More Experimentation in mobilities studies

Interview with Monika Büscher

During the Cosmobilities conference in Copenhagen November of 2014 we caught up with Dr. Monika Büscher from Lancaster University. She calls for more experiments in research methodology within mobilities research. Quite a few discussions during Networked Urban Mobilities Conference emphasized that the field is already well underway in achieving this goal.

Her own research centers around disaster management and the network of technologies that enable and mediate this. The paper she presented together with Michael Liegl and Katrina Petersen, Disclosing Disaster? A Study of Ethics and Phenomenology in a Mobile World, illustrate the multitudes of methodological approaches and different understandings of mobility within mobilities research. We had a few words with Monika after the last session of the conference in Copenhagen where she pointed to the vast variety of methods available to mobilities researchers today.

For me mobility is an analytical orientation that looks at how everything is mobilized or immobilized. Looking at the world through this mobility perspective makes you see social structures in their enactment rather than as artifacts or determining things. To be able to see that requires the researcher to be mobile but that doesn’t necessarily means in a ‘go-along’ or ‘shop-along’ way. It can also be a mobile archival work, code archeology or database work, where you sit at your desk and in detail figure out the sequence of things and follow things retrospectively.

Her work also involves an inquiry into the ethics of the design of mobile technologies when applied in disaster situations and into the politics of information sharing in what she has called ‘informationalization of every day life’. As a result Monika sees herself as a designer as well as a researcher.

Mobile researcher is in my understanding always part of the design or the changes of the phenomenon. So being mobile is also a matter of design and interference – it is inventive. For me an important intersection is between inventive methods and design, speculative design, critical design and art.

In order to investigate the networked technologies applied in disaster response Monika Büscher have experimented with collaborative design and research approaches. When asked what she takes away from the conference the answer is clear: experiments.

Experiments, that is something that I am interested in anyway. More experimental engagement in the making of futures. I am more interested in life and everyday life politics and the shape of the world and research is only a tool to play a role in that and take some responsibility.


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