1998 – 2018: 20 years of ISRA… an occasion to celebrate and reflect on sociology at TU Wien

29/30.11.2018 in the auditorium, Augasse 2-6, 1090 Vienna, first floor

When ISRA began its work in 1998, there was intensive discussion in politics, planning practice and science about “sustainable”, “social” and “participatory” urban development. The EU and some member states launched corresponding model projects and a “spatial turn” emerged in the social sciences. Twenty years later, the picture is currently ambivalent: While some of the demands of that time have meanwhile become practice, some endeavors could not keep their promises or have even been discontinued. In any case, social cohesion in European cities seems to have hardly increased and new challenges due to social and technological change are emerging.

We would now like to use the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of the Center of Sociology to critically examine some of the concepts that have shaped urban development in the light of current social, economic and political developments. We would also like to discuss in various formats where sociological clarification is needed today and how this can be structured. Three thematic clusters will structure joint debate and reflection.

Participatory planning, democracy and politics

Participation has meanwhile changed from a central demand of critical urban research to an ubiquitous principle, which should promote both the increase of effectiveness of spatial policy and the revival of local democracy. However, there are also more and more critical voices, which refer above all to the often exclusive character of participation formats and the appropriation by neoliberal strategies. Based on this ambivalence, the first workshop of our event deals with the question of how participatory planning can continue to meet its demands for effectiveness and democratization and which methods and approaches are increasingly needed for this.

Poverty, precarization and discrimination in the city

Bertolt Brecht’s epic theatre dealt with social conditions. The appeal was not directed at individual fates, but at embedding lifestyles in the logic of precarization. In accordance with Brecht, the Department of Sociology, together with actresses, brings current issues of social inequality and urban development to the stage. The play “Im Grätzel der Prekären” is set in Vienna, the textbook is taken from the challenges, approaches and case studies of spatial sociology research practice. A choir of interdisciplinary experts from theory and practice will comment and discuss the social relevance of the scenes.

Technology, innovation and society

“Technology for People” is the mission statement of the TU Vienna. Technology is always strongly interrelated with social developments. On the one hand, innovations rarely come about by chance, but mostly in connection with economic, social or other strategic interests; on the other hand, they have far-reaching effects on our everyday lives. The current challenges of digitization, its promotion and management are impressive proof of this. For many years ISRA has been dealing with social aspects of technological change and, for example, with the individual and collective management of mobility and energy. Political, institutional and spatial contexts of innovation processes will also be addressed. The question will be examined: What social scientific foundation and support for technology development is necessary for shaping a socially, economically and ecologically sustainable transformation – and what can the center of sociology at TU Wien contribute to this? In this workshop we want to exchange and network in a transdisciplinary way about future “potentials and needs” of this area.