Press release | 25 November 2021 | sn

How the Tension Between the Digitalized Dissolution of Borders and Renationalization Is Reordering the World

German Research Foundation to fund spatial research within the “Refiguration of Spaces” Collaborative Research Center for a further four years

The German Research Foundation (DFG) is extending funding for Berlin's Collaborative Research Center (CRC) 1265 “Refiguration of Spaces” for a further four years. The CRC’s spokespersons are Professor Dr. Martina Löw, head of the Chair of Sociology and Planning of Architecture at TU Berlin, and Professor Dr. Hubert Knoblauch, head of the Chair of General Sociology at TU Berlin.

Deep uncertainty

CRC 1265 examines the current rapid transformation occurring in society from the perspective of spatial reorganization. Research builds on the observation that human spaces are being restructured as a result of digitalization, new trends in globalization, and now increasingly as a consequence of the pandemic. This results in new challenges as well as a deep uncertainty in everyday life. The researchers have examined changes in both constructed and cyber-physical spaces as well as subjectively experienced spaces. The topics investigated thus far by CRC 1265's fifteen subprojects include everyday life in digitalized spaces, digital surveillance in control rooms, spatial knowledge and spatial appropriation of children and young adults, appropriation processes in refugee accommodation, the public sphere in the social web, and a cross-generational comparison of the sense of security and insecurity.

Identifying dominant spatial figures

Work during the first funding phase (2018-2021) focused on elaborating basic concepts of social theory related to the spatiality of society and on empirically identifying the qualitative features of refiguration. Two dominant spatial figures were initially identified:  territorial space, formed through boundary demarcation, such as state territories, camps, or even playgrounds, and network space, produced through a logic of association and linking spatial elements in a network, such as translocal communication networks. In the course of the research, however, the role of trajectorial space as a central spatial figure also became clear, for example in the logistics of goods transport or in establishing new urban developments in South Korea. Place as a pivotal point of multiple modes of reference has also become even more relevant.


"CRC 1265 can now substantiate the initial observation that societies worldwide are changing in terms of their spatial tensions: The last few decades have been marked by the interplay - as well as conflicts - between spatial figures that are simultaneously effective in their action due to their contradictory logics. The tension between spatial figures has become more than clear during the coronavirus crisis. We can see this in the closing of borders and public spaces as a result of curfews on the one hand and the explosive global spread of the virus and the digital networking of isolated private spaces and screens on the other," Martina Löw explains.

Focus on the role of conflicts

The second research phase, for which funding has now been approved, will focus on the role of conflicts in processes of spatial construction, particularly in and between spatial figures. These include conflicts at the level of knowledge and action, socioeconomic conflicts in cities, geopolitical-macroterritorial conflicts, and conflicts relating to climate justice. Focusing on these similarities and differences as well as the multiple interconnections between the spaces studied in widely different societies around the globe, the CRC will continue to systematically pursue its comparative perspective concerning multiple spatialities. The project also plans to expand its area of focus to include areas such as West Africa, India, China, and Peru. This will be supported by CRC 1265's numerous international cooperative relationships as well as through its collaboration with the Global Centre of Spatial Methods for Urban Sustainability (SMUS) at TU Berlin. "One of the goals of the CRC is to relate changes in spatial knowledge, spatial actions, and spatial regimes around the globe so as to develop a comprehensive picture of the reordering of the social," says Professor Dr. Hubert Knoblauch.

Art as a communicator of research

In addition to qualitative methods, the CRC will further expand its repertoire by incorporating more quantitative data and mixed methods research. To ensure a sustainable mode of handling the wide range of digital and digitized research data and improve this for social sciences, CRC 1265 has also come up with an idea for an infrastructure project for developing data management. Meanwhile an art project reflects on and communicates the content of the research to a broader public.

"CRC 1265 is thus well on the way to achieving a unique interdisciplinary alliance by incorporating spatial sociology, architecture, art, planning, geography, communication science, and - in the next funding phase - urban anthropology within spatial research," says Löw. The research findings of this interdisciplinary group are now available to a wider public in an entertaining and accessible illustrated publication developed in cooperation with two female artists.

The project’s other participating institutions are FU Berlin, HU Berlin, the University of Münster (until 2020), the Leibniz Institute for Research on Society and Space (IRS), Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, and the Berlin-based German Institute for Economic Research (DIW). CRC 1265 also includes an integrated research training group for doctoral researchers.


"Räume in Veränderung. Ein visuelles Lesebuch. Ein- und Ausblicke des interdisziplinären Forschungsverbundes zur Refiguration von Räumen"

eds. Johanna Hoerning and Philipp Misselwitz in cooperation with,
Jovis Verlag GmbH Berlin 2021, 243 pages,
ISBN 978-3-86859-721-9 (Softcover),
ISBN 978-86859-993-0 (PDF),


Prof. Dr.

Martina Löw

Chair of Sociology and Planning of Architecture

Prof. Dr.

Hubert Knoblauch

Chair of General Sociology