An Interdisciplinary Perspective on Scaling in Sustainability Transitions

Main event: WIFO Research Seminar
Organised by: Austrian Institute of Economic Research
Persons: Karoline Augenstein
Österreichisches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung
The question of how sustainable innovations and how niche experimentation lead to systemic changes are a core motivation of sustainability transitions research. As an inherently interdisciplinary field, although this question is addressed from different academic perspectives, the dominant understanding of relevant scaling processes is grounded in concepts of growth, diffusion and expansion. This article contributes to the discussion of more nuanced understandings of scaling, acknowledging the value of ontological levels for analytic purposes, but also drawing on knowledge from socio-psychological and spatial perspectives. Alternative understandings of spatial and agency-related scaling approaches are discussed and compared. An integrative socio-spatial framework is developed, providing a mid-range framework capable of supporting analysis of transitions that connects different disciplinary perspectives within a level-based ontology. We use an illustrative case study and derive implications for how this can inform questions of scaling and particularly spatial upscaling of new ways of doing, thinking and organizing.