Birgit Schelenz

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Transformation through community? Processes of collective subjectification in the context of sustainable developement

The joint project "Transformation through Community" (TransGem) aims to reconstruct the attractiveness of communities for politics, science and practice using current sustainability initiatives as examples. On the other hand, it explores their transformative potential and their socio-political consequences in order to gain reflection and orientation knowledge both for (political) dealing with and for acting in communities in dialogue with the partners in practice. Specifically, the project consortium is dedicated to the following questions: How do communities form as collective subjects of sustainable development with the participation of things, artefacts and technologies? What are the intended and unintended internal and external impacts of these communities? How are these to be assessed with regard to the sustainability-oriented transformation of society?

In the extension of current social science research on communities, together with concrete practices and their meanings, affects and emotions should also be considered as powerful 'cement' of collective subjectivation. The collaborative project is thus characterized by a unique theoretical and methodological design: The three cases will be examined in parallel from five subject-specific perspectives.

In the course of the project, the research results are continuously exchanged among each other and with the partners in practice. Thus, not only a transdisciplinary integration of disciplinary knowledge is achieved, but also a mutual information and challenge of different perspectives and knowledge types.

Runtime: April 2019 - March 2022

Promotion: Support Programme "Science for Sustainable Development" funded by the Lower Saxony Ministry of Science and Culture and the Volkswagen Foundation.






A necessary condition for sustainable development involves the ability of technical, ecological, economic and social systems to respond to perturbations in such a way that their functioning and development potential is guaranteed. The main goal of this project is to characterize and identify institutional, social and physical design properties of resilient socio-technical systems from a holistic viewpoint, using the energy transport and actor system as an example. It brings together concepts and methods from physics, engineering, economics and the social sciences in an integrated way. Of particular interests are the impact of fluctuations and slow changes in environmental and economic conditions which might give rise to qualitatively new system behavior like emerging new states, tipping points or extreme events. 

Work packages

Constellation Analysis: The constellation analysis explicates essential elements of the energy transport systems. It serves to jointly agree on the research object and terminology in the interdisciplinary team, and to become precise about the interlinkages between scientific work packages.

Discourse Analysis: We will undertake a program of discourse analyses on the social system of the German Energiewende as a case study. The task of exploring principles and ways of social distribution and emergence of values, meanings/opinions, interests, and practices are of focused consideration. A recent example in the context of the Energiewende is the resistance of locally affected communities in connection with the installation of a new north- south route for the necessary expansion of the supply network.

Networks: As a novel approach in network theory we couple very different models for the dynamics on the nodes of the subnetworks: physical models for the technical units (energy production and consumption) and agent-based and opinion formation models for actors based on deterministic (long time scales) and stochastic (short time scales, e.g. fluctuations in renewable energy production or spontaneous decisions of actors) dynamics.

Regulation: This work package analyzes institutional options for a long-term transformation of electricity transport and actor systems on the time scale of decades. It provides an in-depth understanding of how (i) different mechanisms for grid regulation set incentives for investment in capacity redundancy and resilient grid topologies, (ii) how this relates to social norms that are crucial determinants of regulatory policy. This analysis will employ concepts from regulatory economics, based on qualitative methods and dynamic analytical models that are linked to methods from nonlinear dynamics.

Stochastics: In interacting subnetworks (social, economical as well as technical) stochasticity plays a crucial role. On one side the growing integration of renewable energy will increase the shares of intrinsically fluctuating energy sources. The generic description of the renewable energies requires the development of appropriate stochastic models, including correlated and jump noise. In an analogue way the behavior of the socioeconomic subnetworks can be transferred in a mathematical model where both deterministic tendencies also uncertain aspects shall be grasped by a stochastic ansatz comprising in the sense of Markov processes stochastic with deterministic contributions.

Runtime: 2015-2018

Donators: VW-Stiftung / Niedersächsisches Ministerium für Wissenschaft und Kultur


(Changed: 19 Dec 2022)  |