Expanding the debate on transport and mobility justice

AAG Annual Meeting, April 10-14, 2018, New Orleans, LA
Organisers: Ersilia Verlinghieri and Tim Schwanen

Transport and mobility play a critical role in current social and environmental crises and are vital to creating more just societies at different spatial scales. Across various disciplines, including Geography, researchers are now routinely drawing attention to the spatial dimensions of justice. Some have begun to consider the interconnections of transport and mobilities with justice and space (e.g. Soja 2010; Sheller, 2011; Cook and Butz 2016; Verlinghieri and Venturini 2017), but important conceptual and empirical work remains to be undertaken. Cross-fertilisation of the thinking and practice around justice in Urban Geography, and urban studies more widely, with ongoing work on transport and mobility justice seems to be a particularly effectively way forward.

In this session we seek to consider and explore the concepts of transport and mobility justice and their interconnections with the wider frameworks of social, spatial and environmental justice. We welcome both theoretical contributions and case studies from across the globe that focus on procedural and substantive aspects of transport and mobility justice. We are particularly interested in contributions that stage dialogues of transport and mobilities research with urban scholarship and so explore how one can contribute to, and open up new questions for, the other.

Potential topics include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • The nature of transport and mobility justice;
  • The right to mobility;
  • The relationships of transport and urban planning with transport and mobility justice;
  • Urban struggles and transport and mobility justice;
  • The use of participatory and critical social science methods for research on transport and mobility justice; and
  • Research ethics for studies of transport and mobility justice.

Please email enquiries and abstracts (250 words) to Ersilia Verlinghieri (ersilia.verlinghieri@ouce.ox.ac.uk) and Tim Schwanen (tim.schwanen@ouce.ox.ac.uk) by October 20. Authors must register for the conference and submit their abstracts through the AAG website by the October 25 deadline to be added to the paper session. AAG guidelines for preparing and submitting abstracts at: http://www.aag.org/cs/annualmeeting/call_for_papers.


Uber in London

Last week Transport for London (TfL) announced in what is widely see as a shock move that Uber’s license in London is not going to be extended for another five years beyond 30 September 2017. The decision and its aftermath have attracted extensive media coverage and propelled the comany once more into the midst of the public debate.

As Geoff Dudley, David Banister and myself have argued, the relation between TfL and Uber has been strenuous for quite some time, so TfL’s move is arguably less surprising than many commentators are making it to be. It is also important to appreciate that this is not (yet) the end of Uber’s presence in London. Uber will contest the decision in the courts, and TfL themselves have suggested that there is some room for negotiation. It will be interesting to see how the sage unfolds over the next couple of weeks, if not months.

I was interviewed by WIRED magazine about the developments in London two days ago. You can read the result here.

Post-Doc position at Utrecht University in serious gaming for encouraging walking and cycling

Job description: The Department of Human Geography and Spatial Planning of Utrecht University seeks to appoint a post-doc for the project “DEPICT: DEsigning and Policy Implementation for encouraging Cycling and walking Trips” financed by NWO-ESRC-FAPESP. The project is a close collaboration with the University of Applied Sciences NHTV, University of Oxford and the the University of São Paulo.

Qualifications: For this project, we search for a highly motivated post-doc with a PhD degree in Human Geography or related disciplines, preferably with experience in empirical research methods such stated preference techniques. You will work with the 3D immersive simulation technology Oculus Rift to analyse the impact of manipulations in streetscape and traffic environment design on walking and cycling in the Netherlands as well as in São Paulo.

Offer: The post is available from October first, 2017. You will be offered a temporary position for 15 months as post-doc. Employment conditions are based on the Collective Labour Agreement of the Dutch Universities. Your gross monthly salary is dependent on experience and qualifications and varies between € 2.855,- and €3.908,- (salary scale 10) on a fulltime basis.

Contact: Prof. dr. Martin Dijst: m.j.dijst@uu.nl

Uber in London article available for download

A paper on the introduction and regulation of Uber in London led by Geoff Dudley, with David Banister and myself as co-authors, is now published in The Political Quarterly. It is available for free download until mid-June. You can find the paper here. The article discusses the challenges that Uber’s disruptive innovation strategy has brought to various stakeholders in London, particularly taxi operators and TfL. It also discusses the prospects of Uber’s disruptive innovation strategy now the company is rapidly becoming an established player.

The paper is part of a research project on the governance of urban mobility transitions which focuses on Uber in London as a case.

Third Progress Report available

The third and final Progress Report on geographies of transport is now available on the website of Progress in Human Geography. In this report I chart the origins of concepts, methods and practices used in geographical scholarship on transport in Africa, South Asia and Latin America. I show that western modes of thinking and doing research remain hegemonic although a number of authors are now heeding wider calls to ‘decolonise’ knowledge production on transport and mobilities in Global South contexts. The report concludes with some suggestions how post/decolonial scholarship on the geographies of transport can be developed further.

Two Paper Sessions at 2017 RGS/IBG conference

I am co-organising two paper sessions at the upcoming Annual International Conference of the Royal Geographical Society with the Institute of British Geographers, which will be held 29 August-1 September in London.

Everyday Mobilities and Climatic Events

Convenors: Anna Plyushteva (Vrije Universiteit Brussel), Nihan Akyelken (Oxford), & Tim Schwanen (Oxford)

Deadline: 7 February 2017

Weather and climate shape the everyday mobilities of people worldwide, in both mundane and increasingly disruptive ways. Transportation, on the other hand, is closely linked to climate in at least three ways: as a major contributor to climate change; as a sector progressively more vulnerable to its effects; and as a set of individual and institutional practices which have proven resistant to transformative change. We are interested in bringing together theoretical and empirical contributions which examine the ways in which climatic events play out in the everyday mobilities of different groups and locales.

Topics include, but are not limited to:

  • Everyday mobilities and vulnerability to climatic events;
  • The role of gender, life course and household dynamics in climate and everyday mobility;
  • Social, spatial and environmental inequalities in transport and climate change vulnerability;
  • Examples of transport policies which address the social implications of climatic events for everyday mobility.

We are especially interested in papers which take a comparative approach, and/or focus on the global South.


Exploring the socio-spatialities of urban goods mobility

Convenors: Debbie Hopkins (Oxford) & Tim Schwanen (Oxford)

Deadline: 6 February 2017

As centres of production and consumption, cities rely heavily on the mobility of freight for the provision of goods and services to residents, visitors, firms and organisations. Volumes of freight mobility are increasing and courier, express and parcel (CEP) services are growing rapidly with ongoing urbanisation and changes in consumption and shopping habits and delivery structures. Further change can be expected in light of the ongoing restructuring of logistics and supply chains and the rise of the smart city and vehicle automation. Yet the parcels, distribution centres, vehicles and pipelines that make up the systems of freight delivery often remain invisible in geographical studies of transport and mobilities. Similarly, policies to reduce the negative impacts of road freight transport are seldom focused at the city scale, and urban mobility is rarely prioritised in urban planning. In this session, we seek to address these gaps, through in-depth explorations of the social-spatialities of urban goods mobility.

Topics of interest include, but are not limited to:

  • Innovations in urban freight and logistics — e.g., urban consolidation centres, drone delivery, electric and autonomous vehicles, cargo-bikes;
  • Freight and logistics in the ‘smart city’;
  • The political economy of urban goods mobility;
  • Geographies of new business models for CEP services in cities; and
  • The lived experience of freight mobilities.

CFP AAG 2017: Advances in Analyzing Contextual Effects on Behavior, Practice and Experience

2017 AAG Annual Meeting, Boston (5-9 April, 2017)

Organizers: Mei-Po Kwan (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) & Tim Schwanen (University of Oxford)

Much of geographic and social science research is concerned with the influence of various contextual factors on human behavior, practice, and experience. Widely understood as the neighborhood effect in urban and health research, contextual influences on people’s behavior and experience were often analyzed using arbitrary and static enumeration units (e.g., census tracts or post-code areas), which may deviate significantly from the “true causally relevant “ geographic contexts and lack sufficient consideration of past contexts.

The spatial dimension of this problem has been recognized and recently articulated as the uncertain geographic context problem (UGCoP): the problem that findings about the effects of area-based attributes (e.g., neighborhood walkability, access to health food outlets, or social deprivation) may be affected by how contextual units (e.g., neighborhoods) are geographically delineated and the extent to which these areal units deviate from the “true causally relevant” geographic context at a given moment (http://www.meipokwan.org/UGCOP.html). It is a significant methodological problem because it means that analytical results can be different for different delineations of contextual units (e.g., census tract, circular buffers, network-based buffers, or perceived neighborhood) even if everything else is the same.

There is also a temporal dimension to the problem of contextual causation: contexts from earlier times may still exert influence at later moments (e.g., during the day or during the life course) when physical proximity has been replaced by connectivity. Such relational effects have been described in many different ways (e.g., historical dependence, spill-over or life-course effects), but they remain poorly understood and their evaluation presents major methodological challenges. It is difficult to identify which, when, where and how past context(s) matters. Spatially uncertain contextual effects are mediated and often amplified by temporal uncertainties.

We seek to organize several sessions to further explore and deepen understanding of various spatiotemporal uncertainties in the analysis of contextual effects on human behavior, practice, and experience. We welcome papers from all geographic subfields and perspectives. Topics may include but are not limited to: (1) more accurate representation and assessment of the space-time configurations of environmental risk factors, individual daily mobility, and their interactions (e.g., capturing situational contingencies and real-time context with ecological momentary assessment; reconstructing the daily paths and activity spaces of individuals of different social groups using means like GPS, mixed methods, and qualitative GIS; and collecting and using high resolution space-time data of environmental influences and individual mobility); (2) examination of the differences between the UGCoP and the modifiable areal unit problem (MAUP); (3) exploration of means for mitigating the UGCoP; (4) conceptualizations of temporally extended and spatiotemporally uncertain contextual effects; (5) realistic representations of such effects using quantitative and mixed methods approaches; and (6) empirical examination of temporally extended as well as spatiotemporally uncertain contextual effects.

If you are interested in participating in the sessions, please send a short abstract of no more than 250 words to Mei-Po Kwan (mpk654@gmail.com) and Tim Schwanen (tim.schwanen@ouce.ox.ac.uk) by October 14, 2016. Please follow AAG guidelines for preparing and submitting abstracts at: http://www.aag.org/cs/annualmeeting/call_for_papers

Brexit and Energy Efficiency

What seems to be a neck-and-neck race between ‘remain’ and ‘leave’ has been dominating the news in the UK for a few weeks new, and will no doubt continue to do so until the end of the month. Those who get tired of the narrowly framed arguments about immigration and the economy may be interested in an excellent piece on what leaving the EU might mean for energy efficiency policy in the UK. The text has been written by Jan Rosenow — senior researcher in our RCUK funded Centre on Innovation on Energy Demand and based at SPRU in the University of Sussex.

Geographies of Mobility Special Issue

A while ago the annual special issue of the Annals of the American Association of Geographers has been published, and this year’s edition is on the Geographies of Mobility and edited by Mei-Po Kwan and myself.

The special issue consists of 26 articles, plus an introductory piece by Mei-Po and myself, that seeks to bring together the multiple ways in which geographers examine the everyday mobilities of people. It consists of five thematic sections – conceptualizing and analysing mobility, inequalities of mobility, politics of mobility, decentering mobility, and qualifying abstraction. Empirically the focus is on mobility in various regions of the world, and not only in North America and Europe. The papers discuss issues as diverse as the everyday mobilities of young people, migrants and refugees, and sex workers; the relationships between citizenship and mobility; and the potential and pitfalls of big data for understanding mobility.

Struggling to understand objects

One of the most exciting developments in social theory and philosophy in recent years has been the articulation of object oriented ontologies, and a range of geographers (e.g. Katharine Meehan, James Ash) have been actively involved in this development. One of the most influential thinkers in this nascent body of work is Graham Harman, one of the leading Speculative Realists who has taken the phenomenological philosophies of Heidegger and Husserl into completely new directions, along the way adding elements from Latour, Whitehead and others.

Fascinated by Harman’s writings I have over the last two years been thinking about if and how his ideas can be used to enrich our thinking about everyday mobilities in cities. The (first) results of this have now been published in EJTIR. It is fair to say that working with Harman’s philosophy proved less straightforward than I had anticipated. This was not just because of high level of abstraction that characterises his thinking about objects compared to the particularities and context-specificity of everyday mobility that one encounters in empirical research. It was especially so because his work — or at least those parts I have engaged — have often little to say about change, dynamics and process. It would appear that geographers seeking to work with his ideas need to combine them with other philosophies or perspectives if they want to study mobilities, cities, landscape, nature or whatever it is they are interested in.