Subprojects | Project Area B | Spaces of Digital Mediatisation

Peripheralized Rural Areas: Digitalization and the Constructions of Space

In the first funding phase, the project investigated the refiguration of spaces with regard to digitalization processes, digital practices, and changes in constructions of space in urban planning and development contexts since the 1970s. The focus lay on the increasing use of digital planning tools such as GIS and CAD. The analysis of all case studies, from New York City (USA) to Lagos (Nigeria) and Frankfurt/Main (Germany), showed that while digitization processes contain non simultaneous developments, the overall picture revealed significant similarities in the way shifts and changes in planning activities and the social construction of urban spaces are taking hold. A strong tendency towards translocal actions could be observed: Members of planning teams increasingly used digital systems to work spatially distributed, from widely separated workplaces on the same planning project in the development of a particular urban space, which may, in turn, also be located elsewhere. Only a few members of the planning team needed to have direct experience with the specific urban space in question. On the other hand, planers increasingly have to process very heterogenous sets of digital spatial data and thus have to contend with a high degree of spatial polycontexturality. As urban spaces have become more and more “datafied” and entered into digital computer worlds, planning related constructions of space are now further structured and coconstructed by these machine based processes. Another finding was that these changes did not tend to create tensions or conflicts, and despite an increase in the translocalization and polycontexturalization of actions, their reference points remained firmly anchored in urban contexts. Rural contexts did not come into view.

In the second funding period, the focus will shift from urban to – peripheralized – rural areas, in which we expect to see more tensions and conflicts related to changes in digitized planning actions. Research will continue to focus on the practices of actors directly involved in regional planning, but a further line of inquiry will look into practices of (regional) political actors and rural residents. Digitalization processes, digital practices and related changes in social constructions of space will continue to be at the heart of our investigations. Using the examples of South Korea and Chile, we ask: What kind of digitalization strategies have been pursued, and what kind of digitalization processes have taken place as a result? What kind of changes can be observed in the practices of key agents in relation to the available digital technologies and applications? How are social constructions of space in rural areas affected by these changes in the respective cultural contexts? We will examine the spatial figures that emerge from this constellation and investigate to what extent they clash or stand in conflict with each other. Data collection will be carried out through meta analyses, expert interviews, problem oriented interviews and participatory observations. Data analysis will utilize concepts based on the Grounded Theory approach.


Phase 1 (2018-2021)

Digital Urban Planning: Planning Practices and Physical Arrangements

The research is part of the project area “Spaces of Communication” investigating transformations in communicative action resulting from mediatisation processes, and their implications for the refiguration of space. The aim is to specifically research transformations in urban planning across the globe, using the example of new digital technologies and communication media. Three questions form the core of our research:


  • How can digitisation in urban planning since the 1970s be described and systematised?
  • How have urban planning practices changed against the backdrop of digitisation processes, and what spatial constitutions of planning go along with these changes?
  • How have material and physical arrangements of urban development changed on the basis of digital planning and relative to previous arrangements (comparing analogous plans) in the 1960s?


Three interconnected areas will be taken into account regarding digital planning practice: urban structural planning, especially work based on geographical information systems (GIS) for the processing of rather diverse information; urban design planning, in particular work with tools such as computer aided design (CAD); and communicative planning with the participation of stakeholders and citizens involving the use of 2D- or 3D-simulation tools. Mediatisation processes are investigated using the examples of four cities on four continents: New York City (North America/USA), Lagos (Africa/Nigeria), Songdo (Asia/South Korea) and Frankfurt/Main (Europe/Germany).