STS - conferences, IST2012

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Mobility and cities: global artifacts and situated systems
Anne Katrine Braagaard Harders, Morten Elle

Last modified: 2012-03-22


We are facing the significant challenge of unsustainable mobility in cities caused by a rising number of citizens and number of kilometres travelled per person. One issue could be the particular focus on technological fixes such as the electric car. However, technological innovations have not yet managed to fix the unsustainable mobility in cities. This calls for exploring other ways of contributing to the transition to a more sustainable mobility.

Much literature on transition theory dealing with transport and mobility acknowledge that all transport technologies are part of complicated socio-technical systems. Nevertheless, the majority of this literature has a primary focus on the development of the actual technology as a global artefact, and thereby neglecting the interrelationships between different transport technologies and the spatial context, including situated systems. For example, the spatial context played a significant role in shaping the automobile as the scattered urban structure of the US made it desirable to develop a horseless horse carriage with a long range. But this global artifact was almost immediately used in quite other contexts in spite of the fact that the cities’ spatial structure and infrastructural systems in many cases did not provide good conditions for car traffic.

Working with transition theory prospectively in aiming towards more sustainable mobility, it is a necessity to make the spatial structure, creating the frames for mobility, the point of origin, rather than the development of one specific transport technology. This paper will deal with the bearing of the interplay between the different transport technologies and the spatial structure. It is the aim to stress the importance of focusing on the city and mobility as a whole in order to understand how this could be improved and which technologies could contribute to the transition to a more sustainable mobility.