Category Scientific articles
Time May 2013 to March 2014; 11 months
Editors Cornelia Thierbach, Anna Laura Quermann, Linda Hering and Nina Baur, editors of the special issue on “Spatial Analysis in the Social Sciences and Humanities. Towards Integrating Qualitative, Quantitative and Cartographic Approaches“ of the journal HSR (Historical Social Research/Historische Sozialforschung), 39 (2014) No. 2
Partners Sabine Reh, director of the Research Library on the History of Education (BBF) of the German Institute for International Educational Research (DIPF), professor of history of education at the Humboldt University of Berlin
Sabine Reh and I gave a lecture in April 2012 at the spring conference of the Section Methods of Qualitative Social Research in the German Society for Sociology at the University of Mainz. The conference topic was “Methodical challenges at the boundaries of the social world”. Our lecture “Doings of built spaces” discussed spaces as social actors. One year later, the editors of the HSR special issue published a call on “spatial methods”. Since the lecture, among other aspects, refered to methodical questions, we revised it and proposed it to HSR.
Although space is meanwhile a broadly accepted topic of social science, the methodical aspects related to it are seldom discussed. Often traditional methods of social science are transfered to spatial topics without considering the specific conditions of space. Our article developed a methodological approach, based on the special case of built space, which includes this specific conditions and makes use of them for research.
Starting point of the article were observations made during two empirical research projects, both based on an ethnographic approach – several aspects of how to empirically deal with built spaces were examined. Observation protocols of these examinations delivered material for the methodological parts of the article. A second source were theoretical work of Theodore R. Schatzki (considerations of space based on practice theory) and work discussing the notion of atmosphere (Martin Seel, Gernot Böhme).
The paper makes a methodological contribution to the question as to which part built space plays in social practices. In doing so, we firstly use practice theory according to Schatzki as a theoretical basis to clarify the relationship between space and activity. For that, it is important to overcome with Schatzki (and Heidegger) the difference between subjective and objective space. This is made possible by making “lived space” not independent of or dependent on subjectivity, but dependent on activity. In a second step, we will use an example of ethnographic observation to show under which conditions and advertencies it was possible to recognize space’s part in activity. We describe what appeared by chance in observation theoretically with the concept of atmosphere in the third part. This concept was introduced into the discourse on architecture by Böhme, it was rendered more precisely by Seel, and we try to connect it to our starting point in practice theory. After applying the concept of atmosphere methodologically on observation, we cautiously draw methodical consequences from this for observation of built spaces as part of social practices.
An abstract of the article, based on the lecture, was peer-reviewed and accepted. Based on this we wrote the full article for HSR.
Why is this a reference text?
The article is work in the field of basic research which is qualitative, empirical and interdisciplinary (social science, space theory, planning theory); and it is a text which was developed in cooperation and published in a noted journal in social science.