Research Department: Dynamics of Economic Spaces
Project Leader within IRS: Prof. Dr. Oliver Ibert
Duration: 01/2015 - 12/2018
The lead project looks at new places of creative knowledge collaboration. These places go by different names, e.g. fab labs, coworking spaces or maker's spaces. What they all have in common, however, is the fact that they are permanent organisations which make workspaces and technical infrastructure available to users temporarily, thus demonstrating a high degree of social (curated) openness. In these places, actors are brought together in order to encourage creative work results. It is typical for such places that creative enquiry starts from everyday problems. These places, therefore, offer an alternative to traditional research and development, which strives to fill disciplinary knowledge gaps. The scientists are exploring such places as “local anchors” where ideas are developed further for a certain period of time but without binding them permanently to these places. Furthermore, they regard trans-local knowledge communities (“communities of practice”) as increasingly important for knowledge creating processes. Members of such communities may collaborate across large physical distances but at the same time form these new places.
The increasing popularity of these open places all over the world poses urgent research questions, which are the subject of this lead project. First, the conceptual question arises how territorial and topological notions of space can be combined in order to better grasp the new phenomenon. Second, hardly any research has been done into the effect of these places on the development of the regions they are based in. Do the positive impulses for the region (e.g. new jobs thanks to spin-offs or the strengthening of regional innovation capabilities) outweigh any problematic side effects (e.g. "idea drain", i.e. when international companies use these places to channel ideas away from the region)? Third, this raises questions concerning the uncertainties for knowledge workers as regards these open forms of knowledge sharing. How are uncertainties distributed in relation to individual contributions, and the individual benefits derived from ideas? Which individual ways of dealing with these uncertainties have been established and what role do the concrete places play here? These questions are examined in internationally comparative research in case studies for Berlin, Amsterdam and Detroit, particularly by conducting semi-structured interviews.