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The design, experience and justice of mobility

By H. Ernste, K. Martens and J. Schapendonk


The central argument of the ‘mobilities turn’,\ud that sedentarist frameworks have dominated\ud social sciences for a long time, which has limited\ud our understanding of mobilities (e.g. Cresswell\ud 2006, 2010; Hannam et al. 2006; Sheller & Urry\ud 2006; Urry 2007) – also applies to the spatial\ud disciplines, andhumangeography in particular.\ud Ofcourse, themovementandtransport ofgoods\ud and people have always been on the agenda of\ud the spatial sciences. However, these mobilities\ud have mostly been analysed from the position of\ud fixed points. In mainstream transport research,\ud mobility has typically been perceived as ‘merely’\ud a derived demand, warranting study only as a\ud connector between desired activities. In line\ud with this conceptualisation, movement between\ud places is, either implicitly or explicitly, considered\ud as friction and a loss of time that has to be\ud limited. Equally so, the push-pull models of\ud migration studies presented the mobile part as a\ud static point-to-point movement without any\ud further social meaning or transformative power.\ud From the position of fixed points, mobilities\ud have thus been perceived as ‘residual death\ud time,’ ‘friction’ or ‘empty spaces’ (e.g. Cresswell\ud 2006; Urry 2007).\ud Scholars who engage themselves in the\ud mobilities turn approach spatial interaction\ud and mobility differently. First of all, mobility is\ud seen as a process and a motor of change. Both\ud places of origin and places of destination\ud change through the movement of people,\ud goods, money and information from one place\ud to the other, and thus mobility is seen as a\ud major factor in space- and place-making. This\ud goes beyond the traditional geographical\ud approach, which focuses primarily on changing\ud spatial structures as a resultant of spatial interaction\ud potentials. Second, these mobilities\ud researchers explicitly explore how people, as\ud well as other material and immaterial objects of\ud exchange, change themselves through the\ud process of relocation, something which has\ud largely been ignored in the spatial disciplines,\ud and mainstream transportation research in particular.\ud While this new mobilities’ research is\ud an interdisciplinary debate bringing together,\ud among others, geographers, anthropologists,\ud planners, political scientists and sociologists to\ud re-think the role of mobility in different societies\ud (Hannam et al. 2006, Urry 2007), authors\ud strongly share these basic starting points.\ud The emerging new mobilities literature, we\ud argue, has the potential to substantially enrich\ud mainstream transportation research. However,\ud this requires transcending existing boundaries\ud and bridging the divide between the world of\ud ‘transport mobility’ – perceiving mobility a way\ud to overcome the friction of distance and a functionalist\ud force and (re)structuring the urban\ud landscape – and the world of ‘practice mobility’\ud – approaching mobility as a transformative\ud power opposing the fixity and boundedness of\ud space and place (Massey 2005; Cresswell 2006;\ud Sheller & Urry 2006). The differences are not\ud only to be found in terms of disciplinary jargon and research topics, but also in terms of\ud methodology and conceptual frameworks. To\ud create a common ground for debate, we have\ud identified three potential bridging concepts\ud that may help evoke a border-crossing debate.\ud These dimensions are: designs, experiences\ud and justice. Before discussing the extent to\ud which the different contributions in this special\ud issue invoke these bridging concepts, we first\ud articulate the ways we think they can bring both\ud sides of the divide closer together

Topics: Sociale Geografie & Planologie
Year: 2012
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