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Digital multilocality: Analyzing urban-rural linkages in the context of co-working spaces in the Swiss Alps

English title Digital multilocality: Analyzing urban-rural linkages in the context of co-working spaces in the Swiss Alps
Applicant Mayer Heike
Number 183231
Funding scheme Digital Lives
Research institution Geographisches Institut Universität Bern
Institution of higher education University of Berne - BE
Main discipline Social geography and ecology
Start/End 01.12.2018 - 31.12.2020
Approved amount 115'175.00
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Keywords (5)

digitalization; mountain economies; multilocality; Swiss Alps; urban-rural linkages

Lay Summary (German)

Lead
Die Digitalisierung entwickelte sich zu einem zentralen Bestandteil unseres alltäglichen Lebens. Insbesondere die Nutzung digitaler Technologien verändert zunehmend die traditionelle, ortsgebundene Form der Arbeitsverrichtung. Neue Arbeitsweisen und Kommunikationswege über Cloud-Softwares oder Apps ermöglichen es dieselbe Arbeit und Kommunikation mit Arbeitgebenden und Mitarbeitenden von unterschiedlichen Orten aus zu tätigen, wodurch auch die Innovationsleistung nicht mehr an einen spezifischen Ort gebunden ist. Dieses Projekt leistet einen Beitrag an die Erforschung der damit einhergehenden geographischen Veränderungen von Arbeit spezifisch im Hinblick auf Stadt-Land-Verbindungen.
Lay summary

In der Geographie dominierte in der Vergangenheit eine traditionell, dichotome Sichtweise auf Stadt und Land. Spätestens seit den 1970er Jahren rückten jedoch zunehmend auch deren Verbindungen in den Mittelpunkt des geographischen Interesses. Die Nutzung des Internets und digitaler Informations- und Kommunikationstechnologien (IKTs) führen zur Rekonfiguration von geographischer Distanz und von Beziehungen zwischen Stadt und Land. Insbesondere im Bereich der alltäglich verrichteten Arbeit lässt sich eine Verschiebung von der ortsabhängigen hin zur ortsungebunden Arbeitsweise feststellen. Dies führt zu multilokalen Lebensstilen, bei denen dieselbe Arbeit über digitale Kanäle in der Stadt sowie in abgelegenen Bergtälern (z.B. in Co-Working Spaces) ausgeführt werden kann. Aufgrund der zunehmenden Erschliessung von Bergregionen mit Breitbandinfrastruktur scheint sich dieser Trend auch in Zukunft noch weiterhin zu verstärken

In dieser Hinsicht ist es wichtig, die auf der Nutzung digitaler Technologien basierten Veränderungen der Arbeitsweise auch in geographischer Hinsicht zu verstehen. Das primäre Ziel dieses Projekts ist zu untersuchen, inwiefern die Digitalisierung die multilokale Arbeitsweise beeinflusst und zu verstehen welche räumlichen Veränderungen der Arbeitsverrichtung damit einhergehen. In einem übergeordneten Kontext interessiert, inwiefern sich die Verbindungen zwischen städtischen und ländlichen Räumen aufgrund eines multilokalen Lebensstils verändern bzw. neu konzipieren.

Unser Projekt, welches im Rahmen des SNF Forschungsprogramms «Digital Lives» durchgeführt wird, kombiniert Aspekte der Multilokalitätsforschung und der Wirtschaftsgeographie im Hinblick auf den Digitalisierungsprozess. Damit leistet das Projekt einen Beitrag an die wissenschaftliche und öffentliche Debatte über die Digitalisierung und an die Erarbeitung von vertiefenden Grundlagen über die Chancen und Risiken von ortsungebundenen Arbeitsweisen und den daraus resultierenden ökonomischen Vorteilen in der Schweiz.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 06.11.2018

Lay Summary (English)

Lead
Digital technologies have become a central part of our everyday lives. Their use challenges traditional forms of work. Nowadays, certain types of work tasks can be done in multiple locations via cloud software and Internet applications. Employees and entrepreneurs may work part of their workweek in a city and the other half in a rural/mountain location. This research project contributes to the analysis of changing geographic patterns of work due to the use of digital technologies. Through this focus, we pay special attention to newly emerging urban-rural linkages.
Lay summary

In geography, a traditional dichotomous perspective on urban and rural dominated for a long time. However, since at least the 1970s scholars have started to focus on the linkages and intricate connections between the urban and the rural. The use of the Internet and digital information and communication technologies (ICTs) reconfigures geographic distances and the relations between the urban and the rural. Especially in terms of everyday work, there a remarkable shift takes place from location dependent work to independent working arrangements. This shift enables multilocal lifestyles, through which the same work can be done in the urban and in the rural environment as well (e.g. in co-working spaces). In the future, this trend may intensify due to improved broadband development in mountain regions.

Concerning changing work arrangements, it is important to understand the use of digital technologies in a more geographic way. The primary aim of this project is to analyze how digitalization affects multilocal work arrangements and to understand which spatial changes of work operation go along with it. More generally, we would like understand how multilocal lifestyles challenge and reconfigure linkages between urban and rural spaces.

Our project, which is funded through the SNF “Digital Lives” program, combines aspects from research on digitalization, multilocality and economic geography. In this regard, the project contributes to the scientific and public debates about the potential and risk of digitalization on locally independent work arrangements and resulting economic benefits in Switzerland.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 06.11.2018

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Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
18th Swiss Geoscience Meeting 2020 Talk given at a conference Digital Multilocality: New Modes of Working between Center and Periphery in Switzerland 06.11.2020 Zürich (via Zoom), Switzerland Bürgin Reto;
Swiss Mobility Conference Talk given at a conference Digital Multilocality: Methodological and empirical insights into novel work arrangements between core and periphery in Switzerland 14.10.2019 Lausanne, Switzerland Bürgin Reto; Mayer Heike;
Deutscher Kongress für Geographie 2019 Talk given at a conference Digital Multilocality: Methodological and empirical insights into novel work arrangements between core and periphery in Switzerland 25.09.2019 Kiel, Germany Mayer Heike;
Digital Lives: Networking Event Poster Digital Multilocality: Analyzing urban-rural linkages in the context of co-working spaces in the Swiss Alps 17.01.2019 Bern, Switzerland Bürgin Reto;
Digital Futures Network Day Talk given at a conference Digital Multilocality:Analyzing urban-rural linkages in the context of co-working spaces in the Swiss Alps 04.12.2018 Lausanne, Switzerland Bürgin Reto; Mayer Heike;


Communication with the public

Communication Title Media Place Year
Media relations: print media, online media Heute hier, morgen dort - digital und ortsunabhängig arbeiten 36 Metron Themenheft: Von digitalen Städten und Dörfern German-speaking Switzerland 2020
Talks/events/exhibitions DIGITALE NOMADEN KONFERENZ SCHWEIZ 2019 German-speaking Switzerland 2019
Talks/events/exhibitions Digitalisierung: Eine Chance für die Peripherie? German-speaking Switzerland 2019

Abstract

Digital technologies have the potential to reshape our traditional understanding of geographical distance and, in particular, the relationship between the urban and the rural. Specifically, digital technologies enable businesses, entrepreneurs, workers, etc. to relocate part or all of their economic activities from central locations such as cities to more rural, peripheral environments such as, for example, mountain regions in the European Alps. What may result from these processes are multilocal living and working arrangements, a development we term `digital multilocality` and which describes the processes by which digital technologies such as the Internet and ICTs (e.g. laptops, smartphones, tablets) enable to live and work in multiple locations while interacting via Internet applications or social media with people in other places. This location-independent and multilocal digital lifestyle allows people to live in the countryside and to commute to their workplace in core regions just when face-to-face communication is needed. The potential of digitalization to transform the rural economy has been hailed especially by politicians, policymakers and lobbyists (Müller-Jentsch, 2017; Schweizerische Arbeitsgemeinschaft für die Berggebiete, 2017; von Stokar et al., 2018). Yet, it is unclear to what extent peripheral regions may indeed benefit economically, socially, politically and culturally from digital multilocality. We also do not know how the relationship of multilocals to cities is changing. Moreover, we do not have appropriate research methods with which we can analyze these novel forms of urban-rural linkages. With this exploratory research project we propose to examine the reconfiguration of the relationship between the urban and the rural through the use of digital technologies. We will utilize a mixed methods approach to study the economic practices of workers and entrepreneurs engaged in digital multilocal activities. Specifically, we will examine a sample of workers and entrepreneurs who work in cities and in Swiss mountain regions and who transit from the urban to the rural and back on a regular basis. These digital multilocals will be recruited in co-working spaces that are located in the Swiss Alps (e.g. Mia Engiadina in the Lower Engadine). We will explore the use of digital records, personal diaries, working participatory observations in the form of `walk-alongs` (Anderson, 2014; Rose et al., 2010) and semi-structured interviews to examine the ways in which digital multilocals create innovation and value added, contribute economically to the periphery and re-shape their relationship to the urban. The project fulfills the core requirement of the call “Digital Lives” regarding its innovativeness not merely through the use of digital data, but by combing digital data with data from qualitative social science research methods. We deem this process of `bricolage` (Denzin & Lincoln, 2005) central to any kind of exploration of the phenomenon digitalization in the context of urban-rural because a) traditional data on urban-rural linkages and multilocality such as commuting data are not appropriate to examine the impact of digitalization on the urban and the rural and b) human/economic geography has not paid enough attention to the changing nature of urban-rural linkages in a digital age.
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