6.A multi-dimensional and multi-data approach for understanding socio-spatial inequality shaping and reshaping urban-rural transitional zones
Ava Lynam (Technische Universität Berlin, Germany)
Huang Huang (Tongji University Shanghai, China)
Fengqing Li (Shanghai University, China)
Utzig Lukas (Technische Universität Berlin, Germany)
Gaoli Xiao (Technische Universität Berlin, Germany)
The scale and pace of global urban expansion is resulting in conflicting and uneven socio-spatial development between city and countryside. Urban-rural interfaces have become operational landscapes of trans-local transformation, characterised by polarising socio-economic disparities and unequal resource distributions. Already two decades ago, urbanist Neil Brenner highlighted multi-scalar methodologies as crucial in understanding the social production of space within such planetary urbanisation. Despite this, multi-dimensional socio-spatial methodologies for studying inequality lack sufficient elaboration. While factors generating social inequality are more clearly outlined, spatial inequality remains comparatively fuzzy in definition and scope – yet holds great potential in revealing the production and reproduction of segregation. In rapidly transitioning ‘Global South’ contexts – in which space is not fixed, but fluid, shaped by layers of social activity – traditional methodologies may not capture all dimensions of inequality in hybrid and fragmented hinterlands. Our original methodological approach thus proposes a more comprehensive view of this entangled socio-spatial relationship, exploring what combinations of quantitative and qualitative methods – multi-scalar/data/dimensional/directional – reveal how social inequalities are reflected in spatial structure during rural-urban transformation, based on three interacting levels. At macro-scale (municipality), Big Data (Location Based Services) and computational spatial analysis (Space Syntax) identify patterns, trends, and flows in the spatial structure in terms of accessibility and distribution of urban-rural functions. At an identified meso-scale (neighbourhood) node, stakeholder analysis reveals negotiations and power relations that shape and reshape space. Finally, identified typologies of inequality at micro-scale (architecture) are described through detailed ethnographic and architectural mapping, analysing everyday meanings and experiences behind larger-scale networks and patterns. To test this methodological assemblage, an inductive pilot study – at Huangyan-Taizhou within the Yangtze River Delta, whose urban-rural interface is at the centre of globalised industrial upgrading processes – reveals interlinking drivers and factors of socio-spatial inequality, through generating a multi-scalar empirical visualisation of (im)mobilities, socio-economic networks, segregation patterns, and their impact on spatial form. Embodying a typical planetary urbanisation trajectory, the study at Huangyan can be scaled-up as a multi-data framework for interpreting socio-spatial inequality in other transitional global contexts, supporting the relocation of theory production.