The spatial spread of social innovations. How and under which conditions do innovative social practices “travel”?
My PhD thesis considers spatial transformation as a product of social innovation through 3 case studies. Rural regions in Europe frame the cases and include: Essex (United Kingdom); Uckermark (Germany); Mühlviertel (Austria); and Alentejo (Portugal). The thesis asks, how the spatial spread of social innovation is accounted for through the reconfiguring of material-discursive practices and the simultaneous process of coevolution, adaptation and movement in/between regions and internationally.
Although there has been much advancement to the field of social innovation in recent years, with leading scholars working to found substantial theoretical underpinnings, or provide definitions to what is a multivalent and relatively young field, less attention has been given to the dynamics of motion inherent within social innovation, especially in rural regions and what happens as practices move and are reconfigured. Researching this gap may be particularly relevant as ‘spatial spread’ is often figured in the working definitions and advanced conceptualisation of social innovation. It is to this research gap which my thesis attends drawing on theoretical advancements made through the so-called material turn with particularly attention to the work of feminist theorist and quantum physicist, Karen Barad read through insights made by Gabriel Tarde in the late 19th Century to the micro-processes at work within the social. It is though this theoretical framework I adapt and develop a suitable and novel cartographic methodology to reveal the distributed agential forces at work in the spatial spread of social innovation in disadvantaged rural regions. My research interests include, theoretical advancements through new materialism; co-production and dispersed agency in spatial transformation processes; spatial spread and social innovation in rural regions, and experimental mapping methodologies.