Digitalization, new settlement patterns and territorial divides: smart working in times of (post)pandemics. A view from Italy

Authors: Teresa Graziano*, University of Catania
Topics: Urban and Regional Planning, Planning Geography, Urban Geography
Keywords: Covid-19, smart working, mobility flows, settlement patterns, territorial divides, Italy
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM
Room: Virtual 11
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Covid-19 pandemics has underlined the need to reconsider long-entrenched connections among mobility flows, territorial systems and digitalization.
Theoretically inserted at the interplay between the Economic Geography of innovation and ICTs Geography, the paper explores to what extent the massive increase in smart working has been producing a long-lasting impact on territories, by critically scrutinizing the complex tangle of digitalization, new mobility patterns and national/local policies in Italy. The epidemics has emphasized the territorial fragmentation of the country as well as the historically-rooted territorial divides between: the more advanced Northern regions and the disadvantaged Southern ones; metropolis and small/medium-sized cities; urbanized areas and rural places; advanced metropolitan systems and marginal ones. However, the massive transition to “flexible working” has (temporarily?) upset these territorial dichotomies, by fostering an unprecedented rhetoric about back-to-the-village or back-to-the-South trends.
The multi-method approach includes a critical evaluation of policy/governance documents, an in-depth secondary data desk analysis and a series of unstructured interviews with key informants in order to provide a critical “mapping” of territorial frictions and reconfigurations triggered out by a massive transition to flexible working in the country, strictly linked to new settlement/mobility patterns.
Based on the Italian case, the paper explores on the one hand to what extent the epidemics-driven smart working transition has reinforced or, on the contrary, reduced sub-national territorial divides; on the other hand, how national/local policies and bottom-up practices have made use of tech-led smart working to overcome these territorial gaps.

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