280.910 UE Urban Research, Living Environment and Everyday Life

UE | Semester Hours 2,0 | Credits 3,0 | English


Richard Pfeifer

Sabine Knierbein

Learning Outcomes:

After successful completion of the course, students are able to conduct qualitative urban research and understand the relationship between a research design and its methodology. The methods that will be presented in this course will be applied in the context of an urban area of Vienna’s twelfth district (Meidling), that has seen considerable change in terms of still ongoing urban renewal and development processes. Research practice competencies are acquired within an overall qualitative approach, that is theoretically informed and contextualised by a basic set of structural/quantitative descriptions.

The main learning outcomes are:

Hands-on approach towards the application of qualitative research methods in urban research

Enhanced understanding about the choice of methods within different research designs

Critical use of quantitative data as in social area analysis settings (e.g. Sozialraumanalyse)

Additional learning outcomes:

Interpretation and coding skills when dealing with qualitative data

Enhanced research data management skills

Capability of a self-reflexive research practice

Insights in the possibilities of a multi-methodical and participatory approach

Basic insights in the difference between lifeworld and everyday life-based approaches in qualitative urban research


Debate (consensual; dissent-oriented), empirical field research, intra-research team review, shared interpretation of data

Depiction of the Research Field for Empirical Study:

The students are expected to carry out research about and in spatial proximity to the IBA Quartier Wolfganggasse in the eastern part of the Meidling district (12th). This urban development is a new, so-called “socially inclusive quarter” that is currently in the final construction phase. While the IBA Quartier Wolfganggasse acts as a focal point, the geography of the course is not limited to the urban development area itself. This is also justified because the development project also became the starting point for a broader urban renewal program (see below), for which a subcontractor of wohnfonds.wien has developed a renewal concept.

Overall, this area is one of the most densely built-up working-class neighbourhoods in Vienna, close to the city centre. The selected area can be described as a heterogeneous urban fabric, in which mainly late Gründerzeit residential buildings are mixed with small-scale economic functions such as craft businesses and historical infrastructures such as railway tracks and railway depots.

The railway, which initiated the industrialisation of the area, demarcates the south. The belt that borders the eastern side of the area also bears witness to Vienna’s radical past. Just on the opposite side we find early examples of the Red Vienna housing programme. Within walking distance are two larger green spaces such as the Paula von Mirtow Park or the Haydn Park.

The geography of the course could, depending on the chosen orientations within the student working groups, also include the southern surroundings of the development project, which consists of an ÖBB housing estate and a terrain vague that could very soon turn into a predominantly private urban development project.

Mode of Examination:


  • Subject of Course:

    The primary aim of the course is to provide an overview of basic socio-spatial research methods with an emphasis on a qualitative research strategy.
    The secondary aim is to investigate spatial strategies against socio-spatial polarization using housing, public space, and everyday life as a heuristic entry point for empirical research. Empirical research hence shall explore the impact of urban restructuring on existing social spaces and analyse abstract spatial representations within the realm of urban development and renewal discourse.

    Unit 1: Kick Off

    The kick off unit will present the lectures, give an overview on the exercise grading proposal, debate and, if needed, amendment, Q&R. The unit concludes with an introduction to qualitative research, an overview of the research process and outline different types of qualitative data sources.

    Unit 2+3: The study of everyday life and ,,lived space“

    This lecture unit consists of a theoretical and an empirical part. The theoretical part introduces the spatial critique of everyday life. It examines what it means to look at urban phenomena through the conceptual lens of lived space. It then explores the possibilities of incorporating critical notions of ‘affect’ into an urban research agenda. The empirically oriented part of this unit engages with research design and its consequences in terms of questions and methods. Furthermore, critical inquiries are made into the duality of researcher and researched, and finally introduces the empirical field of enquiry. The final part of the lecture gives students the opportunity to form groups based on their initial reading and their methodological preferences.

    Unit 4+5: Excursion to Meidling and individual exploration

    This unit will be entirely dedicated to exploring, on foot, the neighbourhood of interest. Different inputs of stakeholders will share their analysis and perspectives on the neighbourhood and its development. The student working groups will have time to explore the neighbourhood individually and can decide on their group work modalities.

    Unit 6: Qualitative research strategies, research questions and interviewing techniques

    This unit will recap the different qualitative research strategies and how they help to explore the topic of housing and public space. This will then be further discussed in terms of how to formulate a feasible research question and the main objectives of the research project. Furthermore, the lecture will discuss different interviewing techniques and give an outlook on ways of working with texts in a qualitative way.

    Unit 7: Open Lecture – Karlsplatz

    Urban Research goes TUW Aktionstag

    In preparation for the public lecture next Monday, we ask you to read the introductory chapter Urban Space Unsettled: The Unraveling of Routines, Temporalities and Contestations in Urban Studies (Viderman; Knierbein; Kränzle; Frank; Roskamm; Wall 2022), from the brand new anthology Unsettled Urban Space: Routines, Temporalities and Contestation. You therefore do not need to read the literature we originally intended for the unit.

    Unit 8: The coding of qualitative data

    Starting with discussing forms of qualitative interviewing we, within this unit, will equally start to work with the results of interviews (texts) and provide a basic understanding of how to make them accessible for interpretation and analysis through “coding”. After introducing a “constructivist” (Charmaz) approach to text interpretation, the lecture will introduce students to a content analytic approach suitable for more deductively driven research designs. The final part will explore the possibilities of QDA software as a means of managing and processing qualitative data.

    Unit 9: Triangulation – Quantitative data in qualitative research

    This unit problematises the use of quantitative data as part of a comprehensive qualitative research approach (mixed-method). It will explore and discuss the use of statistics within an area-based research approach (Sozialraumanalyse).

    Unit 10+11: Presentation and discussion of preliminary results I, II

    This unit is about the empirical work conducted by the student groups. Each group will present their work, point to preliminary results and give an overview on their research experience. This will then lead into an open debate.

    Unit 12+13: Presentation of results and the interpretation of research results III, wrap up and closing session

    The focus of this unit is to further support ongoing qualitative work and to support the interpretation and analysis of empirical data to produce substantiated research findings. In the second half of the unit, the main content covered in the previous units will be reviewed and there will be space for students to ask final questions.