Session 15

SMUSI_15- Measuring Change in Urban Space(s)

Research on change in urban areas has a long tradition in the social sciences and geography. Early on, researchers such as Georg Simmel, Karl Marx, and Émile Durkheim theorized and studied processes of urbanization and their impact on societal formations. In the beginning of the 20th century, ethnographic fieldwork by members of the Chicago School exemplified how humans interact with each other and their urban environment and how decisions in urban planning lead to social consequences in communities. Considering the manifold dimensions of human-spatial interactions in cities and the rapid pace of changes in urban areas, methods for the observation and measurement of change constantly need to be developed, revised, and adjusted. We understand space as a concept that is not merely defined as a physical area but as a central category of the social world. Thus, space shapes – and is shaped by – social interaction, relations, and processes. Change in urban space entails – among others – a social, functional, physical, and symbolic dimension. Taking as an example a metropolitan neighborhood, in- and out-migrations that change the neighborhood’s social structure constitute change in the social dimension, whereas the opening or closing of shops, restaurants, schools, or community centers represents functional change. The physical dimension refers to changes in buildings and other constructions, while the symbolic dimension deals with changes in discourse on the neighborhood and its image. These dimensions are, of course, strongly intertwined, e.g., the modernization of buildings and associated increases in housing costs change the social structure of the neighborhood, which affects its image, and so forth. On the whole, the multifaceted nature of changes in urban space calls for carefully tailored methodological concepts. During the last decades, scholars from all over the world have devoted their attention to the impacts that global developments such as climate change, the rise of ‘mega-cities’, war, migration, digitalization, etc. have on cities and their dwellers. Next to attracting researchers’ interest, these developments call for reactions by local agents such as city administrations, neighborhood communities, volunteers, and individuals in their day-to-day life, which again lead to a modification of urban spaces. As we do not understand cities as static entities, we want to continue the search for appropriate measures to picture spatial changes in cities and discuss new methods for investigating and measuring change in urban spaces, allowing for the processuality of cities. We are interested in abstracts that seek to answer, among others, the following questions:  Which methods can be effectively used to quantify different aspects of societal changes in urban spaces? How can we assess the effect of urban planning measures at a time when resilience is an essential requirement for cities? How can we compare people’s perceptions of space in urban areas over time? What are methodological strategies to measure the impact of fundamental challenges such as climate change, war, mass migration, and other crises in cities? What are the causes, circumstances, and effects of residents’ evictions from neighborhoods? Which space-related effects of increased social inequality and poverty can be detected in urban areas? How do increasing demands for security, e.g. surveillance measures such as increased police presence and video control or gated communities, affect the quality, perception, and image of public space and, therefore, the city as a whole? We will consider abstracts that focus mainly on methodological aspects observing change in cities and the perception of urban spaces. While urban residents are an integral part of urban space, abstracts submitted to our session should not solely cover changes in the lives and opinions of people, but always be tied back or related to spatial change, using data with a clear spatial reference. These data can be both quantitative and/or qualitative, such as survey, observational or administrative data. They should focus on one or more dimensions of urban space, such as social, functional, physical, or symbolical change. Besides social scientists, we also explicitly invite geographers, urban or spatial planners, as well as other scientists working with spatial data or having developed new methods for examining spatial change to participate in our session for a strong interdisciplinary perspective.