The research department focuses on communicative action and knowledge processes in spatial transformations. It examines how communicative action facilitates the emergence and dissemination of new spatial knowledge, social processes and material configurations of space. The current fields of work in the department include: spatial transformations by innovative processes in structurally weak areas; by digitalisation processes in the context of urban planning and design as well as by processes of climate change adaptation in cities and regions.

With regard to structurally weak areas, the department examines how innovative ideas, practices and projects of spatial development emerge, become established and spread. These ideas, practices and projects are also referred to as "social innovations". In this context, attention is given to the innovation-driven communicative action of local policymakers, public authorities, civil society actors, and social entrepreneurs. The investigation of digitalised forms of action in the fields of urban planning and design is focused on the question of how far changes in planning practices itself, but also in the constitution of public spaces (e.g. by digitalised processes of communicative planning) as well as in material and spatial arrangements can be observed. The research on climate change examines how global challenges due to climate impacts are perceived and discursively processed in different ways on a national, regional or local level, in particular how socio-cultural factors shape the ways vulnerability is perceived and resilience is constructed.

Ongoing lead project

Smart cities are often talked about – but smart villages? Rural areas, particularly in structurally weak regions, are often affected by out-migration and a growing backlog in digital infrastructure and innovation dynamics. Both trends reinforce each other. However, there are examples of villages in which innovative initiatives do not just strive to compensate for deficits, but develop new, situation- and problem-specific local solutions. In doing so, they combine new services with creative uses of digital technologies and sometimes improved digital infrastructures. In this lead project, such initiatives, driven by ‘smart villagers’, are analysed from the perspective of ‘societal innovations’, yet with an emphasis on the aspects of mediatization and digitalization. more

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

28. October | 2021 - 30. October | 2021
Third International Conference of the Collaborative Research Centre (SFB 1265) „Refiguration of Spaces“

Since 2018, the collaborative research centre SFB 1265 “Refiguration of Spac-es” has brought together more than 60 researchers from the disciplines of sociology, architecture, urban plan-ning, geography, media and commu-nication studies. Following the central hypothesis of the SFB that the radical changes in socio-spatial orders which have emerged since the late 1960s require a new concept and theories beyond globalisation, the forthcoming international conference will invite renowned international scholars and a wide-ranging academic and transdis-ciplinary audience to discuss prelimi-nary research outcomes. more infos

Photo: Ingo Bartussek/
17. November | 2021

The pandemic not only confronts political actors with the enormous task of finding answers to the infection processes and how to deal with it in society, but also researchers are confronted with new challenges in adapting their research to the transforming socio-spatial conditions. Former research designs lose their validity, field approaches have to be redefined, and social actors in public space become invisible. more infos