People in front of a building

Understanding how human activity is arranged in space and time (Copyright: Universität Wien/Barbara Mair)


The aim of this key research area is to understand how human activity is arranged in space and time, shapes our planet’s environment, and is at the same time affected by it. The ongoing global transformations in both societies and economic orders result in dynamically changing spatial patterns at various scales (local-global, north-south, urban-rural). They are driven by rapid social, economic, demographic, technological and ecological changes. This key research area seeks to understand socio-spatial dimensions of these changes – such as population dynamics, migration flows or the economic restructuring, and assess their socioeconomic and ecological implications.

This key research area focuses particularly on urbanization dynamics, as urban areas are nodal points of transformations processes. Research activities address issues such as migration and integration, urban disparities and gentrification, as well as cities as risk areas and as centers for new development pathways like, e.g., green economy. Urban areas are analyzed in their relations to rural areas, where topics as livelihoods security, environmental conservation, as well as the mobilization of endogenous development potentials and the anchorage of exogenous development stimuli are being examined.

This key research area conducts empirical grounded and theory driven research on socio-spatial processes, problems and conflicts. An emphasis is placed on the transfer into geography and economic education in schools. The overarching goal is to contribute to the scientific   foundation for reflexive societal engagement with complex socio-spatial processes and informed planning decisions for sustainability transitions.