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Relational distance: sociocultural and time – spatial tensions in innovation practices


  • Oliver Ibert


The author discusses and explores empirically how far the notion of relational distance might improve understanding of the geography of innovation processes. Relational distance is regarded (1) as a multidimensional concept which becomes fruitful when used in a heuristic way; (2) as an interactional effect; and (3) as being enacted in practice. The author illustrates this understanding empirically by presenting an ethnographic case study: the development biography of an analytical device. In this case, relational distance emerged between science and business. The author scrutinizes how relational distance not only induces cultural tensions but also intertwines divergent practical activities unfolding differently in space. Thereby it generates dynamic time – spatial ambiguities: namely, effects of dislocation, ambiguities of knowledge allocation, and opportunity costs.

Suggested Citation

  • Oliver Ibert, 2010. "Relational distance: sociocultural and time – spatial tensions in innovation practices," Environment and Planning A, Pion Ltd, London, vol. 42(1), pages 187-204, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:pio:envira:v:42:y:2010:i:1:p:187-204

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    Cited by:

    1. Ibert, Oliver & Müller, Felix C., 2015. "Network dynamics in constellations of cultural differences: Relational distance in innovation processes in legal services and biotechnology," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 44(1), pages 181-194.
    2. Axel Stein, 2014. "The Significance of Distance in Innovation Biographies—The Case of Law Firms," Growth and Change, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 45(3), pages 430-449, September.
    3. Anna Butzin & Brigitta Widmaier, 2012. "The Study of Time-Space Dynamics of Knowledge with Innovation Biographies," Working Papers on Innovation and Space 2012-07, Philipps University Marburg, Department of Geography.
    4. Hautala, Johanna & Jauhiainen, Jussi S., 2014. "Spatio-temporal processes of knowledge creation," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 43(4), pages 655-668.

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