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Workshop on 'Autonomobilities' - low cost, low carbon

Noel | 25.06.2014 10:20 | Analysis | Climate Chaos | Energy Crisis

Fare-dodging, hitch-hiking, cycle-touring, freight-hopping and backpacking? A workshop to develop a research agenda on low carbon mobility practices from the margin.

Lancaster University

Thursday July 17th 12:00-Friday July 18th 14:00

A double-half-day workshop hosted by Lancaster University’s Centre for Mobility Research seeks to develop a research agenda based around dormant, delegitimized, historical, niche, alternative, hidden, and otherwise under-researched forms of low-carbon mobility. The academic rationale for this agenda arises from Lancaster’s leading role in the development of the ‘mobility turn’ in the social sciences and its focus on developing a ‘social practices’ approach to understanding energy demand and consumption. The political and environmental rationales are rooted in the contexts of failing climate change policies, peak oil, peak car, and a global transport sector increasingly locked into the socio-technical systems of automobility and aeromobility. Considered globally these elite mobility systems and practices are diffusing and out-competing pre-existing ways of getting about without huge carbon impacts.

Rather than taking such levels and practices of mobility as an unquestionable given, this workshop aims to raise the issue of unmaking unsustainability. We propose as starting points the intuitive claim of a social practice approach that people are recruited by practices that are considered ‘normal’, and a socio-technical systems approach that identifies the multiple arrangements of legal, normative, industrial, discursive and technological elements that channel ‘normality’ in an unsustainable direction. We propose looking at ‘abnormal’ ways of getting about for hints as to the changes in these systems that would be required to render low carbon travel acceptable, viable and normal. Many of these mobility practices challenge norms of propriety or even legality, and yet the norms and rules that have caused defection from them were themselves made, in processes of competition that favoured the most profitable and yet the most unsustainable modes of mobility. The workshop will apply practice theory and STS to ask why cycle-commuting, hitch-hiking, freight-jumping, lift-sharing and a host of as-yet unidentified autonomobilities have died out or hidden in the face of single occupancy car driving, and what could be salvaged and reinvigorated in the name of a rational mobility policy in the face of carbon budgets.

Who and How?
The workshop is open to non-academics with relevant experience and interests, and the format and precise content of the workshop is fluid. Presentations of 20+minutes are invited but not required, with group discussions aiming to draw out developing themes to identify opportunities for future research. Presentations can focus on previous research on the topic area, personal experiences, historical case studies, or utopian proposals for future mobility systems. In a spirit of reflexivity in research, attendees are requested to base at least 25% of their presentation reflecting on their own travel to the workshop: for this reason, it is hoped that some participants will utilise the delegitimized travel practices under discussion.

Whatever the mode(s) employed, it is hoped that these reflections will address the questions of:
• Why choose these modes of travel and not others?
• What structured that ‘choice’?
• What was the carbon impact of the mode?
• What other means of travel were considered or attempted and why were they abandoned?
• What were the (financial, temporal, spatial, physical, mental, organisational, technical, legal) barriers to lowering the carbon impact of the travel?
• What aspects of the abandoned mode of travel are dormant – existing but not normally utilised?
• What interventions in policy, law, custom, technology, materials, norms etc would be required to make alternative and low carbon travel viable?
The budget for this workshop is small (£500), and whilst on-campus accommodation is available attendees will be expected in the first instance to approach potential hosts in Lancaster through alternative accommodation networks:,, AirB&B etc. The grant for the workshop will be divided between attendees on a proportional basis to help with travel and accommodation costs (daytime catering will be covered first), and is not expected to cover all costs!

Members of the Participatory Geographies Research Group may receive additional help with travel and subsistence costs subject to the success of an application for additional financial support.

Please contact Noel Cass and Pennie Drinkall with enquiries and/or to book a place on the workshop:
B36, Charles Carter Building
Department of Organisation, Work and Technology
Lancaster University Management School
Lancaster University
Tel: (+44)1524 510287
Centre for Mobilities Research (CeMoRe)
Sociology Dept
Lancaster University
Tel: (+44) 1524 592680

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