Urban spaces against the backdrop of population growth, demographic change and debates concerning sustainability have been characterising everyday life of an ever increasing number of people for decades.
In the context of urban building debates concerning the model urbanity through density, Salin, the Basel based expert in constitutional law, suggests as early as 1960 that urbanity cannot function as an isolated spatial formation but presupposes the contribution of residents in a political-social space. Urbanity is not an attribute of cities but a disposition of its inhabitants.
The Urban Space Research Network (USRN) thus assumes that urbanity is acquired, constructed and constituted through social interaction. On the one hand, urban space is spatially structured and modeled aesthetically by concepts of town planning and architecture, and on the other hand, it is generated by interactions, specifically communicative efforts. Throughout this, language is a central means of the formation of social and cultural identity in cities, as well as of evaluation and value of urban spaces.
Thus the interest in urban space not only as a developed surface but also in view of communicative action as a dimension of urban constructional process is common to the members of the USRN. Cities are not only built-up spaces with empirically verifiable agents, but they also work as communication areas in which urban identities are dynamically, and in networks discursively, negotiated.
Cities and districts are therefore constructed as social realities in ongoing communication processes and in dependence of the social dispositions of their inhabitants.
The research questions and methods of the network’s concern are multifarious and are oriented along the interdisciplinary interests of the USRN members.
The research conception of the USRN, starting from linguistic cognitional interest, would like to involve other subject disciplines and is therefore interested in an integration of communication and space oriented sciences. The point of reference for the different disciplines is thereby provided by the interest in the area of tension of space as cultivated object relation vs. space as communicational context and in the urban interplay of static and dynamic. Thereby, the coherence of language and space in its social and cultural dimensions is pivotal.
A possible goal is to formulate common criterions for the success and failure of urban structures in categories of social and cultural sciences thereby reflecting the global society model of condensed living critically and constructively as well as historically and presence orientated through interdisciplinary expertise. The socio-political relevance of large housing complexes may establish possible intersections with the administration and town planning and therefore has a functional relevance in the context of social development.
The USRN was established in 2009 at the Center for the Study of Language and Society at the University of Bern and is associated with the Chair for German Linguistics with the Inclusion of Interdisciplinary Linguistics at the University of Bremen as of 2010.
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