Doing urban research: 4CITIES Spring School

Originally published on univie Blog.

Exploring research methods and developing transdisciplinary skills in the circular city.

Doing research on complex urban issues is not an easy task as it requires skills and knowledge on how to navigate and work within a transdisciplinary setting. Accordingly, the Erasmus Mundus joint Masters in Urban Studies (in short: 4CITIES) team at the University of Vienna organised and hosted a week-long Spring School on methods and skills for urban research(ers) for its 39 international and interdisciplinary master’s students. The spring school took place for the first time from April 8 to 13, 2022 at the University of Vienna, and utilized the Circular City as an overarching theme, which framed assignments, discussions and reflections. Moreover, the Spring School included intriguing, in-depth urban methods trainings with guest lecturers from various European research institutions, exchanges with urban practitioners from different sectors throughout Vienna, and helped inspire creative ideas to address the challenges of building a more Circular Vienna.

Why the Circular City?

The Circular City is an emerging concept of urban sustainability that is being pursued by an increasing number of European cities and which essentially strives to ‘close’ resource loops in cities through reduce, share, reuse, remanufacture and recycle strategies. For instance, Vienna is one of these cities as its efforts towards becoming more circular, and dedication to closing loops continues to increase each year. However, the nature of this concept is complex and contested due to the diversity of urban sectors and actors affected by the circular city concept. Subsequently, this context makes it a relevant, and important matter for teaching and learning transdisciplinary research methodologies.

Why a Spring School on urban methods and skills for master students in urban studies?

4CITIES is an international and interdisciplinary joint master programme in urban studies with semesters at six universities in Brussels, Vienna, Copenhagen and Madrid. Funded by the prestigious Erasmus Mundus programme, 4CITIES’ perspective is European while its context is global.  More specifically, 4Cities bridges disciplinary limitations by combining sociology, geography, history, cultural studies, and humanistic urban studies to provide students with an array of means and methods for analysing and understanding the specific character of cities. Similarly, the programs student profiles are very diverse, as the current Cohort 13 includes participants from roughly 25 countries and 25 disciplines.

In order to develop a solid foundation among this diverse group in terms of methods and skills for urban research, the spring school was dedicated to methods from different inter- and transdisciplinary urban research perspectives. The Spring School took place at the beginning of the second semester of the two-year master’s programme, when students just started to develop their master’s thesis topics. In this vein, the aim was to help students reflect on and develop their methodology and research question for their thesis by introducing them to and applying a selection of additional urban research methods. to keep reading and see more photographs, visit the univie Blog