the way it is subjectively managed. The latter empirical task calls on the CRC to identify and differentiate new emerging spatial arrangements. Focusing on similarities and differences as well as the multiple interconnections of the spaces studied in widely different societies around the globe, the CRC moreover pursues a comparative perspective based on the concept of (3.) multiple spatialities. The CRC thereby accounts for the – at times conflictual – plurality of spatial knowledges, spatial actions and spatial regimes in order to gain a more nuanced understanding of these concepts. In addition to qualitative methods used to study refiguration, the CRC is further expanding its repertoire by incorporating more quantitative data and mixed methods research.

Expansion of study sites and perspectives

In order to achieve the decentering and decolonization of research perspectives necessary for the reorientation towards multiple spatialities, we want to further expand the diversity of our points of view and intensify co-interpretations. To this end, we invite a more encompassing participation of colleagues from the Global South and are expanding our empirical research by entering into close partnerships with colleagues whose spatial positionality further differentiate and attune the perspectives of the CRC.


Projectareas and Cooperations

In order to capture the characteristics of refiguration in empirical research in analytically precise ways, our investigations span from the level of subjective experience and vernacular knowledge of space to the level of the spatial relation between circulation and order, and finally, as a mediating element, the level of communicative actions, interactions and practices. Correspondingly, the empirical research of the 15 subprojects is organized into three key areas: “Knowledge of Space”, “Spaces of Digital Mediatization”, and “Circulation and Order”. Each area is led by interdisciplinary teams of experts from six different disciplines in the engineering and social sciences. Such interdisciplinary collaborations require innovative strategies to integrate the rather diverse set of methodological approaches, data and forms of presentation – a challenge which, among other initiatives, is met by the Method-Lab led by the ethnographer of science, Dr. Séverine Marguin. An independent infrastructure project is dedicated to the handling of the CRC’s extensive data corpora, as well as its data management and research data policy. Joint theory building will be moreover pursued in theory tandems, alongside the project areas, cross-sectional groups, workshops and plenaries themselves. Science communication involving social spheres beyond the university is carried out, among other activities, through a public relations and art project.

Key research questions are:

  • Which features are constitutive for the refiguration of spaces?
  • What kind of new arrangements in relation to space can be observed in performed actions?
  • What is the role of individual experiences, emotions and knowledge bases, 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 spatial changes?