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Destabilising automobility? The emergent mobilities of generation Y

Abstract

This paper uses empirical material gathered with young adults in New Zealand to examine a potential sustainability transition-in-practice. It draws from two frameworks; the actor-centred Energy Cultures Framework to explore mobility behaviours, and the multi-level perspective (MLP) to situate behaviour change within the socio-technical transitions literature. The MLP has traditionally been used to analyse historical transitions (e.g. from the horse and cart to the motor vehicle), but in this paper, it is used to explore an on-going change trend; the emergent mobilities of young adults who appear to be aspiring for different types of mobility. A series of mobility trends are described, which emerged from a programme of qualitative interviews (n = 51). The material culture, norms and practices that constitute these trends are articulated. These are then considered through the lens of the MLP. The evidence points to emergent trends of multimodality that, if leveraged upon and supported, could contribute to a systemic sustainability transition.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. Changes to licensing rules, in particular increasing the licensing age to 16, has had an effect on these data.

  2. Lock-in is understood as the self-perpetuating inertia of a historically evolved system which demands great effort to change. Path dependence refers to “self-reinforcing processes that accelerate the development direction within a system” (Ulli-Beer 2013, p. 23).

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Acknowledgements

This research was completed whilst the author was based at the Centre for Sustainability, University of Otago, working on the Energy Cultures project. Janet Stephenson, Gerry Carrington, Michelle Scott and three anonymous reviewers are thanked for their constructive feedback on earlier versions of this paper.

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Correspondence to Debbie Hopkins.

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Hopkins, D. Destabilising automobility? The emergent mobilities of generation Y. Ambio 46, 371–383 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13280-016-0841-2

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s13280-016-0841-2

Keywords

  • Automobility
  • Energy cultures framework
  • Generation Y
  • Millennial generation
  • Mobility trends
  • Multi-level perspective (MLP)
  • Socio-technical transitions