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Professor Löw on the new project

The transformation of spaces - what kind of society are we living in today?

Prof. Dr. Martina Löw, spokesperson for the Collaborative Research Center on the Refiguration of Spaces and Chair for the Sociology of Planning and Architecture:

In our research on spaces, we are focusing on three questions. Firstly, what new spatial orders are emerging as a result of globalization, digitalization and increased mobility? Secondly, what power relations do these entail? And thirdly, what are the key characteristics of the refiguration of spaces, i.e. the transformation of spaces that we are seeing as a result of processes such as globalization and digitalization.

The starting point for our research is essentially one problem: as the pace of daily life increases, we are observing a phenomenon referred to as the "polycontexturalization" of space. This means that our actions have to simultaneously span very different spaces, of varying scope and quality. Different contexts are made relevant. You can get a good sense of this when you consider the increasing ubiquity of surveillance technologies and screens in our everyday lives. The concepts of ‘near and far away’ are shifting. Distant objects and events [feel increasingly close,] are increasingly important for our immediate surroundings,and our actions are informed by highly complex spatial relations.
We are examining border zones and spaces, which are becoming more and more important. We are exploring spaces where tourism takes places, but also economic spaces, political spaces - and, of course, urban spaces are particularly important.

Currently, almost half the population of Europe says that it fears globalization. The other half argues that globalization is important and a major opportunity. What we are experiencing is a kind of rift in European societies. If you look more closely, this is not just a case of  right or left policies or the gap between rich and poor, but it crucially involves ideas and notions about what kind of spaces will offer us security, well-being or simply a sense of stability in the future. While some believe in closing themselves off, putting up barriers and shutting out the unfamiliar, others believe in circulation, exchange and breaking down barriers. In either case we are dealing with spatial models,  which is why spatial analysis offers us an opportunity to see these conflicts from the outside and provide a unique analysis of the social negociation processes within a society that determine how we deal with spaces today and what we expect of them.

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