The Space-Set Project

The Power of Personal Geographies. Fine-tuning 'Space-Sets' and Testing their Measurement
  • Andy Newsam - The Whole Week (CC-BY-NC) Andy Newsam - The Whole Week (CC-BY-NC)
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This scientific projet has been selected by the Scientific Advisory Board and is funded by Sciences Po Research.

Project director: Ettore Recchi (OSC) - Researcher : Aurore Flipo.

Duration: June 2014 - December 2016

This research aims at defining and pilot-testing a new construct – called ‘space-set’ – that is deemed to sharpen the sociological tool-kit used to account for behavioural and attitudinal differences in an age of increased spatial mobility.

The concept of ‘space-set’ designates the complex of geographical sites where individuals spend their social existence. It is patterned after Merton’s concepts of ‘status-set’ and ‘role-set’ to refer to the set of statuses and roles that a person holds. The only difference is that space-sets are formed by spatial contexts that are not occupied at the moment and are not constantly accessible in everyday life owing to travel constraints. Space-sets comprise the objective and subjective spatial careers of individuals, stemming from past and present practices, unified by remembering one’s presence in geographical places.

Space-sets are like personal maps of the physically experienced world. They can also be conceived as ego-centred networks, in which the points are not other people but places. Like in social network analysis, the size, range and salience of space-sets vary dramatically across time, space and social strata. All three properties need be considered. 

The goal is to turn the concept of ‘space-set’ into a research tool that can be especially used in survey research.This requires:

  • Workpackage 1: Further theoretical fine-tuning of the concepts’ dimensions. To sharpen the concept, a thorough exploration of the sociology of space literature, but also cognitive and behavioural geography shall be conducted;
  • Workpackage 2: A list of possible indicators of space-set dimensions shall be drafted;
  • Workpackage 3: Testing of alternative operationalizations, through in-depth interviews;
  • Workpackage 4: Pilot analysis of space-set effects on status attainment, integration-demarcation values, and legitimation of different levels of governance through structured questionnaire and random sampling (size and country to be defined).

The concepts and data generated by this project shall shed new light on the lifecourse use of space and travels. They will be of interest to assess mobility behaviours and their correlates at the individual level, which is not viable so far, as the spread of population mobility is measured almost exclusively with aggregate data.

Empirical data on space-sets shall provide useful and innovative information on the impact of spatial mobility on social stratification processes (in particular, job mobility and residential choices), value options (in particular, on globalization-related policies) and political legitimacy (in particular, at the local, national and European level).

Select bibliography

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p. 1-32.
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p. 463-496.
- Gould P. and White R. (1986 [1974]), Mental Maps, London, Routledge.
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- Lefebvre, H. (1991 [1974]), The production of space, Oxford, Blackwell.
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- Merton R. (1968 [1957]), Social Theory and Social Structure, Glencoe, Free Press.
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- Recchi E. (2013), Senza frontiere. La libera circolazione delle persone in Europa, Bologna, Il Mulino.
- Recchi E. and Kuhn T. (2013), “Europeans’ Space-Sets and the Political Legitimacy of the EU”, in Kauppi, N. (ed), A Political Sociology of Transnational Europe, Colchester, ECPR Press,
p. 191-222.
- Simmel G. (2009 [1908]), Sociology. Inquiries into the Construction of Social Forms, Leiden, Brill.
- Urry J. (2007), Mobilities, Cambridge, Polity Press.

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Article mis à jour le 18-05-2021
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