Why are we concerned with mobilities, futures and cities?

Credits / Biking during winter in Copenhagen – See more pictures at Micheal Colville-Andersen’s blog ‘Copenhagen Cycle Chic’.

Mobility is a highly ambivalent phenomenon in our society. It brings positive economic and social effects, such as wealth, international collaboration and exchange. But at the same time it brings issues as increased inequality, climate change, urban sprawl and mobile lifestyles, which all are highly dependent on oil and other fossil resources.

Historically, mobility has contained the idea and promise of frictionless speed; based on the idea that this would lead to better and happier lives. In reality though, the realization of these visions, also defined as ‘seamless mobility’ and a ‘zero-friction society’ has resulted in congestion, noise and environmental problems.

In planning theory a significant change has taken place over the last 30 years. The modern optimism of finding the optimum planning instruments, the perfect model and the flawless simulation of socio-spatial and socio-economic processes within societies has somewhat eroded and thus has lost some of its legitimacy. The search for alternative ways of planning and ‘designing’ the future, as a response to this loss of legitimacy, has grown.

One of the major overlaps between the theory of reflexive modernization, complexity theory and the argumentative planning paradigm  is that these authors consider strong and convincing visions or ‘leitbilder’ of where cities and regions shall be heading to. These ‘leitbilder’ are powerful planning instruments, leading out of the inertia in urban mobility politics and beyond. In other words: the promising way out of this situation of increasing uncertainties and insecurities about future developments is to define and socially construct these futures.

Powerful visions and, in the end, visualizations of future mobilities and the city (without simplification) can help to give direction to actors, stakeholders and decision makers. Therefore, city politicians and other political actors have initiated processes and experiments on how ‘making sustainable mobilities’ might work.We want to react to this need, specifically addressing the need to integrate different disciplines and rationalities about the future of urban mobilities. It reflects on and develops a methodology on how to allocate appropriate expertise from social science, planning, engineering and the arts. Through methodological innovation and alternative compositions of participants, we aim to generate new ‘stories’ about future sustainable mobilities.

Wanna dig deeper? We recommend you read:

B. Jensen, Ole, and Malene Freudendal-Pedersen. 2012. “Utopias of Mobilities.” In Utopia: Social Theory and the Future , edited by Michael Hviid Jacobsen and Keith Tester, 197–218. Farnham: Ashgate.
Beck, Ulrich, Wolfgang Bonss, and Christoph Lau. 2003. “The Theory of Reflexive Modernization: Problematic, Hypotheses and Research Programme.” Theory, Culture & Society  20 (2): 1–33. doi:10.1177/0263276403020002001.
Fischer, Frank, and John Forester. 1993. ‘The Argumentative Turn in Policy Analysis and Planning’. Edited by Frank Fischer and John Forester. Duke University. Press Books.
Hajer, Maarten. 1999. “Zero-Friction Society.”
Hajer, Maarten, and Sven Kesselring. 1999. “Democracy in the Risk Society? Learning from the New Politics of Mobility in Munich.” Environmental Politics  8 (3): 1–23.
Healey, Patsy. 1997. “Collaborative Planning: Shaping Places in Fragmented Societies”. Vancouver: UBC Press.
Jensen, Ole B., and Tim Richardson. 2003. ‘Making European Space: Mobility, Power and Territorial Identity’. London: Routledge.
Urry, John. 2003. Global Complexity . Cambridge: Polity Press.
Urry, John. 2007. Mobilities . Cambridge: Polity Press. 

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