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About this book

This book explores mobilities as a key to understanding the practices that both frame and generate contemporary everyday life in the urban context. At the same time, it investigates the challenges arising from the interpretation of mobility as a socio-spatial phenomenon both in the social sciences and in urban studies. Leading sociologists, economists, urban planners and architects address the ways in which spatial mobilities contribute to producing diversified uses of the city and describe forms and rhythms of different life practices, including unexpected uses and conflicts. The individual sections of the book focus on the role of mobility in transforming contemporary cities; the consequences of interpreting mobility as a socio-spatial phenomenon for urban projects and policies; the conflicts and inequalities generated by the co-presence of different populations due to mobility and by the interests gathered around major mobility projects; and the use of new data and mapping of mobilities to enhance comprehension of cities. The theoretical discussion is complemented by references to practical experiences, helping readers gain a broader understanding of mobilities in relation to the capacity to analyze, plan and design contemporary cities.

Table of Contents


Mobilities and the Transformations of Contemporary Cities


Mobility Practices as a Knowledge and Design Tool for Urban Policy

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.
Paola Pucci

A Social Science Approach to the Study of Mobility: An Introduction

The chapter introduces the foremost theories put forward by social sciences on daily mobility, notably in urban societies. After a preliminary part aimed at defining spatial mobility from a sociological point of view, the paper puts forward an overview of explanations related to factors associated with daily mobility and its growth, particularly following the invention and diffusion of motorised means of transport from the second half of the nineteenth century. The relationship between mobile populations and new urban morphology is dealt with in the subsequent part of the chapter aimed at describing the history of city transformations as a reflection of the evolution of mobility. The coexistence of different populations, in urban areas characterised by the increasing scattering of settlements and by the difficulty to access goods and services, it is the basis for the last group of theories, outlined in the final part of the chapter related to the issue of the relationship between mobility, accessibility and risks of social exclusion.
Matteo Colleoni

Putting Territory to the Test of Reversibility

In this chapter, we will argue that territories (urban areas included) can be understood based on the movement and mobility of their actors, as the result of the enmeshment of different actors’ (individual and collective) motilities with the receptiveness of a given environment. Actors have and use their highly specialized skills and creativity to appropriate technical systems, and to use them for personal and/or collective projects. The major challenge when it comes to regulating motility, more so than policies, therefore consists of having tools that are capable of identifying, describing, and analyzing motility and its social and spatial implications to develop means for controlling it—ideally without adverse regional, economic, social, or environmental consequences. A return to the underlying logics of action that govern mobility and movement naturally leads to an exploration of their political and social consequences, thereby allowing us to analyze the structure and functioning of modern societies in detail. In other words, we must consider not only changes in lifestyles (pluralism, individualism, etc.), but also the new technical and social forms that drive them (the development of economic structures, technical innovation, and changes in customs) and ensuing issues (new forms of inequality, opportunity, physical tensions, socio-cultural conflicts, etc.).
Vincent Kaufmann

Populations and Rhythms in Contemporary Cities

The chapter focuses on the importance to consider mobility practices characterising contemporary cities in the perspective of urban populations. Starting from the interpretation of mobility practices by different populations in terms of urban rhythms, the chapter analyse temporary populations as “groups of subjects that, temporarily and intermittently, share practices of daily life”. Urban populations, exactly because of their variety and considering the impossibility to constrain themselves into logics of identity and representation, may in fact generate new claims, but also new common goods, without necessarily operating as intentional actors in public policies. In this perspective, it is crucial to construct mobility policies that match up to the degree of mutation and complexity of the city, of the territories and of their relationship with living worlds, and with the radical irreducibility and plurality of spatial and temporal patters of urban populations.
Gabriele Pasqui

Mobility Practices, Policy and Project


Planning in Motion. The New Politics of Mobility in Munich

Since more of twenty years Munich is a sort of laboratory for the new politics of mobility in Germany. The so-called Inzell Initiative has been founded in 1995 to solve conflicts and to enable collaborative planning in the major city in the south of Germany. The initiative is a powerful stakeholder network which has been influencing and shaping local mobility politics significantly. The article reconstructs the rise of the network and analyzes its current activities in planning and envisioning the future of mobility in one of the most powerful economic metropolitan region in Europe. By doing so the author critically asks if there has been progress in transgressing the ‘technocentric planning paradigm’ towards a mobilities paradigm that puts social cohesion in the centre of attention instead of technological feasibility. In fast it seems that the new politics of mobility leads to a re-strengthening of technocentric visions, not at least through the rise of the smart city and mobility discourse.
Sven Kesselring

In Search of an Integrated Mobility Project

This essay reflects on the relationship between infrastructure projects for mobility and territorial projects in Italy, on the basis of the authors’ own experience in research and planning of projects for environmental integration of the Autostrada Pedemontana Lombarda road system. Difficulty integrating mobility projects into territorial development and reform projects is very accentuated and deeply rooted in Italy. The country’s traditional attitude to technology, focused on separation of knowledge from know-how and characterised by weak administrative structures, has in fact added to the importance of institutions and agencies created for the purposes of specific projects which, outside of ordinary practice and normal administration, have temporarily represented a point for integrating knowledge and technique capable of producing potentially innovative territorial projects. This inevitably weak condition has also had some impact on the Autostrada Pedemontana Lombarda affair. The difficulties linked with poor quality planning, the role of the design agencies, the contractors and the expectations of the areas involved cast light on a number of original and difficult aspects of territorial integration of mobility projects. Beginning with a number of considerations on the Italian context, this essay looks at various aspects of the project and how it has been approached through development of the management process, and reports on its direct and indirect results. In conclusion the essay offers a number of keys to interpretation of the relationship between design, research and action in Italy, going beyond the specific case under discussion, and the limits of practice in Italy.
Arturo Lanzani, Antonio Longo

Plug&Play Places: Subjective Standardization of Places in Multilocal Lifeworlds

‘Plug&Play’ is a technological term describing the immediate usability of items in a system without having to configure them. Referring to this term, the present chapter introduces the heuristic concept of ‘plug&play places’, which allows for an understanding of the meaning of places for multilocal people. Based on a set of 25 qualitative interviews with creative knowledge workers, this concept was developed in order to illustrate a specific feature of places within multilocal lifeworlds. This specific feature consists in the fact that multilocal persons configure a new place upon their first arrival, but on subsequent visits these places are immediately functional and usable within their multilocal lifeworlds. They standardize the places to be ‘plug&playable’ in their lifeworlds. Comparing this finding to the existing body of literature on the standardization of space and places, it is argued that one has to distinguish between a subjective and an objective type of standardization of places, with the former not necessarily changing the physical space. Every multilocal person proceeds to an individual configuration of these places, in which only a limited quantity of objectively standardized elements are incorporated. In this sense, ideas of objective standardization of space have to be examined critically as mobile lifestyles do not automatically resort to objectively standardized places.
Robert Nadler

Inhabiting Simultaneous Lives: Analysing Process of Reversibilization of Mobility Practices in Italy

This chapter aims to study some emerging mobility practices in Italy and the consequences they have had on the use and configuration of spaces. A growing number of people live their lives across a vast space consisting of work, family, and friendship networks, and are travelling longer distances, in shorter periods of time, than ever before. This paper addresses the hypothesis that those transformations are modifying the relationships between people and territory, allowing people to live simultaneous lives, and increasing relationships within multiple territories. I will use biographies of highly mobile people as a tool to describe this process. Describing and analysing their mobility behaviours allow to show how people try to “catch ubiquity and simultaneity” (Ascher in Cahiers internationaux de sociologie. PUF, Paris, p. 53, 2005) in their everyday lives, highlighting how far those practices have transformed the relation between people and territory and the spaces of mobility. The first results presented here consist on the identification of three territorial profiles based on the geography of personal relationships and revealing how this geography interacts with a general transformation of everyday urban rhythm in the construction of simultaneous lives.
Bruna Vendemmia

Mobilities, Inequalities and Conflicts


Temporal Efficiency, Temporal Justice and Urban Mobility

Urban areas are producers of the most productive and maybe efficient artefacts of humankind. They are characterised by different types of rhythms and temporal structures. The contribution analyses temporal (in)efficiencies in urban mobility and illustrates how these inefficiencies might be measured and made transparent. Exploring temporal inefficiencies and rhythms in transport and mobility offers hints at differences in mobility access and the distribution of space and time, that reach beyond pure questions of efficiency. Urban mobility involves important questions about equal and just mobility chances and options for all users of a city. Hence, temporal inefficiencies in urban mobility also raise questions about temporal inequalities and injustice and might call for redistributive action. To get to terms with temporal justice, the relations between transparency, equal access and individual temporal autonomy are disentangled. The right to one’s own time is taken as a yardstick for an urban space-–time policy, which is also oriented to temporal justice. The concept of temporal justice is not yet established, but the authors are convinced, that temporal justice should get more attention in the development of a more time-related welfare policy.
Dietrich Henckel, Susanne Thomaier

Transport Disadvantage, Car Dependence and Urban Form

In a more mobile world, the ability to cover greater distances and access to motorised means of transport are increasingly important for access to services and opportunities and, as a result, for social status and inclusion. In this chapter, we put forward an integrated conceptualisation of transport disadvantage, based on an extensive literature review and on insights from our own research. Given the dominance and the structuring power of car-based mobility in developed societies, we sketch a typology of different forms of car-related transport disadvantage, which allows us to show how access problems vary considerably in relation to car ownership and use. Given the important relationships between transport disadvantage, urban structure and the built environment, we then illustrate the spatial dimension of all forms of car-related transport disadvantage and demonstrate the role of urban socio-spatial configurations (i.e. patterns in the distribution of different social groups within metropolitan areas) in compounding or alleviating these issues. In the concluding section, we briefly review the policy options to tackle transport disadvantage, providing concrete examples of the measures proposed and implemented in a number countries.
Giulio Mattioli, Matteo Colleoni

Resident and Non-resident Populations: Types of Conflicts

Contemporary urban areas are characterized by the growing number of resident and non-resident people living, working, and consuming in cities. According to the analysis of Martinotti (1993), we have four types of metropolitan populations: inhabitants, commuters, city users (mainly tourists), and businessmen. These populations come and stay in the city in different moments during the day or in different seasons, for different reasons and purposes, generating different types of real or potential conflicts. In particular, it is possible to focus on six types of possible conflicts: from a spatial point of view, in terms of conflicts concerning occupation and mobility in the space; from a more general point of view, in terms of economic, cultural, fiscal, and political conflicts. Of course, non-resident populations constitute very important resources also for improving the living conditions of resident populations, and vice versa. However, scholars and planners should also recognize that contemporary cities have to tackle many problems related to the high concentration and flow of people in urban areas, where new worrisome phenomena of social polarization and political disenfranchisement are emerging that require innovative types of public policies.
Giampaolo Nuvolati

Mapping Mobility Practices


Metropolitan Dynamics and Mobility Flows: A National Comparative Study (1991–2011)

The first national interest in metropolitan areas dates back to the seventies stimulated by the strong growth in population around the main metropolitan conurbations in Italy and linked to the issue of constructing administrative bodies of a metropolitan nature. Since then, the presence of metropolitan areas has been covered by sector literature sharing, albeit from different disciplinary perspectives, the aim of identifying territorial collocation and socio-demographic structure. In a similar way to those in English in the fifties on metropolitan areas, Italian studies define metropolitan areas by combining criteria of homogeneity, interdependence and morphology. Similar attention to integration of the defining criteria is present in this study, which aims to identify metropolitan areas in Italy and study their evolution in the period from 1991 to 2011. Compared to studies carried out so far this proposal stands out for its choice to consider as metropolitan those areas that meet specific requisites of density of metropolitan functions, including special attention dedicated to mobility for work or study reasons. More than an accessory function that supports the other activities, mobility is considered a fundamental dimension of metropolitan areas, helping to define the shape of the area and draw its borders.
Mario Boffi, Matteo Colleoni

Mobility Practices in Peri-Urban Areas: Understanding Processes of Urban Regionalization in Milan Urban Region

The paper focuses on mobility patterns as experienced in Lombardy peri-urban areas to investigate whether and if so how new processes of urban regionalization, (Soja in New companion to the city. Wiley-Blackwell, Cambridge, pp 679–689, 2011; Brenner in Towards a study of planetary urbanization. Iovis Verlage, Berlin, pp 14–27, 2013a; Brenner in Implosions/explosions: towards a study of planetary urbanization. Iovis Verlage, Berlin, 2013b; Young and Keil in Cities 27:87–95, 2010) can be better understood through a reorganization of mobility practices and the emergence of new geographies of movements. Some research evidence suggests that patterns linked to mobility, consumption and lifestyles in peri-urban areas are changing quickly, challenging the way we conceptualize the relationship that European city central areas entrain with their outer areas and suburbs. In the international literature on the subject, it is widely acknowledged that changing socio-economic conditions are calling for a parallel readjustment of the approaches adopted to assess such phenomena. This to a certain extent has been done; nonetheless, knowledge in the field remains fragmented and scattered across a number of disciplinary domains. In order to make sense of the evidence generated on mobility practices in peri-urban areas, this chapter investigates the diversity of mobility practices characterizing such areas in the Milan urban region (North Italy), highlighting possible transformative scenarios.
Paola Pucci

Mobile Phone Data in Reading Mobility Practices

This chapter explores the potential of mobile phone data in reading urban practices and rhythms of usage of the contemporary city. Presenting the results of two researches, promoted by Telecom Italia and carried out by the authors, the chapter will show how new maps based on mobile phone data analysis can represent spatialized urban practices, providing new insights into space-time patterns of mobility practices. Mobile traffic data employed in the analysis of complex temporal and spatial patterns (Erlang, and origin–destination matrices) were treated as the effect of individual behaviours and habits, offering information about the features of usage of urban spaces that vary over time. Thanks to the processing of mobile phone data, it was possible to describe the intensity of use of the city (during the day, weekdays/holidays, seasons), linking them to the differences in the distribution of urban activities at different hours, day and weeks, as a useful tool to define urban policies regarding the supply of services; managing large and special events (inflow, outflow, monitoring), also estimating the mobility demand and the spatial-temporal variation in population density; describing time-dependent phenomena that are missing from traditional analysis; as well as tracing ‘fuzzy boundaries’ as perimeters of practices, as a tool for supporting and increasing the efficiency of urban policies and mobility services.
Fabio Manfredini, Paola Pucci, Paolo Tagliolato


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