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Mobility Practices as a Knowledge and Design Tool for Urban Policy

Part of the Research for Development book series (REDE)

Abstract

The chapter introduces two processes that endow mobility with centrality as a cognitive key for understanding socio-spatial transformations in the contemporary city. The first process is part of broader critical reflection on the role of spatial mobility in describing and assessing socio-urban changes. The second process interprets the contemporary city as a “site of sociability” (Amin and Thrift 2002), which can be understood by tracking the routinization of site practices that follow their own rhythms of appearance and disappearance. This leads us toward the heuristic value of interpretation of the rhythms of usage of the contemporary city, well provided by mobility practices. Working along these two lines, in this chapter we try to reconstruct how we can consider mobility as both a knowledge and a policy tool for understanding and regulating the process of transformation of the contemporary city. Through study of mobility practices, we argue that it is possible to recognise temporary populations generating new claims, but also new common goods. In the conclusion we will briefly consider two paradoxes raised by the excessive rhetoric on mobility: the link between mobility and rootedness, and the link between mobility and speed.

Keywords

  • Spatial mobilities
  • Mobility policy
  • Social capital
  • Socio-spatial transformations

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Ehrenberg (1995), Urry (2000), Urry (2007), Kaufmann (2002), Ascher (2004), Bourdin (2005), Sheller and Urry (2006), Cresswell (2006).

  2. 2.

    Interview with John Urry by Adey and Bussel (2010, p. 2).

  3. 3.

    Borrowing from the work of Lefebvre (2004), Amin and Thrift argue that the rhythms of the city are “the coordinates through which inhabitants and visitors frame and order the urban experience” (Amin and Thrift 2002, p. 17).

  4. 4.

    Moving away from the classical approach of social ecology, Martinotti (1993, pp. 137–139) suggests we “conceptualize metropolitan development and emerging social morphology as the progressive differentiation of four populations (inhabitants, commuters, city users, Metropolitan businessmen) that characterise the metropolis”. The four urban populations proposed by Martinotti (1993) are nonetheless static entities that do not afford an understanding of the variable roles that may be played by an individual during the course of a day.

  5. 5.

    The term communities of practice is employed to focus attention on the fact that urban populations cannot be reduced to predefined and fixed categories. Urban populations are not as static categories (inhabitants, commuters, city users, etc.), but they are “groups of subjects that, temporarily and intermittently, share practices of daily life” (Pasqui 2008, p. 148). Hence they can be considered “communities of practice” that generate particular space-time geographies.

  6. 6.

    See, in this book, the essay by Colleoni (Chapter “A Social Science Approach to the Study of Mobility: An Introduction”).

  7. 7.

    My translation from “la mobilité constitue aussi une technique incontestable de “urbanogenèse” et non un problème externe aux pratiques urbaines les plus fondamentales, c’est à dire à ce qui fait d’une ville une ville, à son urbanité” (Lévy 1999, p. 157).

  8. 8.

    “Groupes sociaux définis à partir de leurs inscriptions territoriales, de leurs pratiques de mobilité, des dispositifs techniques qu’ils mettent en oeuvre” (Le Breton 2006, p. 26).

  9. 9.

    The “Mobile methods” proposed by Sheller and Urry (2006) include: interactional and conversational analysis of people as they move; mobile ethnography involving itinerant movement with people, following objects and co-present immersion in various modes of movement; after-the-fact interviews and focus groups on mobility; keeping textual, pictorial, or digital time–space diaries; various methods of cyber-research, cyber-ethnography and computer simulations; imaginative travel using multimedia methods attentive to the affective and atmospheric feeling of place; tracking affective objects that attach memories to places; and finally methods that measure the spatial structuring and temporal pulse of transfer points and places of in-between-ness in which the circulation of people and objects is slowed down or stopped, or facilitated and speeded up (Sheller 2011, p. 7).

  10. 10.

    Daily commuters, city users, businessmen, tourists, but also long-distance commuting and multiple residences.

  11. 11.

    The EU research “Job mobilities and Family Lives in Europe” (http://www.jobmob-and-famlives.eu/) identifies among the new forms of daily mobility: Long-Distance Commuters (LDC); Overnighters spending at least 60 overnights away from home during the last 12 months for occupational reasons; Recent Relocators over a distance of at least 50 km; Long-Distance Relationships (LDR). See also Viry and Kaufmann (2015).

  12. 12.

    Available in URL: http://en.forumviesmobiles.org/arguing/2012/12/11/mobility-capital-sketching-arguments-533.

  13. 13.

    While these studies remain exploratory in that they have not yet come up with a recognised standard of measurement, they have revealed many kinds of aptitude for movement.

  14. 14.

    Three are the main outcomes:

    • Showing the relationships between location coordinates of mobile phones and the social identification of the people carrying them (as Social Positioning Method and its possible applications in the organisation and planning of public life proposed by Ahas and Mark 2005);

    • Describing the relationships between mobile phone measures (the volume of call activity in mobile network cells as Erlang) and population distribution in cities (Sevtsuk and Ratti 2010);

    • Classifying urban spaces, according to mobile phone uses (Reades et al. 2007; Soto and Frías-Martínez 2011), in which different “basic” profiles of city usages can concur to identify different profiles of use and consumption.

  15. 15.

    For example, in the influential work of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari (1980), or Paul Virilio’s (1997) texts on dromology.

  16. 16.

    Our translation from “Les effets profondément structurants (ou déstructurants) de la mobilité des personnes sur les territoires politiques” (Estèbe 2008, p. 6).

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Pucci, P. (2016). Mobility Practices as a Knowledge and Design Tool for Urban Policy. In: Pucci, P., Colleoni, M. (eds) Understanding Mobilities for Designing Contemporary Cities. Research for Development. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-22578-4_1

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