Watch Vincent Kaufmann’s keynote, The New Dynamics of Daily Mobilities

Watch Vincent Kaufmann’s keynote, The New Dynamics of Daily Mobilities

Professor Vincent Kaufmann, Director of the Laboratory of Urban Sociology at EPFL, Lausanne and member of the Mobile Lives Forum, gave a talk in which he returned to a core theme of mobilities research; Transport. In this talk Vincent Kaufmann addressed the modal shifts in transport habits away from the car and revisited the concept of ‘motility’. Drawing on quantitative data from several case studies, Kaufmann here gives us an overview of the habits of daily mobility in Western Europe.

Oskar Funk: What will you take with you from this conference?

It’s a very innovative conference with lanes between social scientists and artists, and a lot of new ideas about mobility futures. I would say that I feel a bit at home here at this cosmobilities conference and it’s very unusual for conferences, and it is a real pleasure to come.

Oskar Funk: Is there any new ideas you have discovered here at the conference, or new things you have learned?

I discovered new people. I definitely liked the links between artists and social sciences, like the map of the different trips we did to come here. That was very innovative; it was a good surprise for me.

Oskar Funk: So we need to consider the arts more when we are working as mobility researchers?

Yes for sure! It’s what we also try to do with the mobile life forum in Paris. To have strong links with the artistic field.

Watch Stephen Graham’s keynote, Super-tall and ultra-deep

Watch Stephen Graham’s keynote, Super-tall and ultra-deep

Stephen Graham, Professor of Cities and Society at Newcastle University, expanded the notion of mobility in his keynote talk at the Networked Urban Mobilities conference. By thinking critically about the politics of elevators Graham shifted the perspective from horizontal mobility to the verticality of urban life. Further, the talk links the skyscrapers of global cities with the gold mining industry, which continue to extract metals at greater and greater depths.

After his keynote we had a brief chat with Stephen Graham about his experience of the Networked Urban Mobilities conference, which you can read below the video.

After his talk at the Networked Urban Mobilities Conference in November 2014, we sat down with Stephen Graham and asked a few questions about his experience of the Cosmobilities event in Copenhagen.

Oskar Funk: Could you tell a little about what you are going to take with you from this conference?

Well, there has been a lot of great presentations on the challenges of innovation. That has been a big thing for me. The really complex ways of both inhibiting old technologies and the attempt to build new systems into systems, not just little pockets of innovation, as John Urry was talking about in his keynote, within the context of peak oil, peak food, peak water, and a century of enormous challenges.

Oskar Funk: What has been the best experience at the conference, or was there an experience that stood out?

I haven’t been to many of these mobilities conferences since the first one in Lancaster. The surprising and really fantastic thing to me is just the scale and variety in debate. The fact that it has become such a hugely important and influential conference series is really impressive.

Oskar Funk: So what do you see as the future for this network and this conference series?

There are challenges because it is very interdisciplinary, and it has challenging relationship with professionalized worlds of education and practice. Because obviously, both the disciplines of the universities and the disciplines of professional practices of engineering, architecture, civil engineering, IT engineering, they are all very much working in silos, and mobilities discussions are inherently multi-scalar, multi-disciplinary and they challenge all of those silos. Those silos are actually quite conservative, because they are protecting their own statuses and privileges. John Urry was talking to me about; how do you engage with the worlds of professional education, so that transport engineers stop thinking and talking like transport engineers? That’s a really big challenge and it raises the other question of people doing PhD’s in these interdisciplinary agendas and areas, important and fascinating though they are, they have to get jobs in universities that are very often still quite conservative, still organized as a series of silos; anthropology, sociology, geography, politics, engineering. It is very hard to challenge these really big inherited, conservative traditions.

Oskar Funk: So what do you think is the directions for the mobilities paradigm?

You know what I am going to say. (Laughs) Well, I mean, I would say this obviously, since I am doing a lot of work on looking at the vertical scale, but I do think that it is an interesting agenda that needs to be addressed. I am always interested in the absences in debates and how, when knowledge is constructed and emerges, by definition; areas of absence are created as well, because they are not thought as relevant, they are not actually discussed. They are sort of there in plain sight, hidden in plain sight. I do think in a whole lot of debates about social sciences, geography, politics of space, mobility, we need to be more three-dimensional in our discussions.

Oskar Funk: So that is a blind-spot of the mobilities studies?

Yes, I think so. There is a big discussion on aeromobilities, aircraft mobilities, there is a smaller discussion on elite helicopter mobilities, but I would say, you know, the elevator. It’s fascinating why it is so completely neglected as a mobilities system. It’s an interesting thing to try to understand, and in geography it is partly a result of this flat two-dimensional treatment of urban space that has come through cartographic traditions especially.



Professor Mimi Sheller of mCenter Drexel opened the 10th Cosmobilities conference in Copenhagen on Networked Urban Mobilities. In her lecture, ‘Mobilizing Hybrid Cities’, she adds theoretical perspectives on digital art and locative media to the themes of mobilities studies and urban studies. In the talk Sheller asks how social sciences can take a more active role in shaping urban mobilities and how mobile media and geolocational data produces new relations of people to space, to community, to interaction and to communication. We also had a small chat with Mimi about her experience at the conference, which you can read below the video.


On the last day of the Networked Urban Mobilities Conference in 2014, we sat down with Mimi Sheller and asked a few questions about her experience of attending the Cosmobilities event in Copenhagen.

Sune & Oskar: What will you take with you from this conference?

I’ve been really excited about the younger scholars that are coming up and thinking about the mobilities perspectives and how to incorporate them into new research projects, and for me, in one of the last sessions we had a great conversation about the relation between micro-level research and macro-level problems, systems and structures. I think we are getting some interesting new ways of bridging the micro and the macro through mobilities research.

S & O: What has been the best or most surprising experience at the conference?

I just think the atmosphere has been really nice; in fact, we have had papers talking about “affective atmosphere”, and I think one of the great achievements of the cosmobilities network is creating a conducive and friendly atmosphere for people to exchange their work. For me that’s the best thing about it.

S & O: Where do you see the cosmobilities network and these conferences going from here? /What is the future of this network?

Well, next year it is our joint conference in Italy, which is a great future to look forward to. But I see efforts to really establish the field as not just a research network but sort of more than that. We have a growing set of publications, and hopefully new PhD’s and new positions in universities that will come out of this work that has gone on in this 10-year period.

S & O: How do you think the mobilities paradigm is developing, what is the future of the mobilities paradigm?

I think it is increasingly being taken note of by governments, by engineers, by designers, by transport planners and so, I think we are having a greater and greater impact on these kinds of realms of actual decision-makers, that are actually shaping the world, and I hope our research can help make better worlds in the future.


Ethnography in Hypermobile Fields

Ethnography in Hypermobile Fields

Networked Urban Mobilities

On the last day of the Networked Urban Mobilities Conference in Copenhagen we talked to Seraina Müller and Daniel Kunzelmann, who organized three sessions themed around ethnography in hypermobile fields together with pH.d.-student Emma Hill. The presentations during the sessions dealt with topics ranging from disaster management, drones and urban surveillance and ethnography of alterglobalization movements to the mobility of the super-rich yacht owners of Monaco.

Daniel Kunzelmann: Hypermobility was the notion that linked all of the sessions together. Hyper means hypertext but also hyper in the sense of “faster, faster, more!”. We were trying to connect the physical movement of things and people with virtual space. And we were interested in methodological questions: How can we research these spheres? How are they connected? How do we connect with them? That was our idea of mobility. We thought about mobility, while always thinking about hyperspace, hypertext, virtuality and how these connect.

The format of the sessions was often short, seven minute presentations of papers followed by discussions among the panel and the audience. A sense of curiosity and will to share and experiment with methods led to lively discussions about engagement and the ethics of coding and the use of social media as a research tool. Although the sessions spanned a wide range of research areas, a common interest in methodology and digital ethnography tied discussions together.

Daniel Kunzelmann: We were surprised because methodology might not seem like a sexy topic but a lot of people were interested in these issues. From a personal point of view, these issues are there in our everyday life and we use them as researchers. So how can we connect being a hyper mobile researcher and being a hyper mobile citizen? And I think that we are not the only ones to think about these questions.

Seraina Müller: I think [methodology] was the trigger that enabled us to talk about one of the oldest questions in ethnography; “how can you follow people?” in a digital age. How do you combine online and offline research? Is it different spheres or is it all the same? These questions were part of our initial motivation. The question of how to do online research touches almost everyone who does ethnography today because you can’t ignore it anymore. The interesting thing about our panel is that it did not only address social anthropologists, the field where we come from, but also geographers, and more technically oriented researches and coders – and they all think about the same questions.

Several of the research problems presented crossed disciplinary boundaries between mobility, technology and environmental studies, such as the 2007 San Diego wildfires studied by Katrina Petersen from Lancaster University. She followed the process of gathering and mapping information from different sources in order to respond to a disaster. Along with other presentations about networked technologies in disaster responses, it brought forward the overlap between science and technology studies and mobility studies. A question that came up during the discussions was the notion of ‘black boxing’ technological processes and problems; Will coding still be black boxed in 20 years with the spreading of Raspberry Pi and similar technologies?. And is it necessary for researchers doing digital ethnography to understand coding?

Daniel Kunzelmann: The question of black boxing did come up in previous discussions. We thought about whether it is enough to use the accessible part of the internet to do research, such as using Facebook and Twitter? Or whether there is a whole different infrastructure behind it that might be really interesting to understand, how it works? And how it structures the behavior of people? These notions came up now after we talked about the power of algorithms and the power of code during the sessions.

The two organizers, Daniel Kunzelmann and Seraina Müller edit a blog called Transformations where many of the themes from the discussions are explored further.

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.