Photo: Petrovich12/

During the past three decades we have witnessed nothing less than a digital revolution. Digitalisation refers to a long-term process in the course of which more and more parts of social and economic life are being captured by digital technologies and the digitisation of human action. Digitalisation can thus be seen as the most disruptive part of the history of the mediatization of societies.

Foto: Monkey Business/

The time when rural areas were written off wholesale is over. However, this image change has been underway for some time. Small rural towns are becoming increasingly attractive. Newcomers and old residents are revitalising villages, sometimes even in structurally weak regions far from the urban centres.

Photo and Logo: European Creative Hubs Network Association

Coworking spaces, FabLabs and Maker Spaces have so far been predominantly found in large cities. But such "collaborative workspaces" are increasingly being established in rural areas, where they provide access to digital technologies and other work resources. A new EU-funded Innovative Training Network (ITN) is now studying the effects of such places. The IRS is involved with its research department "Dynamics of Economic Spaces".

Foto: rh2010/

In fashion design, very diverse competences are combined to create something new. Increasingly, this is done via specialized digital platforms. The interplay of various platforms in creative design processes – labeled the “platform ecology” – as well as the interplay of online and offline interaction, are the topic of the lead project in research department “Dynamics of Economic Spaces”.

Foto: urbans78/

Transportation, energy, communication – how do infrastructure networks get to be labelled as “critical infrastructures”? In its lead project, the research department “Institutional Change and Regional Public Goods” looks at the construction of criticality. Urban climate adaptation and energy transitions serve as fields of study.

Foto: dusanpetkovic1/

Digitalisation is more than broadband access. How do villages shape and use digital technologies to solve their problems? Who are the drivers and which problems occur? In its lead project, the research department “Dynamics of Communication, Knowledge and Spatial Development” investigates the pathways of digitalisation in rural areas.

Migration: Governance-dilemmata of Cities

This research project investigates the dynamics of urban policy formulation in response to international migration.

Foto: flashpics/

For a long time, in historical research on the GDR and the FRG, the opposition of ideologies and systems took centre stage. However, there were parallel developments too. The Department for Historical Research in its lead project looks at socio-spatial disparities in both German states, tracing both differences and commonalities.


Research at the IRS is focused on the spatial aspects and contexts of social action. In doing so, spatial phenomena are explored in terms of both processual and historical dimensions using social-scientific methods.


13. October | 2021
Interview with Early Stage Researchers Federica Ammaturo and Chen Gao on the CORAL Innovative Training Network’s Introductory Event

In September 2021, the members of the EU-funded Marie Sklodowska Curie Innovative Training Network (2021-2024) “CORAL ” met online for their one-week Introductory Event. For the first time, all 15 newly recruited Early Stage Researchers (ESRs) employed by the network’s nine partner organisations were able to meet and exchange. At the IRS and supervised by Suntje Schmidt, Federica Ammaturo and Chen Gao are currently starting their research on the roles of rural collaborative workspaces in regional development and in entrepreneurial ecosystems respectively. Here, they share their impressions of the event and their experiences of starting work in an EU-network – and in almost-rural Erkner, where the IRS is located. more info

29. September | 2021

An article co-authored by IRS researcher Peter Eckersley, together with Charlotte Burns (Department of Politics, University of Sheffield) and Paul Tobin (School of Social Sciences, University of Manchester), has been awarded the 2020 “Best Paper Prize” by the Journal of European Public Policy. The paper, “EU Environmental Policy in Times of Crisis”, quantifies the level of ambition of European environmental legislation and tracks the decline of ambition following the global financial crisis of 2009. more info

19. July | 2021
Reflections on the International and Transdisciplinary Conference “Emerging from Emergencies. Exploring CRISIS as a Dynamic Opportunity Structure“

Brexit, climate change, armed conflicts - are we really living in times of permanent crisis? And what does this imply for the way society should deal with crises? How can crises be used productively to learn in the long term? These questions and others were addressed at the online conference "Emerging from Emergencies". The conference opened up a perspective on a more proactive, more reflective and more open approach to crises. more info

14. June | 2021

Researching the connection between social change and spatial transformation - that is the mission of the IRS. In the future, the Institute will increasingly focus on disruptive forms of change, on crises, conflicts, technological and economic upheavals, because these increasingly shape the actions of social actors. more info

New Publications

01. July | 2021

Universities are increasingly investing in offshore locations, partly to generate revenue in the form of tuition fees, partly to achieve reputational gains. There are currently almost 500 offshore campuses worldwide. At the same time, campuses are also being closed every year. The Junior Research Group TRANSEDU, headed by Jana Kleibert, investigates the internationalisation strategies of universities. Under the title "Strategy First: Ten Questions to Answer before Starting an International Campus", Jana Kleibert, Tim Rottleb, Marc Schulze and Alice Bobée have now presented a policy paper that addresses university leaders and political decision-makers and analyses the risks of international campus developments. more info

15. June | 2021

Under the title "Nationale Solidarität und ihre Grenzen. Die deutsche 'Nationalsozialistische Volkswohlfahrt' und der französische 'Secours national' im Zweiten Weltkrieg" (National Socialist People's Welfare in Germany and the French 'Secours national' in the Second World War), the Stuttgart-based Franz Steiner Verlag published the dissertation by Daniel Hadwiger, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department for Historical Research. In his dissertation, Hadwiger examined the political instrumentalisation of welfare in the Nazi state and in the Vichy regime in a transnational comparison. more info

25. January | 2021

Over several years, the research unit "Dynamics of Communication, Knowledge and Spatial Development" has been researching how social innovations are driven in rural areas, what problems they can solve and how they can be supported politically. Now it is publishing recommendations for practice; on the one hand in the form of a German-language policy paper, on the other hand in the form of an English-language practice manual. more info

more publications