What are the useful constellations

The method of constellation analysis

What is the constellation analysis?
The constellation analysis is an interdisciplinary bridge concept for sustainability, technology and innovation research. A basic assumption is that technical, natural and social developments are closely intertwined in modern societies. These interrelationships need to be taken into account in order to be able to analyze and influence developments. Social, technical and natural aspects that are closely linked and viewed as coherent are referred to as constellations. Constellations show a certain degree of order and have relationships and interactions between the elements that shape them. Coherent bundles are formed from very different elements, which are characteristic of many problems that are perceived as urgent in science and in everyday life. A feature of such constellations is that they can be analyzed from different perspectives in order to do justice to their diversity and heterogeneity. The constellation analysis was designed at the ZTG as a tool for interdisciplinary cooperation.


The constellations are made up of four - or more - element types:

  • Social actors (e.g. people or groups of actors)
  • Natural elements (e.g. air, water, landscape),
  • Technical elements (e.g. hardware, power plants, infrastructure)
  • Drawing elements (e.g. standards, laws, guiding principles).
  • For use in urban development, the drawing elements are divided into:

a) Laws and agreements

b) Social models and ideas


Conceptual key points of the constellation analysis are the equality of these heterogeneous elements and the focus on the relationships between the elements. Methodological principles of the constellation analysis are a generally understandable language, the graphic illustration of the constellations and the discursive character of the analysis.


who does the constellation analysis use?
The constellation analysis is designed for interdisciplinary scientists and, if necessary, their cooperation partners in practice. The constellation analysis cannot be assigned to any specific scientific theory or discipline, but is primarily intended to promote the problem-related dialogue between different disciplines.

The aim is to bundle different research approaches, databases and forms of knowledge in order to work out a picture of the respective constellation that is shared by all perspectives as far as possible. Both the different perspectives of scientific disciplines and the perspectives of different social actor groups can be brought together constructively. It is therefore also used in transdisciplinary processes.


What for is the constellation analysis used?
The constellation analysis can fulfill various purposes: it can be used, for example, to analyze and describe complex objects of investigation, to structure problem areas or discourses, to integrate different stocks of knowledge and to develop strategies or projects. It helps to relate different problem perspectives, knowledge and solution approaches to each other and thus serves the interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary understanding. It should be useful for research that does not develop its questions out of a purely scientific interest in knowledge, but wants to contribute to solving social problems. In our opinion, it is particularly suitable for questions of sustainability, technology and innovation research, the subject areas of which can often be understood as constellations.


How do you perform a constellation analysis?
The constellation analysis is carried out in three ideal-typical work steps:

First, you map the constellation by identifying the most important elements and arranging them spatially according to their relationships to one another. This "mapping" is done by means of colored index cards on boards or pin boards. Different, defined symbols are used both for the representation of the elements and for the representation of the relationships between the elements (see Downloads / graphic elements).

In a second step, the functional principles and characteristics of the constellation are analyzed and interpreted. In a third step, one examines which dynamics are effective in the constellation. These three steps are fundamental to any constellation analysis. Based on this, various questions can be investigated. In the Constellation Analysis manual, checklists are offered for each application area for carrying out the work steps (see Downloads / graphic elements).

Methodologically, the constellation analysis is based on the visualization of the constellations to be examined. The graphic representations form the starting point for relating expertise from various scientific disciplines and non-scientific practice to one another. You lead the interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary negotiation process for the "best" - i.e. the most consensual - representation of reality. The graphic representations reduce complexity and concentrate on the essentials. These are supplemented by linguistic explanations that enable a differentiated analysis of the constellation.


Where from is the constellation analysis coming?
The constellation analysis was conceptually developed and methodically elaborated by the five authors of the “Handbook of Constellation Analysis”. You will work at the Center for Technology and Society at the TU Berlin and at the inter 3 Institute for Resource Management in interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research projects.