Rural regions are of central importance to the economic, social and political stability of advanced Western societies. When national states do not offer sufficient quality of life to people living in rural regions liberal democracies tend to destabilize. Authoritarian, populist or even extreme rightist movements gain followers and political influence (see for instance the USA, former East Germany, Tchech Republic, Hungary, or Slovenia). In Central Europe some of the rural areas are at the same time industrialized, typically with old, traditional industries.
Compared to metropolitan regions, the relative affordability of land, historically derived competitive advantages (e.g. mines, water conducts) as well as skill sets of the entrepreneurs and the work force lead to the location of rather traditional production-oriented industries. While high tech typically moves to or emerges out of metropolitan centers, old industries can often be found in rural regions. However, we believe that rural (industrialized) regions have very specific needs and opportunities when trying to improve the quality of life by means of innovative digital artifacts.
We want to exemplify this argument by highlighting some relevant topics and domains:
- Employment and Cooperative Work: The challenge is the digitalization of workplaces in old existing industries with their traditional machinery. We need to find specific CSCW solutions for highly qualified shopfloor workers.
- Transport and Mobility: The distances to move to work, shopping or schooling are fast in rural regions. They typically do not have well-functioning public transportation. The challenge is to find IT support in increasing mobility beyond the traditional individualistic car use.
- Health and Quality of Life: Rural regions typically have demographic problem, in the sense that their population is aging faster (due to a emigration of young population). Compared to metropoles, the density of doctoral coverage, the level of medical specialization and the quality of the medical services is lower. So, the challenge is to support a healthy living and medical care in the width of rural regions.
- Agriculture and Climate Neutrality: Old industries are typically very energy intense based on processing coal, oil, or gaz. The challenge is to find IT support in developing new production technologies and in economizing energy consumption.
- Cultural Closure and Inclusion: Rural regions are often characterized by hierarchically grown decision structures and dense social networks among their inhabitants. Conservatism and social closure may characterize these social groups and in turn, people living in metropolitan areas may conceive of these groups as such. Whereas dense networks can be an element of a high quality of life, the traditional social structures may exclude strangers and newcomers, or the latter may exclude by themselves based on certain social representations. The challenge are IT designs which may link rural and metropolitan regions and support participative decision making across these areas and their cultures (i.e. interculturally).
Open Call for participation
We invite all interested people from both academia and practice/non-academia. Both target groups apply via a Google form or e-mail in which you describe your motivation to participate.
Submissions should critically reflect on how your research or interests address issues related to rural regions. Your prior experience does not have to be specifically concerned with digitalization in rural regions, but the application will be expected to demonstrate how your work is relevant to the workshop’s topic and can be applied within the workshops’ context.