Call for Applications for the 2nd IRS Spring Academy 2018: Investigating Spaces – Virtuality and Socio-Materiality

Join us for the IRS Spring Academy for doctoral and early postdoctoral researchers

Investigating Space(s):
Current Theoretical and Methodological Approaches:
Part 2 Virtuality and Socio-Materiality
22 to 25 May 2018
Leibniz Institute for Research on Society and Space (IRS) in Erkner, near Berlin

In the past two decades the interdisciplinary field between spatial and social sciences has undergone an extraordinarily dynamic development with a high potential for innovation. On the one hand, many social-scientific disciplines performed a "spatial turn" and became more interested in integrating spatial concepts and terminology. On the other hand, disciplines like human geography or spatial planning, understand space less as an exclusive object of analysis and instead emphasize a "spatial perspective" as a shared ontological ground. This has opened up a broad "trading zone" within which novel conceptualizations of space and spatiality are negotiated in an inter-disciplinary field. Against this background, the Leibniz Institute for Research on Society and Space (IRS) together with different academic partners and supported by the Volkswagen Foundation organizes a series of three successive Spring Academies entitled "Investigating Space(s): Current Theoretical and Methodological Approaches".

Each event focuses on different aspects of the emergent thriving field. The opening event, on "Temporality and Procedurality", already took place in 2017. Part 2 on "Virtuality and Socio-Materiality" is addressed with this call for applications and will take place from 22 to 25 May 2018. Part 3 on "Topologies" will follow in 2019.

The IRS Spring Academy (Part 2) is organized with the participation of the collaborative project :: Weizenbaum Institute for the Networked Society, funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

Part 2 on "Virtuality and Socio-Materiality"
This IRS Spring Academy focuses on the manifold impacts of digitalization and on related social scientific ways of conceiving space.Digitalization circumscribes a technological revolution, encompassing all kinds of rapidly developing information and communication technologies, but in particular the rise of the Internet. Online platform providers have ascended powerful positions and influence major parts of our lives. Under their influence, entire industries transform, decline or emerge. If initially the discourse on digital geographies was characterized by the spatially unequal access to the Internet ("digital divide") and on infrastructural topics and impacts on regional development, more recently the focus of the debate has shifted towards the ubiquity of online worlds. The main potential of this interdisciplinary research strand lies less in sharply differentiating between qualities of "virtual" and "real" spaces, nor in the ongoing debates on the possibilities and restrictions to substitute face-to-face interaction with mediated communication. Rather, the most tempting research questions address the manifold overlaps of socio-material and virtual spaces and the complex interactions between both spheres. The extended options for synchronous and asynchronous communication and unprecedented possibilities of matching interests across huge distances give rise to completely new social practices in diverse fields of society, like digital labor, crowdfunding, virtual collaborative laboratories, transnational publics, digital planning tools or online communities to mention only few. These practices induce novel spatial representations. Spatial dependencies, inequalities and identities have undergone fundamental changes.

These novel spaces of the digital era call for far-reaching innovations in the repertoire of empirical social research. With the help of "netnographic" methods, for example, it becomes possible to record content data created in online forums, blogs or on crowdsourcing platforms. Yet, while the online interaction becomes more accessible to the researcher, the related socio-material practices in front of the screens disappear from the radar. We can only indirectly infer to them by registering some explicit or implicitl references to physical-material spaces in the online-generated data. Further, online platforms offer unprecedented ways of accessing huge amounts of data on social networks, on mechanisms of social inclusion and exclusion or on building reputation. At the same time, issues such as online-anonymity, multiple user identities or algorithms simulating human users ("social bots") obscure our observations of social behavior online.

The overarching goal of the IRS Spring Academy is to enable junior researchers from the social sciences to identify relevant research gaps, to encourage them to use a spatial perspective in their analyses and to learn from leading experts in the field about theoretical approaches and innovative methods for empirical work. Participants will have the opportunity to present their projects in paper pitch formats and to access leading experts for one-on-one consultancies. We therefore cordially invite doctoral and early postdoctoral researchers in the social sciences, geography and history to join us for an interesting program to discuss their own research with internationally leading scholars and their peers.

The IRS Spring Academy combines well-tried and proven formats such as lectures and seminars with less common formats such as doing-research workshops, paper pitches, or academic speed networking. It offers various possibilities to exchange ideas, to discuss current concepts and methodological approaches, as well as to getting feedback on one's own research projects from leading scholars in the field.

Keynote Speakers

* Samuel Kinsley | University of Exeter, UK

* Gertraud Koch | Universität Hamburg, Germany

* Matthew A. Zook | University of Kentucky, USA

Guest Lecturers

* Annett Heft | Freie Universität Berlin and Weizenbaum Institute for the Networked Society, Germany

* Brian J. Hracs | University of Southhampton, UK

* Daniel Maier | Freie Universität Berlin, Germany

* Daniela Stoltenberg | Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster, Germany

This call for applications closes on 3 March 2018.

Heiderose Kilper, Oliver Ibert

Leibniz Institute for Research on Society and Spacer (IRS), Flakenstraße 29-31, 15537 Erkner
Einstein Center Digital Future, Wilhelmstraße 67, 10117 Berlin
Contact For inquiries please contact Karina Böhm:
phone: +49 3362 793-204