• Salzburg / Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0
  • Salzburg at night / License: CC-BY-SA 3.0

What social geography reveals..

In his remarkable book "Generative Social Science – Studies in Agent-Based Computational Modeling" Joshua Epstein (2006: 5) posed the Generativist’s Question:

"How could the decentralized local interactions of heterogeneous agents generate the given regularity?"

The stimulating question and the quest of appropriate answers imply a couple of complementary and relational topics social geography is dealing with. One is the range of social units between individual and collective – be it local communities or regional, national or global societies. Another is (de-)cen-tralization: a plurality of scopes of freedom is embedded into centralized frames, bounded by social and legal norms, cultural ideologies, and economic patterns of behavior. Furthermore, heterogeneous agents at the micro level undergo a metamorphosis through aggregation leading to more or less homogeneous social-spatial entities, covering de facto inequalities of income, societal and economic participation, belongingness, recognition, and access to all kinds of markets. And regularity is, at least partly, associated with the perception of patterns – perceived not necessarily by the agents themselves, but from a second-order observation plateau.
All these notions, concepts and imaginations are part of a social geography which considers the relations or ties between society and space. In so doing, it oscillates theoretically and epistemologically from the very abstract – how to perceive, imagine, or reflect upon things which cannot be sensed directly – to the very concrete – how do poor immigrants live in an urban district of, say, London? According to Bruno Latour (Reassembling the Social, 2005: 174) we are applying an infra-language, “… such as the weak terms of ‘group’, ‘actor’, ‘agency’, ‘translation’, and ‘fluid’. Like the notion of network, they don’t designate "what" is being mapped, but "how" it is possible to map anything from such a territory. They are part of the equipment lying on the geographer’s desk to allow him to project shapes on a sheet of paper”.
Thus, social geography should keep in mind some overarching assumptions we are persuaded of being relevant for scientific reasons: (1) a consequent model theoretical thinking. There is no such thing like ‘reality’; we are always dealing with models which refer to other models representing an original but no absolute truth or reality. (2) Context(ualization) is relevant even if we cannot redraw a holistic network of relationships. An action, an association, a global debate: each time we achieve a good understanding if we create contexts between and among entities. (3) Scale matters! And: draw a distinction! Contexts, entities, relations, and interdependencies change by a variation of scale – and scale is meant as a threefold unification of spatial, temporal and social differences.

To put it in a nutshell: “Geography is intrinsically a hermeneutic science; it makes relationships visible. What geography reveals, it does so in a context” (Elmar Holenstein in his Philosophie-Atlas, 2004 (in German)).


Energy and social Injustice

The anthology presents the current status of energy poverty, energy policy and social injustice and analyses basic coherences and determinants between Germany and Europe. Since years, and not only in the course of energy transition, energy prices of private households in Germany have rised. This development concernes different social groups in different ways, what on the other hand is varyingly strong absorbed by the welfare state. But it is thanks to the persistent debate on rising electricity prices in the course of energy transition in Germany that  topics such as energy poverty and cost burden arouse the public's interest. At the same time it becomes clear that until recently scientific study of interdependencies between energy systems and social injustice in Germany had been a underexposed research area with just a little pioneering work. The aim of the anthology is to present the scientific work of the last years and their findings.

Großmann K., Schaffrin A. & Smigiel C. (Eds.) (2016): Energie und soziale Ungleichheit. Zur gesellschaftlichen Dimension der Energiewende in Deutschland und Europa. Wiesbaden, Springer.


Job advertisement: W2-chair for analysis and monitoring of urban regions

The Faculty of Georesources and Material Engineering of the RWTH Aachen University is searching with the Research Institute for Regional and Urban Development (ILS) for a W2-chair for analysis and monitoring of urban regions. GIS-expertise is a prerequisite. For details, see the attached pdf.


GeoComPass SALZBURG – Geographische Gesellschaft Salzburg

The geographical society GeoComPass SALZBURG was founded on October 16 2015. It is an event platform for spreading and supporting geographical knowledge and a society for everyone who is interested in Geography and its neighbouring disciplines.

GeoComPass SALZBURG has a program-cooperation with the Geographische Gesellschaft Passau e.V. – GeoComPass. GeoComPass SALZBURG offers at least ten events a year which alternating take place at the OVAL – Die Bühne im EUROPARK and the Blue lecturer hall at the Faculty of Natural Sciences. Lectures of well-known characters and excursions under expert guidance of the GeoComPass UNTERWEGS are on the agenda.

For further information visit the website of GeoComPass SALZBURG.


Petra Zerbes (alumna of the University of Salzburg) won science award of the chamber of labour of Salzburg

The chamber of labour of Salzburg awarded a science and promotion prize. A top-class jury with representatives of many universities of the federal state selected the best scientific paper. 19 prizes were awarded in four categories. Before an attendance of 100 guests, the prizes were awarded in the AK-hall on the 23 November 2015.

One of the winners of the science prize is Petra Zerbes. Her diploma thesis is called “Social vs. ethnic segregation on the example of Salzburg – Two city districts under comparison”. The diploma thesis scrutinizes the phenomenon of the social and ethnic segregation and their spatial impact on the city of Salzburg. Especially the city districts Lehen and Parsch are examined, as there is an unequal distribution of their residential population. The analysis is based on various socio-economic and ethnic characteristics. The overall aim is to generate a consistent description of the selected city districts regarding to their segregation phenomena or socio-spatial conditions. This is done by a comparison between expert interviews, statistical data and specialist literature.

Congratulations to Petra Zerbes to the science award of the chamber of labour!

PLUS Geronto Netzwerk.

Scientists from various disciplines are giving are lecture series on "Aging and Being Old" this winter term at the University of Salzburg. Prof. Dr. Andreas Koch is involved in this "Geronto network" and talks about „Societal challenges on demographic aging“ on December the 17th 2015 18:45 in HS 402 Blauer Hörsaal.

Get further information about other speakers and dates here.


International Land Use Symposium (ILUS) 2015 - Trends in Spatial Analysis and Modelling of Settlements and Infrastructure

November 11 – 13, 2015 in Dresden

In mid-November, there will be an international symposium about “international land use” in Dresden, where leading academics and interested attendees will present and discuss about this topic.


Under the rubric “Call for Abstracts”, students can submit papers of one of the topics. The deadline ends at July 15, 2015. For further information read up on the website.

Examination topics for a master or diploma examination at the department of social geography

In this pdf file you can get all important information to examination topics for a master or diploma examination.

Exploring Social and Spatial Opportunities to Move Within a City. A Resident’s Perspective on Urban Mobility.

The unequally distributed opportunities for being mobile lead to consequences on mobility patterns of individuals and distinct social groups within urban environments. In- and exclusion processes occur that have wide influence on social and spatial inequalities and by this considerable effect the quality of life of urban residents. Placement and movement of objects, humans and locations are constantly in transition; also relations between them are altering (Urry 2006). Meanwhile the structures of inequality in space are institutionalized by repetitive behaviour of urban citizens (Löw 2001) and varying extension of action spaces and different levels of local knowledge among residents strengthen inequalities in distribution, utilization and acquisition of urban space. 

DONAT, Elisabeth & KOCH, Madeleine (2015): Exploring Social and Spatial Opportunities to Move Within a City. A Resident’s Perspective on Urban Mobility. University of Salzburg, Department of Geography and Geology, Geographies of Uneven Development – Working Paper, 02/2015, No. 6 https://www.sbg.ac.at/gew/WPseries06.pdf

Inequality with Ordinal Data. Cross-Disciplinary Review of Methodologies and Application to Life Satisfaction in Europe

Ordinal data are ubiquitously available and frequently employed in empirical research. A review of methodological approaches from various scientific fields shows that in different fields of the social sciences rather distinct methods for measuring inequality are applied without appreciating works in other disciplines. Synthesizing these works leads to the proposal of a research design, which combines dominance criteria and inequality measures from different families. This design is applied to the most recent data on life satisfaction in Europe, a field of research continuing to gain political importance but typically building on questionable methodologies. Hence, empirical results presented are valuable in several respects. One important finding is that specific measures are not consistent as re-rankings frequently occur. It seems this is not primarily due to the underlying data being ordinal, but more because dominance can hardly be found. Indeed, the underlying 0-10 Likert-scale appears to cause a dilemma as the Allison-Foster principle of dominance turns out to be restrictive when applied to relatively dense scales. 

SCHODER, Jörg (2014) Inequality with Ordinal Data. Cross-Disciplinary Review of Methodologies and Application to Life Satisfaction in Europe. University of Salzburg, Department of Geography and Geology, Geographies of Uneven Development – Working Paper, 12/2014, No. 5

Agent-based Modeling and Simulation in Archaeology

Agent-based simulation goes beyond social sciences. The book “Agent-based Modeling and Simulation in Archaeology” concerns with the “re-enactment” and “visualisation” of possible scenarios of the field of Archaeology for a wider audience.
Andreas Koch participated in this book too with the chapter „Geosimulation: Modeling Spatial Processes“ (p. 99 – 118).

Koch A. Geosimulation: Modeling Spatial Processes. In: Wurzer G., Kowarik K. and H. Reschreiter (eds.): Agent-based Modeling and Simulation in Archeology. Advances in Geographic Information Science, Springer, 2014, p. 99-118.



Working Papers

The research group Social and Economic Geography of the Department of Geography and Geology - University of Salzburg - has released some preliminary scientific papers that can be found here:
Working Papers (Geographies of Uneven Development)

The main purpose of these papers is to share our recent research with other social scientists, to make our findings available to interested readers and to elicit feedback on our work.  Whereas the specific topics of the working papers cover different research areas, the common denominator of all these papers are Geographies of Uneven Development.


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