Mobility in Daily Life (Transport and Society)

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Mobility in Daily Life (Transport and Society)

MOBILITY IN DAILY LIFE This page has been left blank intentionally Mobility in Daily Life Between Freedom and Unfree

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MOBILITY IN DAILY LIFE

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Mobility in Daily Life Between Freedom and Unfreedom

MALENE FREUDENDAL-PEDERSEN Roskilde University and Danish Architecture Centre, The Sustainable Cities Unit, Denmark

© Malene Freudendal-Pedersen 2009 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior permission of the publisher. Malene Freudendal-Pedersen has asserted her right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, to be identified as the author of this work. Published by Ashgate Publishing Limited Wey Court East Union Road Farnham Surrey GU9 7PT England

Ashgate Publishing Company Suite 420 101 Cherry Street Burlington, VT 05401-4405 USA

www.ashgate.com British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data Freudendal-Pedersen, Malene Mobility in daily life : between freedom and unfreedom. (Transport and society) 1. Transportation - Social aspects 2. Spatial behavior 3. Movement (Philosophy) I. Title 388 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Freudendal-Pedersen, Malene. Mobility in daily life : between freedom and unfreedom / by Malene FreudendalPedersen. p. cm. -- (Transport and society) Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-0-7546-7490-0 1. Individuality. 2. Communities. 3. Personal space. 4. Freedom. I. Title. BF697.F75 2009 304.2--dc22

09ANSHT ISBN 978-0-7546-7490-0

2008050819

Contents

Preface

vii

1

Introduction

2

Mobility’s Anchorage in Late Modern Everyday Life

19

3

Structural Stories

33

4

Freedom

61

5

Time and Space

93

6

Conclusions

109

7

Postscript: Ambivalences, Sustainability and Utopias

117

1

Bibliography

143

Index

153

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Preface

I am deeply grateful to many colleagues and friends – Kurt Aagaard Nielsen, Thyra Uth Thomsen, Per Homann Jespersen and especially Katrine HartmannPetersen and Lise Drewes Nielsen – whose suggestions and discussions have been highly important in the making of this book. Also I owe a large debt of thanks to Cindy Katz at Environmental Psychology and Neil Smith at Center for Place, Culture and Politics for their generous hospitality during my stays at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY). They provided excellent opportunities to think about and discuss various issues significant for the development of my research. Cosmobilities Network has been a significant forum for the development of my work; thanks to Sven Kesselring and Gerlinde Vogl for creating and maintaining this excellent environment for the exchange of ideas. I am grateful to Eric Clark, Anders Lund Hansen, Thomas Hylland Eriksen, Randi Hjorthol, Julie Abitz and Andrew Crabtree for reading and commenting on earlier drafts of the manuscript. Special thanks to Valery Forbes, head of Department for Environment, Social and Spatial Change (ENSPAC) at Roskilde University and Henning Thomsen, Head of Division, Sustainable Cities, Danish Architecture Centre (DAC) for supporting this project. Malene Freudendal-Pedersen

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Chapter 1

Introduction

On a cold January evening in the beginning of 2007 I was in Oslo participating in a conference on freedom. I decided to take a mental break and went to catch a movie. I cannot clearly recall the movie, but what I do remember was a commercial running before the movie aimed at attracting new tram drivers to Oslo Sporveier (Oslo’s public transportation system). The advert went like this: a big large utility vehicle (SUV) arrives at a parking basement in Oslo. Mom is driving and Alexander is sitting on the back seat. Mom is talking on the mobile phone: ‘You know Alexander’s birthday … I was thinking we might have to postpone it a couple of months … I’m parking right now, can you believe why people in such small cars occupy such a big parking space?’ Mom is commenting and honking at a woman fetching her baby son from the back seat of the small car. She continues her conversation on the mobile: ‘I want it to be a decent party you know, I have ordered a pony and all.’ Alexander and Mom leave the parking basement walking to Oslo city centre. //New scene//Alexander is just about to finish a soft drink and is trying to get to the other side of the pedestrian street to throw the empty soda can in a dustbin. Mom is on the phone again: ‘I am in no way interested in having one of those Eastern European cleaning maids … I don’t trust those people at all.’ While talking, she grabs the soda can from Alexander, and throws it at the feet of a man cleaning the street. They move down the street, Alexander is curiously experiencing the surroundings. Mom makes sure he doesn’t get in contact with the homeless man whom she disgustedly mumbles ‘hopeless’ to, or the peace activist handing out leaflets to whom she snaps ‘fool’. Then Alexander tries to give money to the Salvation Army collection for poor people at Christmas, and Mom reacts by lecturing him: ‘Alexander what are you doing, how can you even think about giving to someone when you’re not getting anything in return? You know it’s very important to think about yourself in life. Dad and I always did that. If you are going to waste time on being nice to all these people, who are just feeling sorry for themselves, then you might end up like him.’ Mom points towards a tram driver picking up passengers. The driver smiles and waves to Alexander, who smiles back. Mom and Alexander are leaving the scene when Mom says: ‘Not all uniforms are equally cool you know.’ Across the picture it says ‘Tram driver – a job for nice people’. The direct way in which oppositions between individuality and community are presented in this commercial is unlike anything I have ever seen. The public transport system struggling with private automobilisms is not, in any

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way, special to Norway, alhough portraying car drivers as stressed and selfobsessed individuals without community feeling is unique. Another memorable example of the battle between public transport and the private car comes from one of my visits to New York City. This is more in line with the traditional power relation between the private car and the public transport system. New York City is a huge mix of different people, families of all kinds, buildings, cars and, not least, oversized commercials. An enormous commercial for an SUV is difficult to miss, where it visually roars at Broadway and 58th Street. The text says ‘Life, Liberty and the Pursuit’. At the same time I see a bus crawling down Broadway, between yellow taxis and cars of all colours and sizes. On the side of the bus there is a big streamer saying: ‘This is a SUV.’ This was a commercial for the Metropolitan Transport Authority aiming at attracting more passengers. The contrasts are omnipresent and ‘freedom’s stronghold in God’s own land’ contains countless unfreedoms, not least symbolized through the enormous quantity of automobilities which routinely slows movement down to a snail’s pace. This book takes its starting point in the tension between freedom and unfreedom, articulated through the dichotomy between individuality and community: a dichotomy that we, in our everyday lives, vacillate between and navigate through, creating the good life for ourselves and our families. An essential task in this everyday life is to plan and coordinate our own, and our families’, activities spread over time and space. Our mobilities, and the places they shuttle us between each day, become an important task to organize and plan. As the title suggests, everyday life choices lie between freedom/unfreedom and individuality/community – extremes we hover between and reside within. This book focuses on everyday life mobilities and our movement between the activities of which our lives consist. It offers a critical view on how mobilities maintain dichotomies, as well as the multitude of unintended consequences of mobility. From Transportation Research to Mobility Research Transportation research has traditionally been dominated by engineers and planners. The central goal has been to remove impediments to mobility and facilitate mobility for an increased number of people. Research has traditionally been centred on questions of accessibility, risk and optimizing of infrastructure, conditions of noise and other environmental impacts. Increasingly throughout the 1990s, sociologists and psychologists focused on behavioural aspects of transportation, which became a major component of Danish transportation research (Jensen 1997a; 1997 b; Maglund 1997; Læssøe 1999 Freudendal-Pedersen et al. 1999; 2000). Slowly there emerged an entry point to transportation as more than just a question of getting from point A to point B efficiently. Simultaneously an understanding of modernity and



Introduction

3

mobility as highly interconnected gained ground internationally. A decisive step in this direction was taken with Urry’s book Sociology Beyond Society – Mobilities for the Twenty-first Century (2000). Urry illuminates mobility as an integral component of modern societies through which societies should be understood and analysed. This argument is followed up and further developed in his book Mobilities (2007).Through exploring modernity/ mobility dynamics, the formation of CeMoRe (Center for Mobility Research) and later Cosmobilities Network, lead by John Urry and Svend Kesselring, placed mobility as a key concept in understanding society. As opposed to transportation research, mobility research takes its point of departure in recognizing that mobility is not only about distance covered. The potential to be mobile is equally important in understanding mobilities impact on society. Mobility research thus focuses on mobilities’ impact on social, cultural and psychological factors which were previously ignored by social science (Urry 2007). Mobility research, like transportation research, is often interdisciplinary and covers a wide range of theoretical and empirical fields. Urry (2007, 10–11) lists 12 main mobility forms, ranging from ‘migration’ to ‘visiting friends and relatives’. This list, however, focuses on the grouping of mobility purpose. Moreover, I would add to the list empirical fields in a different grouping affecting purposes and materialities of the surrounding world. Some of these fields could be: information and communications technology (Dodge and Kitchin 2004; Vogl 2007), politics and planning (Jensen and Richardson 2004; Jensen 2006), the transportation of goods (Hansen 2005; Jespersen and Drewes Nielsen 2005) etc., all from a global and local perspective. Thus mobility research stems from many different traditions and includes a vast array of different approaches. In recent years, a number of anthologies have been published in an effort to show the variety and the formation of a mobilities paradigm (for example, Thomsen et al. 2005; Knowles et al. 2008; Bærenholdt and Granås 2008; Bergmann and Sager 2008; Canzler et al. 2008). Mobility as a Challenge to Sustainability Mobility is an important part of late modern lives, enabling a vast variety of possibilities which have created the kind of life we know. Mobility also poses many challenges in environmental, social and economic regards. In relation to the environment, automobility is in particular a large source of pollution. Automobile travel today accounts for 15–30 per cent of total trips in the developing world; in Western Europe the amount is 50 per cent and the United States tops the list with 90 per cent (Ribeiro et al. 2007). Automobility is rapidly and steadily growing, most rapidly in developing countries. Between 1950 and 1997 the worldwide car fleet increased from about 50 million vehicles to 580 million vehicles, which is five times faster than the growth in

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population (Ribeiro et al. 2007). On an everyday basis, individuals suffer from the discharge of gasoline, hydrocarbons, toxic chemicals and micro particles when moving around the city. Today virtually all transport energy (95 per cent) comes from oil-based fuels and more and more people travel longer distances. Thus transport energy use amounted to 26 per cent of total world energy use in 2004. In recent years more focus has been placed on automobility’s contribution to air pollution and CO2 emissions. In 2004, the transport sector as a whole produced 23 per cent of world energy-related CO2 emissions, and 74 per cent of the total transport CO2 emissions came from road transport (Ribeiro et al. 2007). During recent years, traffic noise has attracted focus, as it has been shown that noise has significant health consequences (Miljøstyrelsen 2003). Apart from the environmental consequences, automobility also has a huge impact on the design of our cities. Today, cities are organized according to the architecture of automobility (Scanlan 2004). Contemporary mobility, particularly automobility, takes up a huge amount of space in the city and creates congestion and insecurity. Today 25 per cent of the land in London is a car-only environment (Urry 2007), a figure similar to that of several Nordic cities. It seems that when a car is acquired, most trips are facilitated by automobility. More than 30 per cent of European car trips cover distances of less than 3 km, and 50 per cent are less than 5 km (Ribeiro et al. 2007). One can wonder why and how automobility has been able to take control of our surrounding world. It has done so to a high degree, because of the close connection between mobility and economic growth. Automobility has been very significant for economic development in the western world. It seems, though, that the close connection between economic advantages and automobility have reached a tipping point. An important conclusion of the Eddington Transport Study (2006) was that in western countries, which have a developed infrastructural system, new road spaces do not create growth. Furthermore, automobility entails a vast amount of external costs, which are not related to the maintenance of roads, parking spaces and so on. In 2003, the Danish Ministry of Environment calculated that the cost of transport externalities in Denmark (5.5 million people and 43,000 km2) is around DK33 billion per annum (approximately €4 million). Thus the major consequences of transport are mainly estimated in relation to the private car. This is due to the fact that public transport moves more people, and even though some trains and buses are also massive polluters, they are still more environmentally friendly than the private car. The overall idea when changes of transport habits are discussed concerns moving individuals from private car usage to public transport. Public transport systems are, in many countries, fighting an uphill battle to maintain a certain number of passengers. According to Urry (2007), the public transport system has incited ‘three limited responses of the rail system – the speed response, the neo-liberal response, and the integrated transport response’ (110). None of these has successfully stopped individuals from preferring the car. One main reason why public transport cannot compete



Introduction

5

with automobility is its affiliation to the state. Even if the public transport system is not owned by the state (which is the case in an increasing number of countries) the state still regulates access, price, timetables and so forth (Urry 2007). When taking a starting point in the material, it becomes important to understand mobility’s disadvantages as well as its advantages and to relate critically to mobility as a societal transforming element. The critical perspective is not to be understood as saying that all mobility is bad, but instead as a wish to challenge some of the taken-for-granted ideas concerning mobility. This book seeks to contribute to critical mobility research, to understand mobility and thus to help facilitate changes. The knowledge of how meaning and apparent rationales become built into everyday life are fruitful in understanding how the individual masters everyday life mobility. It is, however, important to underline that the critique is aimed at apparent rationalities and ideas in our surrounding world. It is aimed at theoretical perspectives in which the lived life and the embedded mobilities, in my point of view, are not getting enough attention. The critique is not aimed at the individual and how he or she overcomes everyday life, structured and compounded by mobility. As individuals we master everyday life mobilities in certain ways, so that they give meaning to ourselves and those closest to us. The mastering draws patterns and imprints that we have in common, and it is these that I wish to understand and illuminate, and thus clear the way to examine, understand and perhaps lay out tracks to change mobility preferences. The changes and breaks in the daily rhythms, routines and actions are not merely matter-of-fact, they imprint on the way we construct meaning in our everyday life. The goal is to understand mobility’s soul in the light of a sustainable horizon of change and focus on some of mobility’s unintended consequences. Sustainability understood in its widest context focuses on lived everyday lives, guided by dreams and wishes for the good life. The Sociology of Mobility The sociological mobility research works both empirically and theoretically with ideas that can capture the social dynamics of the understanding of mobilities’ needs and habits. Thereby the sociology of mobility also comes to deal with the good life, what it can or should include, how it is achieved and at what cost. Mobility sociology constitutes a theoretical and methodological basis for understanding the psychological and social dynamics of mobility. In this way it can be used to build a better understanding of mobility’s meaning, and contribute to a better basis for the regulation of, for example, traffic security and traffic demands. An important characteristic of mobility is the notion that increased mobility provides increased freedom. This is the result of a ‘simple equation summed

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up thus: mobility is good, because it equals open-mindedness, discovery and experience, and an effort must be made for individuals to maximize mobility for this reason’ (Kaufmann 2002, 37). This notion is, as Kaufmann (2002) states, a part of a value system which can only be illuminated by integrating the intentions of the individual and the reason that makes them mobile. Within mobility research a range of voices highlighting different aspects of mobilities inherent consequences also exists. Mobility for some creates immobility for others (Beckmann 2001; Nielsen 2005; Freudendal-Pedersen 2005). Mobility can both be an asset and a burden (Fotel 2006) and mobilities, especially automobility, create an exceptional level of inequalities (Fetherstone et al. 2004; Urry 2007). In this book, the focus is specifically on mobilities’ relation to, and the tension between, freedom and unfreedom. When does my freedom create unfreedom for others and, not least, when does it create unfreedom for myself ? The pivotal point is the mobilities involved in organizing everyday life, and the often unintended consequences they have. Here, the concept of mobility is used in plural to underline the countless possibilities we have and use in our everyday lives in late modernity. The field of mobility is broad and ranges from information and communications technology to tourism and to everyday life, However, when the word ‘mobilities’ is used in this book it is limited to everyday forms of transport, namely cars, trains, buses, bicycles and walking. This book is placed within everyday mobility research where the cultural and social implications and potentials of and in mobility are the pivotal points. The original motivation for entering this field stems from diverse behavioural transportation research, which is based on ideal types, lifestyle categories and travel patterns. Often, everyday life mobilities are split into patterns and functions (work-home, home-leisure and so on) and not analysed as a whole, as mobilities significant to lived lives and their activities (Urry 2007, 19). These analyses provided a picture of different people and their different affection and need for diverse transport modes. My desire was to understand the reasons for these choices, by investigating common reference points for these ideal types. With a starting point in concepts characterizing late modern everyday life such as lifestyle, time pressure, risk, ambivalences, reflexivity, security, freedom etc. I describe how the choice of, and the responsibility for, mobility has become individualized. There are increasing demands on what motivates and inspires the individual to choose different types of mobility, not only in relation to the individual, but also as a production and reproduction of societal mechanisms. Increasingly mobility researchers express a need for ‘… redirecting the interest of researchers towards the aspirations and plans of those involved, as well as the things that motivate them, and their possible realm of action’ (Kaufmann 2002, 37). Much of the sociological research concerning mobility has centred on the automobile. This is partly due to the fact that this type of mobility is the clearest expression of the conquering of space, and problems of pollution and



Introduction

7

risk. This has become more and more prevalent over time as car ownership and mileage has increased. In addition, the car has become a place where one feels at home and can relax. The car is no longer only a medium for coming to and from ‘home’, it is a home in itself, a place for dwelling (Urry 2000; Bull 2004; Sheller 2004). For many, their social lives would be impossible without a car (O’Dell 2004 in Urry 2007). The car also comes to function as a place where the individual can organize and do things begun earlier in the home (Urry 2000; 2007; Laurier 2004; Bull 2004). The car space moves in what Urry (2000) calls car-only environments such as motorways, parking places, bridges and more. These domains possess a spatial and time dominance over the surrounding environment where they transform everything that we see, hear, smell or taste. ‘Such car-only environments or non-places are neither urban nor rural, local nor cosmopolitan. They are sites of pure mobility within which car drivers are insulated as they “dwell-within-the-car”’ (Urry 2000,193). Within these ‘non-places’ the individual lives in their mobile homes constantly searching for places where things happen. This contributes to the (re)production of the automobile as the technology which more than any other provides freedom (Featherstone 2004; Urry 2007) and, thereby, civil society becomes defined by the power of the car. Today, cities are designed on the premise of the car, on an ‘autologic’ which underlines policy and planning in large parts of the world (Drewes Nielsen 2005; Burdett and Sudjic 2008). It seems there is an understanding that only the car can provide a cocoon or a place to dwell, but studies have been made suggesting that trains also provide cocoons (Watts 2008; Freudendal-Pedersen 2007a; 2007b). With late modern lives’ inherent lack of time, the car is seen by many as the only possible medium to attain the flexibility individuals are expected to possess. To examine which possibilities and potentials other means of transportation have for fulfilling the needs of everyday life is, however, also the purpose of this book. Mobility in Everyday Life Mobility is an essential part of late modern everyday life. To go from place to place, to move and to seek out new and old communities plays a large role in an individual’s identity. This is in many ways positive, but also contains a wide range of negative consequences for the environment as well as for the sociality of which we, as individuals, are part. We have demands concerning the different aspects of everyday life, which together compose the good life. Often mobility, particularly automobility, becomes the glue that enables and fills these demands. Everyday life consists of numerous competing discourses with significance for our understanding of the good life, as well as for increased mobility (Hagman 2004; Thomsen 2005; Pooley 2005; Oldrup 2005; Freudendal-Pedersen et al. 1999; 2000; 2002; Freudendal-Pedersen 2005). In the search for good life mobility, especially automobilities, negative effects are

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often overlooked. Choosing one transport mode over another is not merely a rational reflection on factors such as distance, travel times, costs and regularity etc. The choice is also influenced by a wide range of factors, embedded in everyday life’s complex compounding of purpose and priorities. It is precisely this combination – what the individual understands as rational, impacted by social, spatial, timely and behavioural perspectives – which I find interesting to examine. Structural Stories To illuminate everyday life’s mobility I introduce the concept of ‘structural stories’. Structural stories are an expression for some of the most common stories about mobility within everyday life conversations. The concept was originally developed in collaboration with Katrine Hartmann-Petersen and Kenneth Roslind, where the structural story was placed at the centre of analysis. (Freudendal-Pedersen et al. 2002). A common example of a structural story is ‘when one has children one needs a car’. The structural stories are an expression of how we feel mobility forms everyday life. What makes ‘structural stories’ an interesting concept to work with is its representation as universal truths, functioning as an apparent rationale when choosing mobilities in everyday life. The structural story frames everyday life ambivalences and serves as a uniting rationality. The starting point in structural stories uncovers conceptions and prejudices that exist about the automobile and public transport. Analytically, the structural story is interesting when it can reveal ‘common truths’ existing around different types of mobility as well as significant themes valued by the individuals when organizing everyday life. The structural story forms the starting point for understanding considerations and dilemmas behind everyday life choices and priorities. Through the structural stories I pin down elements that constitute the good life. This book is a contribution to empirical analysis of everyday life mobilities, where the construction of meaning becomes examined through qualitative research methods. I will, through the lens of mobility, show how we produce and reproduce the foundation for the good life we desire for ourselves and our families. The goal is to develop analytical tools that can summarize meanings and actions behind everyday mobilities; and thus listening to the voices of everyday life becomes important. The voices of everyday life can reveal the ambivalences or cracks through which mobility patterns can be developed and changed (Drewes Nielsen 2005). This book demonstrates how the structural story can be used to understand apparent rationalities of why and how we use everyday life mobilities. The structural story has the possibility of highlighting concepts and dichotomies which are important focal points in understanding the dynamics of mobilities. The structural stories are mapped and analysed on the basis of extensive qualitative work with individuals interviewed, both separately and in focus



Introduction

9

groups. The material is analysed in relation to ideas and dichotomies such as individualization, risk and ambivalences, with a special focus on freedom, time and space. This book is a narrative on everyday life mobilities, where I set out to solve theoretical and empirical dilemmas for which there might be no answers. Instead, other interesting perspectives, illuminating new aspects of the mobile late modern everyday life, are opened up. It is a search process where choices are made, closing some doors but also opening others. This book is characterized by an explorative task with weight on the process, where empirical and theoretical work are constantly in dialogue with each other, still exchanging their points of view. The starting point for this book is the taken-for- granted mobility of everyday life – a mobility seldom reflected upon, which plays a large role in the possibilities and potentials that individuals experience in creating the good life. Research on everyday life is not undertaken from a conception of daily lives as an isolated unit. Everyday life is constantly challenged and influenced by, among other things, globalization (Giddens 1999; Castells 1996; Urry 2000). This should not be understood as a global-local dichotomy (or a zerosum game), but instead as a process which cuts across all scales, while at the same time co-creating the production of individual scales. Kesselring (2008) argues that mobilities cannot be understood without involving scale. He exemplifies this using the empirical field of airports, which is an obvious clash between different scales within in the same space. Kesselring (2008) points to the importance of examining this interface within mobility research, where different scales meet and influence each other. Understanding the importance of mobility and the apparent rationalities we form in everyday life is not simply a question about everyday life. Global and local news, commercials and politics play a decisive role in the themes of everyday life, relevant for the creation of the structural story. At the same time, the structural stories are experienced and reproduced on various scales. This accounts for many of the mobile actions we perform as part of everyday life, not least when moving in traffic systems. Thereby it becomes important to create space for ‘the acknowledgement of the multi-scale character of social praxis, identity formation and social processes’ (Simonsen 2005, 28 [my translation]). Aiming to understand social praxis and the formation of meaning, in relation to structural stories on mobility, thus entails acknowledging relations to other global and local processes. The materiality of mobility and construction of meaning spans all scales in an ongoing process, and the narrative on mobility in everyday life travels across time and space. Spatial scales are not distinct but ‘… relational, they are woven together and contemporary and therefore without a prior mutual theoretical or empirical primate’ (Simonsen 2005, 28 [my translation]). Kofoed (2006) argues, by referring to Howitt, for understanding scales within the metaphors related to music. Imagine a symphony in which different instruments play on different levels; together they make up the symphony we listen to as a whole, but with an ear for the fragments and differences. What then becomes important is

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neither size nor level but relations, interwovenness and concurrency (Kofoed 2006, 28). In this light, everyday life is an analytical frame without distinct borders which predetermine relevance. The Book’s Empirical Starting Point To examine how individuals narrate their reasons for mobility choices in everyday life, I have interviewed an equal number of men and woman between the ages of 25–35 living in greater Copenhagen. Approximately half of them have children. All of them have, or are studying towards, a higher education qualification and belong to the middle class, thus their status in relation to class, ethnicity and gender are more or less the same. They all use a variety of different transport modes as well as a car. Each person was first interviewed individually and subsequently interviewed in focus groups. This resulted in empirical evidence within the following areas: • knowledge about the individual’s living situation and daily life; • knowledge about concrete use of transportation modes in everyday life; • knowledge about dreams and utopias existing as guides when aiming at the good life; • knowledge about perceptions of freedom in relation to mobility and the good life; • knowledge about rationales, significant to mobility habits and patterns in everyday life. Data Collection In the book, the interviewees and the focus groups are referred to by the letters A, B and C. Individual’s names have been changed to ensure confidentiality. Individuals are given names which correspond to their groups; thus, for example, Anna is from group A. The groups are designated A, B and C as an expression of a time span wherein the individuals and groups are interviewed. Thus individual interviews followed by a focus group were made with group A and then with a time span of two months group B was formed and so forth. The data collection started out with semi-structured qualitative interview. The qualitative interviews can create the frames for in-depth understanding and the study of motives and rationales behind individuals’ everyday life choices. The choices and utopias by which individuals arrange everyday life are revealed through conversations about everyday life routines. This makes it possible to pin down the way in which the good life is strived for, explained and articulated (Kvale 1996; Fog 1995). The semi-structured life world interview ‘… is defined



Introduction

11

as an interview whose purpose is to obtain descriptions of the life world of the interviewee’s with respect to interpreting the meaning of the described phenomena’ (Kvale 1996, 5–6). The precise understanding of mobilities’ meaning for individuals’ everyday life, and how they reveal themselves in the formulation of structural stories, is central in this book. The focus groups which followed the individual interviews had a central role as a place where meanings, positions and structural stories were tested. Focus groups subsequent to individual interviews were essential when this allowed me to follow the process of interviewees, validating rationalities and structural stories in larger forums. In the focus group, the participants were initially given five bricks naming different transport modes, car, cycle, train, bus and metro. To open the discussion I asked them to arrange the bricks in order of environmentally-friendly transport mode (this was also done in relation to health, freedom, community and socio-economic costs). I also asked them to agree on the order of cards. Subsequently I presented them with quotes from the individual interviews which I asked them to discuss, and concluded by discussing the concept of structural stories with them. Neither the individual interviews or the focus groups were given the status of a primary source of data, as they must be seen as complementary methods of equal value, what Morgan (1997, 3) defines as ‘multimethod’: … focus groups typically add to the data that are gathered through other qualitative methods, such as participant observation and individual interviews … In these combined uses of qualitative methods, the goal is to use each method so that it contributes something unique to the researcher’s understanding of the phenomenon under the study.

Holding individual interviews followed by focus groups in one group at a time allowed me to use and redevelop experiences. An important element in the use of qualitative methods is to challenge the tools used and thus create the opportunity to act on new issues which arise (Fog 1995; Kvale 1996; Denzin and Lincoln 2000). Some themes entering the first round of interviews did not survive, while new ones became essential. Groups A and B knew each other in advance: by contrast members of Group C were unacquainted with each other. Thereby I created an opportunity to see how structural stories were negotiated and accepted differently. This was important as creating different groups with ‘strangers and acquaintances can generate different group dynamics, which may lead a researcher to different choices’ (Morgan 1997, 38). My preconception was the presence of structural stories in both the presence of strangers, as well as in the presence of the ‘safe’ acquaintances. Also, I wanted to examine if any difference existed in addressing and negotiated structural stories in known/unknown surroundings. My role became quite different in the two groups, since in Group C I was the person they were most familiar with. In Groups A and B I was the stranger.

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This was not a problem in relation to my aim with the focus groups – learning the difference in negotiating and validating structural stories. The interviewees’ quotations in this book stem from the empirical work undertaken with the three groups, with a few exceptions from older empirical work whose origin is explicitly stated. Refraining from Material Circumstances Although the interviewees quoted in this book have similar living conditions, many differences exist. The book’s empirical focus has been on emotions and seemingly rational ideas behind everyday mobility. Traditionally research into transport/mobility concerns categories such as shopping/leisure, time/work, travel habits and duration are also taken into account (Urry 2007). I have made a conscious choice not to describe the material circumstances behind everyday life mobility in order to allow another narrative about mobility in everyday life to come to the fore. One might argue that the structural story for some is ‘more true’ than for others, when their homes and workplaces are separated by great distance or by complexity in everyday life chores. This is however, precisely, what I hope to avoid by not describing the concrete aspects of transport. The structural story is equally true for all, because it makes sense to people and helps them navigate their everyday lives. The key concern of this book is how we produce and reproduce the structural stories, and why we use them. Individuals who have to cover large distances between their everyday life activities have, in one way or another, chosen to do so exactly because mobility makes it possible. These choices are not to be understood as simple, but are woven into factors such as class, education, ethnicity, gender and so on. My focus is on the knowledge and understanding of reality that the respondents have about their everyday life. Their mobility is created through conflicting interpretations and options, discussed and negotiated among the members of a society. It is important to point out that I, as a researcher, do not wish to evaluate the truth of the interviewee’s statements. For example, an interviewee may state that using one type of transport to get to work saves time compared to another. Crosschecking may reveal the interviewees’ estimates to be widely inaccurate, but this is not the point here. My interest is to learn about the rationales, explanations and structural stories that lie behind the calculation and which determine the preferred mode of transport. The focus is on how different rationales are substantiated, and thus not on showing what is ‘true’ or ‘false’ (Fog 1995, 18–22). An individual makes several choices every day and these have both conscious and unconscious consequences. My interest has been in analysing how the rationales that underpin these choices are formed. To be the judge of whether or not the foundation for forming this rationale exists is not my wish. Just as importantly, I do not wish the readers of this book to fall into



Introduction

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this trap either, when it clouds the understanding of the structural stories. Apart from concrete distance, a wide range of different factors such as age, educational level, family life, gender, economy, location and so on, matter for the role mobility comes to play in everyday life. With this in mind, I have attempted to choose a homogeneous group of people, which makes it easier to refrain from presenting information about material conditions. This selection provides the possibility to discuss rationales and motivations of individuals who have no significant differences in living conditions. This does not in any way mean that their lives are not surrounded by restrictions and limitations which make some choices seem impossible. The problem with this selection may be that the conclusion of this book builds upon, and thereby cements, one specific group’s notion of mobility, a group which already has a considerable voice in the public domain. Furthermore, there is no attempt to establish to what extent this group differs from others. Thereby a critique could be that this book comes to underpin the process of producing and reproducing the structural stories, instead of the vast array of other voices with great influence on and meaning for the mobile everyday life. It has, however, not been my ambition here to uncover the different narratives existing about mobility among different groups in society. On the other hand, it will be retained for future examination, using this design to give voice to others’ view on mobility. Such important considerations could form the basis of another book. Constructions, Materialities and Normativity In their article ‘Critical Realism and Semiosis’,1 Fairclough, Jessop and Sayer (2001) show the interfaces between critical discourse analysis and critical realism. They argue that the study of the making of meaning will benefit from articulation with critical realism, as well as the other way around: [C]ritical realism has tended to operate with an insufficiently concrete and complex analysis of semiosis. It has tended to take symbol systems, language, orders of discourse, and so on for granted, thereby excluding central features of the social world from its analysis. (Fairclough et al. 2001, 9)

Thereby societal processes and institutions are explained in reference to their context, with respect for the ongoing process that takes place. At the same time, it gives the material its own place and right. Even though the material is not visibly present in the concrete analysis, the ontological point of departure is the awareness that materialities can make or start processes significant for the object analysed. These materials are an undertone in the understanding and construction of the structural story. 1  Semiosis refers to the ‘making of meaning’.

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Materialities have an obvious significance in the study of mobility, while at the same time clouding other important aspects. This has been made visible through the development in transportation research where parts of it have moved towards mobility research. Being a part of the Cosmobilities Network, sharing and discussing issues with a range of other mobility researchers, has been very inspiring. There I found a space with no preconceptions about categories and geographical distance, as a necessity in the analyses of mobilities. Instead the analysis of various concepts relation to mobility as a societal transforming element has been given much space. The inspiration to look elsewhere for frames of explanation has also led me to the concept of ‘human security’. This is an internationally formulated analytical tool, stemming from human rights, and focuses on individuals rights in relation to everyday life. It highlights the right to security and freedom as fundamental elements of good everyday living (Hylland Eriksen 2005; Freudendal-Pedersen and Hartmann-Petersen 2006). The concept of human security made me reflect on how ingenious it is that often the things we do not focus on and which are difficult to handle have a huge significance for how we understand and interpret the world. This is an important part of why the primary focus is on the significance of utopian ideas of freedom and happiness in creating the good life. As humans we have basic needs in everyday life, which it makes perfect sense to take seriously. Understanding how these needs are agenda setting in producing and reproducing structural stories about mobility in everyday life is what this book concentrates on. The idea of ‘human security’ has had a huge influence on the final result in this book, although it is not directly visible in the text. The Normative as Consequence The reflections above have substantial significance for the normative approach which lays the ground for this book. First and foremost I find it essential to focus on the unintended consequences of mobility on everyday life. Everyday life is influenced and guided by our surrounding world: the capitalist system particularly has great significance for our modes of thought and possibilities. Also, it is important to see that humans have fundamental needs in relation to security and safety, and for creating and maintaining ontological security. When we create the structural story, it is also to maintain security and to provide a feeling of meaning in the way we navigate living conditions. When lives are made more complicated and time more pressed than wished for, it is because of an attempt to master everyday life within a course which feels right for us. Behind this book, therefore, is a wish to draw attention to the values we attempt to create or maintain as part of our everyday lives. Also in line with this is how, to keep up with the speed of which society develops, we make life strategies which undermine our wishes. Therefore attention to the



Introduction

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unintended consequences is essential when the goal is to create an everyday life in which freedom, safety and happiness can be distributed more equally – an everyday life with responsibility for the common good as well as ourselves, and consciousness of the consequences our actions have for others. There is no claim that this will happen as a result of this book, but nevertheless this is the type of everyday life mobility which I attempt to work towards. This normativity can sometimes be difficult to deal with when the transport sector is hypersensitive towards the idea that some things are better than others. On top of this, asking individuals to reflect upon values of everyday life, and the way they create meaning in this life, demands respect for different life choices and mastering strategies. It is crucial to respect the way individuals handle their everyday life, but at the same time to dare to introduce a critical perspective on the taken-for-granted knowledge – which makes it possible for an individual to act without considering the alternatives – that guides everyday life, Sayer (2004, 3) describes the difficulties with normativity: Social scientists are taught to adopt and priorities the positive point of view and, unless they also read philosophy, to suppress normative reasoning. The gradual separation of positive and normative thought that has occurred over the last 200 years in social science has involved not only an attempt (though incomplete) expulsions of values from science, but an expulsion of science or reason from values, so that values appear to be mere primitive, a-rational subjective beliefs, lying beyond the scope of reason.

Normativity is not a barrier for the researcher’s knowledge production. However, it needs to be accompanied by respect for and understanding of others’ social realities, wishes and preferences. The normative approach works as an eternal inspiration for understanding what drives individuals when they deal with their everyday lives. Moreover, is it difficult not to address the normative, when I am mapping the individual’s normative expression – structural story – as something they handle and structures their everyday life by. ‘In everyday life, the most important questions tend to be normative ones’ Sayer says (2004, 3). What is important is to make visible and explicate the processes that take place in the interview, and qualitatively evaluates the power of these processes penetration in the completed interview (Fog 1995, 158–9). Believing that, through the empirical, one can have access to an objective social reality, independent of the researcher is, according to Kvale evidence, of a ‘naive empiricism’. The interview is a conversation where knowledge is created in an interpersonal relationship jointly by the interviewer and the interviewee (Kvale 1996, 158). An important pivotal point in qualitative research is what Brinkmann and Kvale (2005) name ‘thick descriptions’, defining the importance of transparency in the research process. This refers to what (Denzin and Lincolm 2000) call the research’s value loading.

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One question concerning qualitative research relates to its generalizability. Often qualitative interviews are described as ‘ad hoc’ narratives that cannot be used as part of a greater whole, and from which generalizations cannot be made. ‘Realism replaces the regularity model with one in which objects and social relations have casual powers which may or may not produce regularities, and which can be explained independently of them’ (Sayer 1992, 2–3). The research I set out in this book can be generalized analytically and is an estimate of the socio-cultural processes and dynamics that have significance in mobility choice (Blakie 1993, 176–81; Kvale 1996, 233–4). But the results, on the other hand, offer no results about the Danes’ general relation to mobility and everyday life. Outline of the Book In this introduction I have repeatedly mentioned the notion of structural stories without fully explaining what is meant by the term, a narrative which has to wait a little longer. In order to grasp the idea behind the structural stories, Chapter 2 describes the sociological research concerning mobility, my starting point being everyday life in late modernity. The chapter describes how the conditions of everyday life and its mobilities in late modernity create processes and ways of handling lived lives. In Chapter 3, I describe and develop the concept of structural stories. This is a narration of how the concept arose from working with individual’s transport and mobility behaviour, and how it has been developed further through additional work. Subsequently, I present empirical work on the use of structural stories in everyday life and the negotiations which took place in the focus groups. The structural stories concerning mobilities’ connection to freedom are often aired, and this is elaborated on in Chapter 4, which deals with freedom. This chapter starts out by describing how freedom has come to play an overriding role in late modern lives. It is an attempt to illuminate some of the sociological mechanism behind freedom. Some historical connections will be drawn to show how the idea of freedom has developed and has come to play a significant role in the notion of the good life. The concept of freedom is related to dichotomies such as unfreedom, security and community. This sets the focus on the book’s subtitle, ‘Between Freedom and Unfreedom’, in a desire to illuminate the ambivalences of mobility. The conception of motility, which has a huge significance for everyday life mobility choices, is also described and analysed. Throughout the chapter the empirical work will show how freedom and its dichotomies are perceived and understood by the individual. Chapter 5 deals with the development of time and space. It is a description of different understandings of time and space related to mobility’s dominance of late modern society. The chapter also analyses how individuals use time and space in mobility to create in-betweens in everyday life, based on the empirical material. These in-



Introduction

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betweens come to work as coping strategies for the individual in a time-pressed late modern everyday life. Chapter 6 concludes on the theoretical work and the empirical findings. After this I move beyond my field of research, in an effort to use different scales to show how new or different communities for handling mobilities unintended consequences can be created. I do this through the use of my knowledge about sustainable cities and through my hope of creating utopias which can support a common ‘us’.

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Chapter 2

Mobility’s Anchorage in Late Modern Everyday Life

Mobility’s Sociology Mobility and movement play an increasing role in the lives of the late modern individual. Mobility has a decisive influence on a wide range of social, political and economic processes and has a great significance for the organization of society. This focus on mobility as an important starting point for understanding late modern society is articulated by Urry (2000) in Sociology Beyond Societies – Mobilities for the Twenty-First Century, where mobility is used as a starting point for understanding modernity. ‘In particular I elaborate some of the material transformations that are remaking the “social”, especially those diverse mobilities that, through multiple senses, imaginative travel, movements of images and information, vitality and physical movement, are materially reconstructing the “social as society” into the ‘social as mobility”’ (Urry 2000, 2). Urry argues that mobility must be the starting point in an analysis of modernity when the social is characterized by streams and mobilities. In his book Mobilities (2007) Urry elaborates on this and seeks to develop a detailed ‘analysis of just how and why mobilities make such a difference’ (10). On the basis of this work he states: ‘… that the analysis of mobility transforms social science. Mobilities make it different. They are not merely to be added to static or structural analysis. They require a wholesale revision of the way in which social phenomena have been historically examined’ (44). These streams and mobilities are touched upon by different researchers who take their starting points in streams of information, pictures, assets and symbols etc. as to what constitutes material, spatial and social praxis. Castells (1996) writes about the network society, Bauman (2000) writes about fluid modernity and Beck (2006) about cosmopolitan sociology. The most thorough is, however, Urry’s (2000) analysis which states that it is no longer relevant to analyse society by taking the nation-state as a starting point. Instead, the focus must be on mobility as the basis of the development of different global and local networks and streams that undermine the social structures which have traditionally been the starting point for sociology. The central point here is that we have to see the social as including mobility, and at the same time understand how mobility produces (parts of) the social. The different mobilities produce and reproduce social life and cultural forms and it is in these mobilities that cultural patterns and identities are

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shaped and reshaped (Lassen and Jensen 2006). Similarly, in the analysis of mobility, it becomes essential to analyse it not only as actual movement but also to put weight on the potential for movement – a potential which deals with the individual’s capacity to be mobile in a specific mobility domain – and on how this potential activates and becomes resolved (Kaufmann 2002, 37). In his book Re-thinking Mobility, Kaufmann (2002) developed the concept of motility as an idea that can be used to understand and analyse the potential for mobility. I will examine this in greater depth in Chapter 4. Thereby, mobility becomes an ambivalent concept containing a division between mobility and motility, actual movement and potential for movement, which then becomes structuring for collective and individual actors. Understanding this mutual relationship between mobility and motility becomes a prerequisite if we wish to understand how and why individuals are in movement (Kesselring and Vogl 2004, 8). Mobility makes possible an individual’s composition of the many fragments and moments that comprise time. In that way, mobility makes the late modern individual’s autobiographical narrative possible, and this expectation concerning the mobile individual is coped with through different behavioural patterns and personal strategies. A significant number of those who undertake sociological research into mobilities see mobility not solely in terms of movement or potential for movement. Mobility moves as much as it freezes: mobility for some will create immobility for others (Beckman 2001; Drewes Nielsen 2005). Mobility can be possibility-creating just as it can be action-limiting (Freudendal-Pedesen 2007a; 2007b). Similarly, it can be an asset or a burden (Fotel 2007). In this way, mobility has an ambivalence and an inherent inequality – an inequality which can also, but not only, be seen across social classes. An important part of the mobility sociology is the time and space mobility moves in and between. In Chapter 5, which deals with time and space in mobility, I will focus in on an understanding of time and space through the mobility sociological lens. Here I will very briefly present some of the major points. Urry (2000) distinguishes between clock time and instantaneous time, where instantaneous time is that which mobility encourages. Mobility becomes the method whereby the late modern individual retains the possibility of keeping abreast with a complicated and rapidly changing world. It is no longer solely the place the individual is going to which is important, but also that the individual has the possibility to be mobile and fast. This understanding of time is the same as that which Bauman (2000) refers to when he says that time is marked by temporality. It is the increasing speed of social life that reduces the distance there has been between time and place. This means that the time/ space paths of individuals are often desynchronized and replaced by varied and segmented patterns (Urry 2002; 2007). As such, timeframes for individuals are no longer necessarily the same when each person has individual time to live by. Clock time has, however, retained an important function in our mobile everyday lives, as it still controls many everyday life activities and mobilities



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such as, for instance, work, opening hours of institutions, public offices and businesses and, not least, timetables and gridlocks on the highway. Some have argued that the increasing speed means that the place loses significance (Giddens 1991; Virilio 1998). This discussion takes its starting point as a dichotomous understanding between place and mobility, where mobility is seen as a process which minimizes the meaning of a place and thereby also erodes societies (Putnam 2000). The lived late modern everyday life contains a number of everyday life combinations of mobility and place, which include relations which cannot be thought of dichotomously. Everyday life is still fixed, to some degree, in specific places, such as the places in which we live, in an attempt to create limits and security for the good life (Hylland Eriksen 2004; 2006; Brenner 2004). Space does not lose significance because of mobility when ‘space is necessary to give quality to time’ (Urry, 2000,117). The memories and experiences which our lives are built on and around are always related to a place, just as the majority of communities have local connection and influence on everyday life. The different spaces we enter into in everyday life are of great significance for our ontological security, but the understanding of space has evolved, as it may well involve the spaces of mobility (Urry 2000; O.B. Jensen 2006). There are a number of emotional and symbolic meanings tied to mobility. A lot of research has been done in relation to automobility as it contains a number of identities and lifestyle-related significances (Berge 1997; Shove 1998; Magelund 1997and 2000; Jensen 1997a; 1997b; 2001; Hjorthol 1998; 2006; Læssøe 1999; Beckmann 2001; Thomsen 2001). Examples of this can be, amongst other things, the private car as a sign of value and status symbol, and a gathering place for the family etc. Research has also been done on how the public transport system can have the same meanings (Watts 2008). The symbolic and emotional meanings have great importance for the individual, and the structural stories on mobility can often have a starting point in these meanings. At the same time, these meanings also form competitive discourses in everyday life. Everyday Life A number of analyses have been undertaken concerning how we should comprehend everyday life and what defines it (Bech-Jørgensen 1994; Gullestad 1992; Goffman 1990). It is a comprehensive discussion and ongoing conceptualization. The point of departure for this description of how I understand everyday life and its actions as a starting point for the study of mobility is primarily inspired by Bech-Jørgensen’s (1994) procedural and overall approach to everyday life. Bech-Jørgensen’s approach does not divide everyday life into different spheres or specific categories, but instead views it as a whole that surrounds our lives. There are many convergences in the actions

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we take in everyday life but the motives and the considerations behind them can be very different. This methodological paradox is expressed by cultural sociologist Birte Bech-Jørgensen (1994, 17): ‘Everyday lives are the lives we live, maintain and renew, re-create and transform each day. Such lives can not be defined. at least not with sociological concepts. What can be defined are the conditions of everyday life and the way these conditions are handled’ [my translation]. Thus the activities which throughout everyday life’s conditions are recreated and transformed may be a starting point for an analysis. Bech-Jørgensen defines everyday life as a procedural approach rather than a fixed form. She establishes that everyday life must be described as the ideas that describe or characterize the activities, relations and processes through which everyday life recreates and transforms (Bech-Jørgensen 1994, 151). In continuation of this, Gullestad (1992) says that we construct everyday life through many different roles and places. We create a personal identity through everyday life’s different forms of participation and praxis in the lives we live in our home, the labour market, the political system, the shopping centre and, not least, in traffic. In this book, the activities and ideas which describe and characterize everyday life will be everyday life mobilities and its connection to freedom, time and space. What makes everyday life proceed in a way that we can handle is, according to Bech-Jørgensen (1994, 171), a symbolic order of ‘matter of courses’ which becomes the surrounding structure that she characterizes as collective and individual interpretations of the common world: The matter of courses demands that we take large areas of our outside world for granted. We attribute relations between peoples, specific relations between people and nature, specific time-space organized activities, specific man-made objects meaning: ‘this is how it is’ and ‘this is how we do it’ and ‘obviously it can’t be done differently’. Naturalness is just there. Their origins lose themselves in the past, and it constantly recreates and transforms and reaches into the future. It is a result of a common knowledge about how we should commit ourselves in the world we are born into, and this knowledge maintains, renews and survives to the next generations. (1994, 143 [my translation])

This matter of course becomes maintained, and the renewal of what BechJørgensen (1994) calls ‘notwithstanding activities’ can be compared with Giddens’ (1984) practical consciousness. The vast majority of the individual’s actions take place with a starting point in practical consciousness. Practical consciousness involves memories that the agent in the action’s moment has access to without him or her being in a condition to express what knowledge he or she has in that way (Giddens 1984, 49). Practical consciousness is characterized by its actions as the individual does not explicitly give expression for these actions. It is automated and routine actions which constantly change



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us in daily life, be it a case of brushing our teeth, eating, taking a bath or whatever. The fact that these activities are completed unnoticed does not mean that they are unconscious (Bech-Jørgensen 1994, 148). It is when we become aware of such actions that we know them well and can talk about them. This springs from practical consciousness to a point where we begin to reflect and consider the activities which Giddens terms discursive consciousness. Discursive consciousness connects the types of memories that the individual is able to express verbally (Giddens 1984, 49). The transition between practical and discursive consciousness can be fluid. What makes an action discursive is the fact that the individual is able to explain what the formed reasons for a definite action or a particular disposition are. This leap between discursive and practical consciousness is, amongst other things, interesting in an analysis of the development and composition of mobility needs. When Bech-Jørgensen (1994) discusses a symbolic order of naturalness in everyday life, the symbols are not merely to be understood as objects attributed with a particular meaning but, to a higher degree, understood as actions or sequences of actions which become embedded or understood through objects. It is the joint symbols that individuals have – for example, the car – which makes the naturalness possible. The subjective interpretations of the joint symbols mean that it is not the object alone – in this case the car – which is the symbol, but that naturalness contains something more (Bech-Jørgensen 1994, 146). Thus symbols express meaning as well as create the possibility of producing meaning. Therefore symbols can create a certain order in a number of life situations (Bech-Jørgensen 1994, 146). Naturalness becomes interpreted differently in the everyday life we choose to live and, in that way, naturalness is also valuably organized. We assign different naturalness with different qualities which give our everyday life positive meaning and purpose to the naturalness which we practice. These qualities ‘… are woven into norms and rules and it gives everyday life meaning’ (Bech-Jørgensen 1994, 147 [my translation]). One can say that this symbolic naturalness gets its expression through the structural stories. It is not necessarily the structural stories which give everyday life meaning, but it does help in maintaining a balance so that we meaningfully – without too many ambivalences – can maintain the activities which make everyday life fit together through different types of mobility. To understand the processes that drive the structural stories forward as a part of everyday life’s naturalness, it becomes relevant to describe the late modern period we live in, where the structural stories work as a guiding principle and form rationality. The Late Modern Everyday Life The list of labels used to designate contemporary society is long and the theories to support such designations equally so, ‘risk society’, ‘information

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society’, ‘post-modernism’ or ‘post-capitalism’ being amongst the most wellknown. Here, I use the term ‘late modernity’ inspired by the works of Anthony Giddens (1991). Societies in late modernity still retain the characteristics of modernity, but do so to a more radicalized degree. Late modern society has a number of characteristics, such as individualization, reflexivity, time, space, risk and ambivalence, which are central for the formation of life politics. Reflexivity and Individualization Giddens (1991) defines reflexivity as the regular use of knowledge about the conditions of the social life. In late modernity reflexivity is considerably greater than before and plays an important role as a constituent element in life organization and change. The individual reflects on the reasons for different societal relations, different aspects of social activities, and material relations that are constantly revised on the basis of new information or knowledge (Giddens 1991). This type of knowledge that the reflexive individual renegotiates with themselves is created on the basis of and constituted by new institutions. Today, the late modern individual has no choice other than to choose how he or she will be and appear to be. In earlier societies individuals could act in accordance with tradition which organized social life. In places where traditional praxis is dominant, the past marks out a precise and well-defined framework for future praxis. One can say that tradition offers the security that ‘the world is as it is because it is as it should be’ (Giddens 1991, 48). In late modern society, individuals only act in agreement with the traditional if it can be legitimized via the reflexive. The individual must be able to substantiate reasons for the dispositions he or she makes, and can no longer seek security in the tradition’s well-defined limits for choice. Therefore, there is a constant longing from the individual to reestablish lost traditions and to reconstruct the traditional. The late modern conditions, however, complicate this process when reflexivity and the experts system enter into everyday life’s core and, in that way, remove the tradition’s rationale (Giddens 1991). Individualization has taken place and the individual, as a result of this, may choose to leave the community offered by traditions (Bauman 2001). Thereby the late modern individual lives with an eternal struggle between community and individualism, between security and freedom – and the big task then concerns the eternal search for balance between security and freedom in everyday life. Modernity’s Extreme Dynamic: Time and Space According to Giddens (1991), late modernity’s extreme dynamic, the speed with which social changes take place, separates it from modernity. The three



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main causes of this extreme dynamic are the separation of time and place, disembedding mechanisms and reflexivity. Social relations are no longer dependent on time and space as a result of technological innovations, especially within transport and communications technology (Læssøe 1999; Urry 2007). Increasingly, global social relations influence local processes (Giddens 1991). This separation of time and space has significance for production and the global flow of products, but also for the way people choose to organize their everyday lives. Today, many individuals can be dependent on the precise coordination of actions which take place at the same time without being in the same place. They do not need to share physical place to be co-present (Giddens 1991). Time has, to an ever greater extent, become an abstract category which is used to organize and transcend the different spaces of everyday life. It has become a scare resource (Urry 2000; Hylland Eriksen 2001) in which mobility becomes the medium to win more time by increasing speed. Automobility fulfils wishes which bind together the organization of society and everyday life and thereby enable increased speed. According to Giddens (1991), ‘where’ no longer refers to a concrete place in local society where the historical meaning and function of places is fundamental. The separation of time and space – where the social relations are lifted out of local connections and re-articulated across an undemarcated time-space continuum – is what Giddens (1991) characterizes as ‘disembedding’. This disembedding happens via symbolic signs, i.e. money, and the expert systems which support us in everyday life. There is no doubt that a disembedding takes place as Giddens (1991) describes it. There is, however, nothing which indicates that the local history and function of a specific place no longer have a decisive meaning in late modern society. While social relations do become re-articulated across time and space, they do not dissolve the functions and history a place holds. ‘Where’, or ‘the place’, refers to something specific and this specific is to a high degree of great importance in creating security in everyday life, a security that is necessary for ontological security (Hylland Eriksen 2006). Expert systems, which Giddens describes as a part of the underlying process, are so-called abstract systems. They surround the individual daily in all the actions undertaken in an average everyday life. Expert systems have a profound meaning for everyday life. They penetrate all of everyday life’s spheres from the food we eat to the medicine we take, from the buildings we live in to the transportation modes we take advantage of and a wide range of other phenomena. Our trust is thus dependent on the confidence we have in symbolic signs and the expert systems we need as support in different connections. The individual makes choices on the basis of the experts’ knowledge and forms meaning through confidence in the experts for whom they have the most sympathy. The individual is, however, conscious of the provisional in what they choose to believe. This produces an increased feeling of risk.

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Risk and Ambivalence These risks become, according to Beck (1992 and 1997), characteristic for the age we live in – hereafter termed ‘risk society’. In harmony with Giddens’ ideas, risk society is understood as a radicalizing rather than a transcendence of the late modern society. The experts are, by and large, both originators of, and the answer to, the self-perpetuating risk consciousness of the individual. Many of the newer risks ‘… (nuclear or chemical contaminations, pollutants in foodstuffs, diseases of civilization) completely escape human powers of directs perceptions. The focus is more and more on hazards which are neither visible nor perceptible to the victims; hazards that in some cases may not even take effect within the life spans of those affected, but instead during those of their children …’ (Beck 1992, 27). In the reflexive, time-pressured everyday life, there are many choices, ranging from which type of soap powder to use to the sugar content in breakfast food products and even to whether to worry about the polar ice caps melting. The individual makes these choices on the basis of expert knowledge. They form meanings from a confidence in the experts with whom they have most sympathy, and where they feel the presentation of risks is trustworthy. As Beck expresses it, ‘The social effect of risk definitions is therefore not dependent on their scientific validity’ (Beck 1992, 32), but to a higher degree on the individual expert’s production of risks reliability. Therefore, the individual is often very conscious of the temporality of what they choose to believe, and this constant revising and negotiation of knowledge creates an increased sense of risk (Beck et al. 1994; Beck 1997). This process can be described in relation to the continual conference ‘Copenhagen Consensus’, which was held for the first time in May 2004 in Copenhagen. The purpose was to rank world problems as ‘… hunger, sickness, and climate changes. If we had $50 billion to use on a better world, where would we start?’ (IMV 2004 [my translation]). During a week, a number of experts had to rank different environmental and social problems in order to come up with suggestions on how to create a better world. It is not difficult to understand why we get confused. What is the bigger problem – that people die of AIDS or of hunger, or is it more important that there is a massive climate change in progress? Here the media comes to play a large role in the individual’s confidence in experts. The media’s prioritizing is, to a high degree, on the news value of an individual story. Therefore, a comparison of histories and subjects – which in reality have nothing in common except that they are considered to be newsworthy – happens. Giddens (1991) describes this as distant events entering into the everyday consciousness. In this way, tragic events often become a part of the everyday consciousness and supply the already overloaded baggage of risks which the individual continuously carries around. All of this gives the individual a fundamental fear and an insecurity about the truth of new knowledge and information. The individual cannot be sure that new



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knowledge will not be revised and risk becomes, as Beck expresses it, ‘the stowaways of normal consumption’ (Beck 1992, 54). This insecurity means that the ambivalence becomes an inevitable consequence of the modern society. According to Smart (1999, 11), the ambivalences are ‘… both analytical and existential … an understandable consequence of not knowing and knowing that one cannot know for sure, precisely what will emerge from the various complex processes of restructuring through which modernity is continually (re)constituted’. It is a consequence of modernity’s two-sidedness between security and fear, confidence and risk, community and individualism, and security and freedom. Ambivalence is one of the main characteristics of the late modern society. The threats from the ambivalence of social reality are existential insecurity and anxiety for ontological contingent (Bauman 1991; Giddens 1991; Beck 1992). Through the modern project of ordering, and action through mutual exclusion, society has become more fragmented. ‘People turn multifunctional because of the fragmentation of functions, and words turn polymeric because of the fragmentation of meaning’ (Bauman 1991,13). There can always be more stories told on the same phenomenon and thereby late modern social life means living with the ambivalences without guarantees. In late modern life there is a tendency to seek out new groups and activities in which to participate. This is partly a consequence of the fading importance of tradition. The late modern individual is no longer restrained by tradition, place, social relationships and activities, and has developed a need to seek out new and different social interactions (Giddens 1991). Late modern life is thereby marked by temporality (Bauman 2000) with the need to be mobile becoming important – to be on your way to something else. In our wish to create the best opportunities for ourselves and our families and, as a way of moving towards achieving the good life, we scatter our activities over greater distances because we can do it with the car. Being able to live a life with a complex juggling of everyday life activities and wishes through time and space has been both allowed but also necessitated by the car (Urry 2000, 59). We now constantly ask ourselves why we should settle for a specific football club, school, shopping possibilities or cultural event just because it is close by, when the car gives us other possibilities and removes so many restrictions. The car gives us possibilities and, at the same time, forces us to design a lifestyle that, in a more precise way, shows who we are or want to be (Thomsen 2001; Shove 1998; Urry 2007). At the same time, the car is creating and maintaining a system which many individuals are unhappy about. The environmental and space-consuming effect combined with the day-to-day risks provided by others using the same system, make automobility a mode of transport which creates ambivalences (Macnaghten and Urry 1998). It is argued by some that the late modern individualized society produces individualized transportation needs which only the car can satisfy. Beck (1992) supplements this by saying that the individualization of the risk society liberates the individual from

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structures which earlier framed their social being. In this light, living in a modern individualized society means that the traveller cannot just use one specific transport mode, such as the car. Instead, the individual is now obliged to ask themselves which specific transport mode is most suitable for a specific situation. Furthermore, ambivalences exemplify the dichotomy often outlined in relation to late modern society between attitude and action. We know what we should do or what (maybe and highly probably) would be the best for ourselves and the environment. But the complex and time-pressed everyday life needs other exits than the ‘right one’, when there are so many others – for and against – which we must consider. It is not, however, in all areas of everyday life that the individual fights with the ambivalences. Some areas fall under the lifestyle we have chosen which guides a number of everyday life choices. Life Politics and Sub-Politics The developments in the late modern everyday life outlined above entail that ‘on the level of the self, a fundamental component of day-to-day activity is simply that of choice’ (Giddens 1991, 80). In order for everyday life not to be made up of too many confusing choices – and to avoid ending up in what Giddens characterizes as a paralysis of alternatives – we choose a lifestyle. A lifestyle has some given choices, which the individual in pre-modern times did not have to reflect on as individuals were bound to traditions. ‘A lifestyle involves a cluster of habits and orientations, and hence has a certain unity – important to a continuing sense of ontological security – that connects options in a more or less ordered pattern’ (Giddens 1991, 82), At the same time, the lifestyle gives ‘material form to a particular narrative of self-identity’ (Giddens 1991, 81). The lifestyle choice is about the choice of identity in relation to how one acts and what one wishes to be. This does not, however, mean that the individual, in the moment he or she chooses to belong to a lifestyle, always makes conscious choices. The choice or creation of lifestyle happens mainly under the influence of ‘group pressures and the visibility of role models, as well as by socioeconomic circumstances’ (Giddens 1991, 82). The late modern individual enters into a number of different action milieus and, in that way, into different lifestyles in a day. He or she clothes him- or herself, so to speak, in the lifestyle the situation demands, such as with work, which can demand one certain attitude, and leisure time which demands another etc. In a particular lifestyle, a number of choices are given and other choices are the object of reflexivity. Lifestyle choice is therefore a choice of a pattern of actions, selected at the expense of other possible alternatives. In this complex choice of lifestyle, strategic life planning becomes decisive. The life plans



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become the fundamental contents in the self’s reflexive organized life course (Freudendal-Pedersen et al. 1999). Reflexivity, which is a part of these different lifestyle choices, raises moral questions that cannot merely be pushed aside. These questions demand a form for political engagement, and as a consequence the individual forms life politics, the politics of the lifestyles. Life politics is about the political question which arises from the way we influence, and are influenced by, global strategies via the self-realizing processes we enter into in everyday life (Giddens 1991). Life politics is politics where the individual reflexively makes choices on the background of an abundance of information and experiences built up in late modernity. The lifestyles meaning for the individual has developed over time. In other words, one can say that reflexivity is an expression of the process that happens when we (individuals and institutions) reflect critically on the development we, ourselves, have been a part of creating. Life politics has been necessitated because of, and also drives, individualization. There is a larger absence of institutional buffers (traditions) between the individual and the society than previously. This means there is a need for life politics to provide ontological security and a standpoint from where the individual can independently decide what is right and what is wrong. It is through these life politics that the individual seeks to create connections between earlier experiences and future actions, so that life earns a kind of continuity. Through life politics we seek to reduce a world with many small differences to a world with a few large differences – a world which is easier to cope with (Hylland Eriksen 2001). In this way, each individual has a politics for their own life. In other words, we make choices about how we assess different things with nothing being automatically given. According to Beck (1992; 1997) there is, on the basis of the risks, a distribution of responsibility which becomes an inevitable part of our late modern life which is open for political discussions. Beck characterizes this as sub-politics, wherein the individual has gained a leading role. The traditional political forms are no longer guarantees for security. Therefore a politicizing of earlier non-political areas, such as everyday life, working life, leisure life etc., occurs. Sub-politics does not necessarily happen in an organized way; it is a fundamental element of our actions in a way that the individual is unaware that he or she is acting sub-politically (Beck 1997). Where life politics is the lifestyle’s politics that sets a focus on possibilities and moral questions for the individual, sub-politics addresses where in society consensus is formed on different subjects, and its meaning to society. Common to both concepts is their focus on the individualization that is a circumstance of late modern life. The individuals must then, on their own, through life politics or sub-politics, define what the good life is and how they will seek to live it. This also means that the individual stands alone with the responsibility for making what he or she considers being the ‘right’ decisions. The decisive difference is, however, that the concept of sub-politics is open to action. In the interplay between the choices of the individual (life politics) and the more established (sub)-political

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institutions, consensus is formed which gives a fertile breeding ground for action. In other words, one can say that the concept of risk and sub-politics opens up the possibility of placing the responsibility on the community instead of forcing it to rest on the individual (Beck 1997). In late modern society we ourselves have the freedom to define and create the good life. We are not forced through traditions into communities which expect something special of us. The problem with this freedom is that, to a high degree, it places responsibility back on the individual (Beck 1992) and in this way leads to more insecurity when the individual ‘acts on its own’ (Bauman 2001). As such, we need communities with whom we can act together. Communities The seeking after, and formation of, these new communities is essential for the individual in late modern society. These new communities replace earlier times’ tradition-bound communities, the primary function of which was facilitating exchange of everyday life experiences. The communities are not less important or meaningful for the late modern individual. Individuals still have the need to exchange experiences with others concerning various topics such as child-caring, marriage, working life, environmental understanding and maybe also mobility behaviour. Some communities become professionalized, taking on forms such as relationship courses, mobility management or diverse radio programmes on child care. Others are formed around the elements we use to compose our good life. This seeking after new communities is a seeking of frames from within which life experiences can be exchanged. It is, in many ways, positive but this seeking also has a number of negative consequences. The individual makes demands of the elements in everyday life which together constitute the pieces of the good life. Often the freedom-creating automobility becomes the glue which holds demands and possibilities together. In this way, the organization of everyday life becomes a mobility generator, which is due to the wish to overcome everything and to disengage from the social relations that traditions have locked us into, making us instead want to engage in new and different communities (Giddens 1991; Beck 1997; Læssøe 1999). These communities are no longer formed on the basis of physical proximity, but rather the car makes them possible in spite of the physical proximity. Thereby, these new types of community can often be ones of increased mobility. Paradoxically, in spite of the individual seeking communities, it is this seeking after new communities which creates a higher degree of individualization. This is because the late modern communities, according to Bauman (2001), are often brief and not based on lifelong projects. The ties we have with others in the same situation are fragile (Bauman 2001, 85). This notion of fragile and brief friendships overlooks an important point, as Bauman himself notes, namely, that the



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communities have the essential function of creating the ontological security that is fundamental for the creation of the good life (Bauman 2001, 99). The primary goal for the late modern individual is seeking to create the good life, an eternal aim for happiness. In the late modern society, there is an outspoken right to happiness, often closely related to freedom (Bauman 1998, 2001). This is, to a large extent, dependent on security, and it becomes the fundamental motivation for the individual’s participation in society. According to Thomas Hylland Eriksen, it seems evident ‘… that the postmodernist literature on identity has underestimated security needs, the desire for intimacy and informal, closeness, confirmation and recognition’ (2004, 138 [my translation]). The close community has not lost its meaning. Juul (2002) carried out a study of Danes’ moral obligations and showed that proximity is still an essential factor in the formation and maintenance of friendships. ‘Our best friendships are therefore not brief or superficial, but are due to a common history and common experiences. The large majority of people lives relatively close to those they consider to be their best friends. Thus one third have a transport time of less than 10 minutes to their best friend/friends, and additional third have 10 to 30 minutes’ (Juul, 2002, 168–9 [my translation]). This is in contrast to the results obtained by Larsen, Urry and Axhausen (2006) in their examination of networks, where they found that people have friends and family scattered over large distances. These results do not need to be contradictory, however, but, to a higher degree, underline that, in different life phases, we have different needs. In getting everyday life functioning with children, work and leisure, the individual needs friends and family living close by. This does not exclude other important friendships working through different, and probably often less practical, interdependence. The Mobile Late Modern Everyday Life as a Starting Point Mobility is a decisive factor in the organization of the late modern everyday life and for the potential to create the good life. Mobility is, in this book, the starting point through which the societal and social processes play out. Mobility is an ambivalent concept that contains a division between mobility and motility, actual movement and the potential for movement. An important ambivalence in sociological mobility research is, however, not solely mobility as movement or potential for movement. Mobility is simultaneously possibilitycreating and action-limiting, and herein lies an inequality which is important to keep in mind when analysing mobility. The symbolic and emotional meanings which lie in mobility are of great significance for the individual, and the structural stories concerning mobility can often have a starting point in these meanings. At the same time, these meanings also contribute to forming competing discourses in everyday life. Everyday life is to be understood as the life we live, maintain and renew, which

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is constantly being recreated and continuously transforming each day. What defines everyday life are the concepts which have significance for everyday life’s conditions and the way these conditions are handled. In this book the concepts are: freedom as an important element in the attempt to create the good life, time and space in mobility, and the structural stories which are used as coping strategies in the mobile late modern everyday life. The late modern everyday life is characterized by reflexivity, which is present to a far higher degree than earlier. Today, the individual only acts in agreement with the traditional if it can be legitimized through reflexivity. The individual must be able to give reasons for the dispositions made and can no longer seek security in the tradition’s well-defined limits for choice. This creates a higher degree of individualization. This individualization is driven by, amongst other things, the speed in which changes happen. We cannot be sure that new knowledge will not be revised and, as such, risk becomes an inevitable part of this late modern everyday life. However, we do navigate between risks via the experts we believe in most, but the individual is, nevertheless, conscious that the knowledge can be re-estimated. This insecurity that the understanding or the consciousness about risk gives means that the ambivalences become inevitable consequences of the modern. To handle this, we choose a lifestyle that contains some given choices, where we need not be reflexive. Lifestyle choices are choices of identity in relation to both how to act and what one wishes to be. At the same time, we form a life politic that gives us an ontological security, a fixed place from where we can decide what is right and what is wrong, and from where we can act sub-politically. We must, ourselves, through life politics or sub-politics, define what the good life contains and how we can attempt to live it. Therefore, we need communities to act together sub-politically. Communities have the essential function of creating ontological security, which is fundamental for the creation of the good life – a life where happiness and freedom stand as the principle utopias.

Chapter 3

Structural Stories

The ambivalent late modern everyday life stipulates a number of constant demands on the individual regarding choices to be made and risk to be estimated. This creates what is, in many ways, an enormous task, often characterized by an eternal balance between what is considered either ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. The individual often stands alone with the decision about how, in the best way possible, to navigate through this everyday life, seeking to create the good life for themselves and their families. Structural stories are used to guide individuals in some of these choices, and in this book in connection with everyday life’s mobilities. The structural stories is the recurring analytical concept employed here. I will therefore begin by expounding the concept. It is the narrative on how the thought emerged as an analytical idea in the work with transportation habits and attitudes, and how it has developed. The structural stories have developed themselves through an research process, and emerge as an analytical concept formed by the process the research has gone through. This part of the book describes and works with the structural stories as an analytical tool, and it is this analytical tool which, in the following chapters, opens up new themes. The Structural Stories’ Appearance Throughout the last 12 years I have worked with different transport and mobility related problems taking my starting point in everyday life. Questions have centred around the topic of why we choose the types of transport we do, and how this is connected to everyday life. The collection of data has mostly been through qualitative methods, primarily in-depth interviews and focus groups. I have paid keen attention to all elements of everyday life and attempted to uncover the role and understanding of mobilities in this everyday life. In this work the structural stories arose from the material. Structural stories is, thus, a concept which has emerged from empirical and theoretical work on transport and mobility. If one compares age group, social conditions and geographic location of the people whose narratives underlie this concept, they are marked by great diversity. Regardless, they all have structural stories as part of their explanations for their choice of arrangement of everyday life. My earlier work with mobility has primarily centred on the use of the car with a focus on how we use it and why, for many, it has become the favourite means of mobility in everyday life. The car has been the starting point –

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because it is most visible – in mobility-related problems today. The research which has formed the foundation for this book has, among other things, aimed to examine if there were variations in the use of the structural stories, when everyday life also centred around other forms of mobility. It has, however, been clear since the early stages that the types of structural stories users of the public transport system employed were not significantly different from those of car users. Therefore, the stories surrounding the development of the concept do not have different characters, in spite of the involvement of other forms of mobility. It is often said that there is no connection between position and action. The individual knows that automobility pollutes, makes noise and kills, but this does not mean that transportation habits are altered. The late modern everyday life is time-pressured and filled with many different types of risks (greenhouse effect, traffic jams, obesity etc.) about which we are constantly compelled to make our minds up. Living with these risks has become a normal condition and state of life in which the individual has learned to navigate within and around with the use and implementation of different tools. This is where the structural stories appear and function as a sort of rationality we can use to explain – and sometimes defend – our mobility behaviour to ourselves and others. The structural stories work within the discrepancy between position and action on the individual’s premises, and take into account the fact that we are our own everyday life experts in relation to mobility. An example of a structural story is ‘when one has children, one needs a car’ or ‘society is arranged around automobility and one can therefore not live without a car’ or ‘one cannot rely on the trains, they are always delayed’. Most of us know these types of formulations, and know that we, ourselves, use them indiscriminately. Often, the structural stories will contain a ‘one’ instead of an ‘I’ in the story. This ‘one’, so to speak, generalizes the story as something universal but it is, however, very likely that the structural stories in some circumstances are a precise description of how the immediate situation appears. The problem arises when we begin to talk about what ‘one’ can and should do. Children and cars are not naturally coherent, and most of the trains do, as a matter of fact, run on time (at least in Denmark). Using these structural stories about how we transport ourselves feeds into a process of maintaining definite types of mobility as indisputable ‘objective truths’, and as such block behavioural change relating to mobility habits. A structural story can be defined as follows: A structural story is a specific way of arguing the reasons for everyday life choices and actions. A structural story is used to make an apparent rationale behind actions we take and the choices we make in everyday life, and functions as a guide for specific actions. A structural story forms the starting point for how we, as individuals, understand specific problems and their



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possible solutions. The individual’s social praxis produces and reproduces these structural stories.

Structural stories influence our choices of mobility and are, at the same time, used to give reasons for this choice. They enters into a process whereupon they guide an upcoming choice while functioning as an apparent rationality in giving the reasons for the choice to ourselves and to others. Structural stories are produced and reproduced under the conditions of late modern everyday life. To understand why and how we use structural stories, it is therefore essential to understand the conditions under which late modern society creates the fundament. Consequently, this also provides understanding of the control mechanisms, maintaining the generally accepted validity of these structural stories. The Development of the Concept In all the time I have worked with transport, the apparent duality the structural stories contain, and the various attempts to try to grasp and understand the conflicting and ambivalent explanations which often appear when the individual describes transportation habits, have been a source of curiosity and wonder. It is this curiosity which has been an important driving force behind this book. In the work with in-depth interviews concerning people’s everyday lives, environmental understandings and transportation patterns, the structural stories emerged, so to speak, from the material. If I were to go back and look at interview transcripts from the first everyday life interviews (which go back more than 12 years), the structural stories stand out very clearly. In working with the concept, the name changed several times and it thus underwent a development from ‘structural excuses’ to ‘standard explanations’ but ended up as ‘structural stories’. The designation is meant to capture the structural core of the stories while suggesting a fullness which enables one to see the dilemmas from which the stories originate. In the preliminary work with structural stories we (Freudendal-Pedersen et al. 2002) chose to delve deeper into the concept by dividing the structural stories into three subcategories. The following quotations all stem from earlier work with mobility (Freudendal-Pedersen et al. 2002): 1. The possibility-creating structural stories that were about constructing a definite lifestyle. Here are a family’s reasons for getting a second car: ‘One of them [the after-school centre] is very far away, but it is because we have chosen a special after-school centre that X wanted to go to … but then there was always a problem with the public transportation; one day it doesn’t work, and then it is late and does not fit together, and the train takes an eternity.’

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2. The practical structural stories that legitimate a specific transport mode as the only possibility. For example: ‘Driving to work is, in reality, really messy because in five kilometres it (the car) does not get warm and buses and trains drive right to the door. But it’s faster and more comfortable, and sometimes I have to bring my laptop.’ 3. The impotent structural stories that free the individual from the responsibility of the diverse problems their transport mode entails. For example: ‘We are subordinated to some mechanisms. This goes for the car, the computer and technology – we can’t say no to them. In some ways, they force themselves through and shape our society. Cities and togetherness are formed by cars. One mustn’t fool oneself into believing this is under democratic control. We have as much influence as the potatoes had on whether they wanted to become widespread in western Europe. Cars are not something that man has: they are a socio-cultural unit which has man – cars have a life of their own.’ These three types of structural stories often overlap each other, and should therefore not be seen so much as contrasts but more as overlapping stories uncovering different aspects of the individual’s self-image and reflexive project. The individual draws on all types of structural stories but, in some cases, one type of story will be clearer and have priority over the others (FreudendalPedersen et al. 2002, 58). These divisions were created to get closer to the nuances the concept contains. This division is an important analytical tool when examining and understanding the individual’s actions and rationalities. I have, in this work, wanted to identify the societal processes and ideas which lay behind our need to use the structural stories, not least as to avoid the structural stories contributing to the escalating individualization of mobility where the individual stands alone with responsibility for the side effects of mobility. Working with the aim of mobility’s positive and negative effects becoming a common issue means that the challenges mobility creates must not be analysed at the individual level alone (Freudendal-Pedersen and Hartmann-Petersen 2006). I have chosen to focus on the processes which work on the community level, and therefore left out the sub-categories of the structural stories. My starting point for examining the structural stories’ emergence is still everyday life but with a stronger focus on the idea of freedom and time as principal elements in the desire to create the good life. It is my conviction that it will be possible to find these structural stories in all layers of society. There will be differences in their expression but there will also be some of universal character which appear across social and geographical borders. The stories take their starting point in theoretical work on late modern everyday life and its structures. The structure in the stories should be understood as a continuation of Giddens’ (1984) concept of structuration, where the individual, through social praxis, produces and



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reproduces the structural stories, and thus contributes to the maintenance of society’s great need – and desire – for mobility. What is the Structural in the Stories Giddens’ work (1984) on structuration is in accordance with the interaction principle of constructivism as he breaks away from the idea that actors and structures are two independent dimensions which act independently of each other. The theory of structuration views society neither just as the experience of the individual actor or an existing social whole, but rather as individual praxis spread over time and space (Giddens 1984, 2). Society must be understood as a process of structuration whereupon the individual’s praxis structures and, simultaneously, is structured by, society. This means that the structures are embedded into the individual’s consciousness. They are reproduced when the individual acts, while the individual, at the same time, acts on the basis of already existing structures. Giddens emphasizes the understanding of social praxis in the production and reproduction of social life; social praxis should be understood as the mediating concept between action and structure – between individual and society. Giddens (1984), however, does not suggest that everything is random or relative. We have systems and structures that we act in accordance with and on the basis of. Systems are constantly repeated actions and therefore stretch beyond a single action. When choosing the public transport system on a daily basis, we support the system this form of transportation is surrounded by. In the Danish case DSB (Danish State Railways), the Ministry of Transport and Danish National Railway Agency. Thus, the social praxis we are a part of is reproduced and a pattern of social relations forms and becomes apparent. Structures, on the other hand, according to Giddens, do not exist as an external framework but only have ‘virtual’ existence. They exist as a time/space presence only in the praxis of the moment and as memory traces, guiding the knowledgeable individual’s actions (Giddens 1984, 17). The unwritten rules we follow when travelling by train are an example of such a structure: we do not place ourselves right next to a fellow passenger if there are plenty of vacant seats. As a matter of fact, there is quite a defined pattern of placement in the carriage when passengers began to fill it up (Megafon 2005). Another structure can be said to be that the car is the glue of everyday life, and without the car everyday life can not be coherent. In this way structures are rules or legalities, reproduced through the actor’s consciousness and actions. Structures have no acting subjects, but only exist in the concrete praxis and in human memory when we act. In that way, structures cannot, according to Giddens, be understood as external or something outside the agent. The traditional concept of structures dissolves and becomes simultaneously the medium to, and result of, the agent’s social praxis. Thus

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structure is no longer seen as deterministic, but as both possibility-creating and action-limiting. Thereby, the structure concerning the car as the glue of everyday life is possibility-creating in the sense that everyday life becomes easier to organize. At the same time, it is to a action-limiting high degree because everyday life becomes very difficult if one does not have a car, or it is complicated through the possibilities the car gives us. Giddens (1984), through his concept of structure, values and norms, states that rules and resources are rooted in the agent, and therefore they exist within the agent and not outside the agent. Berger and Luckman (1966) have created a treatise in the sociology of knowledge, The Social Construction of Reality, describing how knowledge is created in a constant exchange between the individual and society. Their starting point can be compared to that used by Giddens in his theory of structuration (1984). They establish that institutionalized knowledge is constructed in interaction between the individual and society, and that it makes no sense to attempt to understand the knowledge process from start and end points. Rather, it must be seen as continuous constructions which are mutually constitutive and dependent on each other. In the knowledge process, different kinds of actors characterize mutually habitual actions (Berger and Luckmann 1966, 72). The habits and routines characterized create the foundation for what Berger and Luckman (1966) call an institution – when the habits assert themselves and create understanding for more actors. Berger and Luckmann’s concept of institutions encompasses Giddens’ concepts of both structure and system. Their concept of institutions contains all forms for time, spatial and social fixed patterns of action from family, school and religion, to summer life on the beach as a yearly recurring and wellestablished institution. The existence of an institution contributes to control mechanisms on how behaviour and understanding spreads out to other actors. Over time, the control mechanisms build agreement on the value foundation of the institution. By their mere existence, institutions control human behaviour when it sets up defined patterns of behaviour beforehand which, in spite of many theoretical possibilities, steer behaviour in a specific direction (Berger and Luckmann 1966, 73). In that way, the individual carries other individuals’ constructions of understanding which give meaning to themselves onwards. Thus, it makes specific knowledge meaningful for individuals. The process can then begin again when ‘new’ knowledge of the individual forms a foundation for action which maintains and affirms the constructed institution. This process can be compared with Giddens’ process of structuration where human action simultaneously structures and is structured by society. This process can be explained in relation to the structural stories through an example: ‘One cannot rely on the train; it is always late.’ Here, institutionalized knowledge – in this case the structural story – becomes externalized, given a range of habitual actions and routines: ‘many choose to drive a car instead of taking the train’ is repeated again and again. In this way, it becomes common



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and typical: ‘It is hard to be there on time if one does not have a car.’ What happens is that the individual typifies the institution/structure and, in this way, constructs understanding so that it gives meaning to many other individuals. Thereafter, the structure maintains itself by channelling human behaviour in a definite direction. ‘It is not possible to connect everyday life if one is dependent on the train.’ In this way, it gives constructed knowledge and meaning to the individual, and therefore internalizes the individual’s meaning and behaviour. Here, transport, time and everyday life become a field where consensus is formed, and is viewed by the individual, as being valid for themselves. In the structuration processes, and in the institutionalizing, control mechanisms in the form of social control exist: ‘If I am forced to take the train, I cannot be flexible in my working life and that is demanded today.’ The actions of the individuals hereafter confirm the institution from which they first started (Thomsen 2001). Thereby the structure becomes a signal to the outside world that if one wishes to be flexible – as late modern everyday life demands – one cannot be dependent on the public transport system. This process become further supplemented linguistically by ‘passing on institutionalized rules for specific behaviour’ (Thomsen 2001, 34 [my translation]) when the individual directly or indirectly articulates the institutionalized behaviour. ‘I do know that it might be more environmentally friendly to take the train, but if I want to advance in my job I am compelled to be flexible.’ This articulation ultimately becomes a part of society, created as an objective reality: ‘If one wants to be an important player in working life, one is obliged to be flexible and cannot be dependent on the public transport system.’ According to Berger and Luckmann, one thereby enters a circular argument given that society as an objective reality in that way is a human product which constructs and reconstructs itself in a continuous process. In common with Berger and Luckman, the essence of the structural stories appears very clearly. Their concept of institutions, however, is too broad to capture the core of the structural stories when they are not marked in the same way by a societal enactment of certain standard rules. The structural story is, to a higher degree, characterized by prevalent actions which are taken for granted and unseen by the individual. In this way the structural stories are less ‘visible’ than the prevalent institutions. While institutions have a concrete material possibility for sanctions – for instance, writing a ticket for speeding – the structural stories are characterized more by psycho-social control. An example could be the expectations from others that one has to be able to live up to in late modern life’s conditions resulting from flexibility, such as being mobile. Furthermore, this psycho-social control must be understood as an extension of one’s own expectations as to how one wishes to appear and participate in late modern life’s terms and possibilities. The structural stories are spun into a net of cultural notions about mobile and flexible late modern life. They are spun into a ‘sociality’, where the centre of rotation, amongst others, is mobility, individualization and reflexivity. The

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key to understanding structural stories must therefore be found partly in the condition of late modernity which forms the foundation for the structural stories, and partly in the control mechanisms which gives the structural stories a generally accepted validity which is maintained. Structural Stories, Reification and Discourses When I first started working with transport-related environmental problems, it was not originally a part of my consideration to place these studies within a discursive frame of analysis. However, through being introduced to more moderate forms of both theoretical and empirical discourse analysis (Fairclough 1992; Jensen 2006), I have seen the prospects of a discourse analytical approach to the formation of rationales and frames of explanations in everyday life. A discourse analytical approach to the structural stories could create an interesting analysis and essential knowledge. The critical concept of discourse, represented by Fairclough, amongst others, is defined as follows: ‘The discourse/semiotic aspect of a social order is what we call an order of discourse. It is the way in which diverse genres and discourses and styles are networked together. An order of discourse is a social structuring of semiotic difference – a particular social ordering of relationships among different ways of making meaning’ (Fairclough et al. 2001, 2). Fairclough views discourses as different ways to talk about and understand the world within different classes or institutions in society. His focus is on, for example, where discourse within the private sector passes across into the public sector, such as outsourcing. When the discourse moves and breaks limits, society transforms. A discourse is thereby a specific way to speak about and understand the world – or a section of the world – and everyday life is filled with different discourses that compete with each other. ‘The good parent’ and ‘the healthy life’ are broadly accepted discourses. There are a number of discourses about what the good parent should or should not do in relation to his, her or their children: How much time the children should spend in day care or how much television they should watch are both excellent examples. Another prevalent discourse is the health discourse: What should I eat? Should I smoke? Should I do some more exercise? A lifestyle or a community can have some current discourses which are different from other lifestyles/communities. Thereby, discourses exist on different levels of society. Many individuals have some discourses in common and they are widespread, but others are specific and first and foremost valid on a specific scale or in a specific organization. An illustration of this could be the discourse about the good life. The content of this discourse can be very different from place to place, but as a structure it might be ‘Danish society should be a welfare society’. The discourse is an articulated unit which can be evident both for small and large groups of people. Different discourses can



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lead to the same structural story. The structural story concerning ‘the trains that are always delayed’ can be about everything from the discourse about ‘the good parent’ to the discourse about ‘real men have their own car’. Mobility is a fundamental process in society, and what structural stories surrounding mobility do is – across the discourses – attempt to capture ‘something’ which, not alone, belongs to a specific discourse, a specific organization, or a specific place. With this in mind, the argument is therefore that the concept of structural stories embraces the concept of discourse which, like other types of concepts within social science, describe rationality formation. Berger and Luckman (1966) deliver the concept of reification which, in many ways, entails some of the same aspects as the structural stories. Reification is ‘the apprehension of the products of human activity as if they were something other than human products’ (Berger and Luckman 1966, 106 [italics original]). What the concept encompasses is the idea that the individual is able to forget that they themselves are part of creating the world in which they live. The individual defines a world that they have no control over which is, instead, controlled by things out of their reach. ‘It must be emphasized that reification is a modality of consciousness, more precisely, a modality of man’s objectification of the human world. Even while apprehending the world in reified terms, man continues to produce it. That is, man is capable paradoxically of producing a reality that denies him’ (Berger and Luckman 1966, 107). Reification is an important Marxist concept termed ‘false consciousness’, which is closely connected to the concept of alienation. Reification is a particular form of consciousness and the institutional word as whole, or simply part of it, can be understood as reified. According to Berger and Luckman (1966), the world of institutions melts together with the world of nature. In the way in which things are connected, it becomes an ‘objective’ factor – and the individual has no possibility of or control over changing it. ‘The sector of self-consciousness that has been objectified in the role is then also apprehended as an inevitable fate, for which the individual may disclaim responsibility’ (Berger and Luckman 1966, 108). Structural stories are close to Berger and Luckman’s concept of reification. An essential difference is, however, that reification embraces the complete development of society and includes all institutions in society. In comparison, structural stories are more focused on the rationalities of the individuals in relation to articulating specific patterns of action while at the same time, through articulation, carrying the materialities of the hybermobile society within. Structural Stories in the Late Modern Society As outlined, ‘structural stories’ is a concept which has evolved over time through the interaction between theories on late modern society and

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empirical work on this society’s everyday life. It is a concept that has grown out of extensive interview material as a response to the ambivalences and contradictions between action and attitude which late modern everyday life is filled with. Everyday life potentially contains a number of contradictions; things that can be done in different ways. One choice might be a little bit better than others – and it is here that the structural stories help us by giving fewer things to reflect upon. Therefore, structural stories become understood and expressed as universal truths everybody agrees on, and in that way exempt us from responsibility while we choose to conduct specific actions. A structural story is used to explain the actions we take and the choices we make as part of everyday life. When one of the strongest structural stories about mobility is ‘more mobility gives more freedom’, it means that the structural stories in this way maintain the society’s high need for mobility. Late modern everyday life contains a long row of components, all of which have significance for the development and understanding of the structural stories, which all, in their own individual way, have significance for the ways in which we can navigate our everyday lives. Risk and the ambivalences considered and experienced are both important parts of the need for a structural story, and therefore play a central role in their formation. The structural story is also an expressed part of life politics or sub-politics, and plays a crucial role in setting the frames for what we can and cannot do in everyday life. Communities, which are essential for ontological security, are one of the places where we get confirmation and back-up for the structural stories, which themselves are a part of forming new types of meaningful communities. These elements are those the individual navigates through when describing the significance of everyday life mobilities. Thereby, the dynamics of late modernity play an important role in the construction of the structural stories presented in what follows. Structural Stories in the Empirical The structural stories clearly stand out in both the individual interviews and the focus groups. They are used in different ways in different connections. It is possible and very interesting to describe them under the three divisions – possibility-creating, practical, and impotent structural stories – when each of these divisions is also reflected when the interviewees describe how to get everyday life connected. In this context I have, as mentioned earlier, wished to examine this from another angle. To do so, I will describe them in another framework. As such, the starting point here is a description of the structural stories through three typical – and very often used – types of structural story. Most other structural stories, in one way or another, are structured around these three types. The three types of stories are:



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1. ‘When one has children, one needs a car’; 2. ‘The train is always late’; 3. ‘The car offers some possibilities that no other transport mode can give.’ These three types of structural story are present, in one form or another, in all the individual interviews, and are also discussed in the focus groups. The three types of story often overlapped each other, or are mixed together and used differently with differing intensity in different family situations. When One has Children, One Needs a Car In Group A, none of the interviewees had children, although Alma is pregnant, and this is reflected in Alma and Arne’s stories concerning mobility choices: ‘But when I, at the present time, don’t have a transportation need that requires a car, I can’t see why I should have one, but then when one gets a child, we will probably get one on the grounds of convenience.’ Because of the expected child, this couple have chosen to look for a house outside the city, and under these circumstances also planned to buy a car: ‘Also because when one gets a child it becomes easier.’ In Group  C (where nobody knew each other beforehand) the three individuals who had children also owned a car. In their group the structural story about children and cars was primarily used indirectly: ‘Also, when one has children, it’s a hassle being at a friend’s place – one can’t get back home, then the kids have to go outside and down to the station. It’s so much easier to put them in the car. It’s a big hassle to take sleeping kids on the train.’ The connection between children and cars was also found in Group B where it is the most prevalent structural story: ‘Originally, we got it [the car] because we had two kids and a family living in Sealand.’ If we separate Groups A, B and C into families with and without children, it is common that the structural story is as strong, if not stronger, in families without children. Families with children use more indirect versions of this structural story, but families without children often – and more directly – use the structural story concerning children and cars. ‘It’s when you have kids, how are you supposed to get anywhere with three kids? Of course one could take a bus but then one would have to get to know the system.’ The idea that it is not possible for everyday life to be connected without a car when you have children is very strong in those who do not yet have children, in particular, where children are on the way or have been planned as part of the future. Here, Bitten explain the problems related to their shared car: ‘We have a shared car. But it died last week and those we shared it with had twins, and they want to have a shared car again but I do not want to share a car with them because I know they need a car the entire time now, so it would be unequal.’

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It is consistent in the interviews that those with children do not always choose the car for everyday life transport but instead have found other transport modes, such as trains and cycles, which make everyday life work. Likewise, it is consistent for those without children to think that it is almost impossible for them to imagine the organizing of an already time-pressured everyday life with the addition of children without the possibility of a car. In Group C the time pressure was articulated: ‘One saves incredible amounts of time by having a car in relation to those that have to use the public transport system.’ The structural story about children and cars existed in all three groups, but was undoubtedly strongest in those without children. Those without children expected that they would need a car when they eventually chose to have children. Thus, the car is acquired in the anticipation of a need, knowing they will need it before experiencing the need. The structural story articulates a need they have not yet experienced but are expecting at some stage in the future. All those interviewed owned or had access to a car. Those with children used the structural story about children and cars less frequently, and several of them did not use the car for the children’s everyday life mobility. The car was primarily used for vacation and weekend trips when children were involved. In the focus group, the things that the car does not fulfil when children are involved in mobility were articulated: On an everyday basis, the car doesn’t help a lot. No, I think I have a nicer time with the children on the train than in the car, then one doesn’t have to concentrate on driving and is not tied down to where one sits. Trains are, in reality, more social and more relaxed, and one can have a conversation and sit face to face.

This discussion in the focus group brought about reflection and consideration of the positive and negative effects of different transport modes, as in the following example where Bo asked his wife, ‘Now we’ve just been on vacation to Norway by car, how do you think it would have been if we had taken the train?’ Blanca answered, ‘More relaxing and more communal. We could have had a cosy time with the children.’ Bitten, who has no children, butted into the discussion, stating, ‘Yes but there are two kinds of vacation: the holidays where one has to go to a specific place and stay there, or holidays where you travel around.’ She did not fully understand Bo and Blanca’s rationale for talking about the cosiness of using another mode of transport, probably because she has no experience of driving many kilometres with small children as passengers in a car. They, on the other hand, made no attempt to explain the negative aspects of driving a long way with children. Bo and Blanca summed



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up the discussion by explaining why the car is chosen in spite of the benefits from choosing another mode of transport: Well, I only have a car because there is no link to where I need to go. In many cases, the thing about having a car when one has kids is its pure convenience and, I think, even though we know it pollutes, one does not think that much about it. Then one is mostly thinking about oneself.

It is easy to expect a discussion on the discrepancy between the experienced and the imagined needs in the focus groups, as this appears clearly. However, there is evidence to suggest that the structural story of children and cars is difficult to discuss and negotiate, as it has to do with something quite fundamental in the individual’s life. It is about our ability, or our wish, as parents, to create the good life for our children. As such, few individuals are good at taking criticism in this area, and they are also therefore very reluctant to express criticism of others’ ways of managing this situation. Subsequently, I can see that I, as an interviewer, am affected by this. This is why I chose not to delve as deeply into this structural story in the individual interviews as with the other types of story. In the focus group I – more than with the other stories – waited for the other participant’s initiative and accepted when there was no counter-reaction to the story. The participants in the focus group seemed to divert the discussion when this structural story was brought up for discussion. There were none of the blunt reactions from others concerning responsibility for others or the significance of communities etc. that emerged in the other negotiations. Some years ago, before structural stories had been defined as an analytical concept, I was in an interview situation where a couple in their 50s, who had adult children, explained their purchase of the car as follows, ‘When one has kids, one needs a car’. I remember being puzzled by this statement because it had, as far as I could see, nothing to do with their current everyday life situation. Subsequently, however, I considered many times how it was interesting that this story can survive and, it seems, will survive best in contexts in which it does not reflect a present experienced need. The car, as the freedom and possibility creator, stands so strongly in our mental imagination that to many individuals it serves as the best ‘mental’ resort in a pressured and busy everyday life.

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The Train is Always Late There was, in the different groups, a consistent agreement that ‘the public transport system is expensive and never runs on time, and then one has to walk to the bus stop … it’s terrible. .. it’s delayed. There are way too many people or somebody smells’. The structural story about the delayed train and how one cannot count on it is put into words by many of the participants. One of the most critical was Claus, who would only rarely take the train: ‘I know on those days when I have to take the train home from work, I have to use a lot of energy to plan everything, and then you run to the train station and either you are five minutes early or the train is 10–15 minutes delayed. This means you can’t make plans.’ There was a clear indication that those who used the train as everyday life’s mobility were the least critical. In particular, Alex was very happy with his daily train trip: ‘In the train, one can doze off, one can lose oneself, one can move around, one is not bound to a chair and one can do what one likes. One does not have the usual homely matters that can disturb you, one way or another. One can sit by oneself, and thereby it is easier to concentrate.’ Asked about his criticism of the train, Claus explained: ‘I can remember when I was dependent on the train and bus to get to work, it didn’t happen that often [a delay], but it’s these things one remembers, one does not remember all the things that went well. If one has the possibility of driving a car, and the car has to go to the garage, so that one has to take the train, then the train is delayed and that makes you madder. But if one takes the train every day and it is late now and then, it does not matter that much because one is more tolerant than if one has other possibilities.’ In the situations of negotiation in the focus groups, the story of the delayed trains is one of the stories that does not get easily accepted. Many reactions from different sides are introduced, and the individual who originally came up with the statement is often the one who chooses to moderate it: Yes, yes, the queue is always there. You can count on the queue. You know it’s there and you know what time it’s there. Not if one isn’t accustomed to driving a car. But then you can never know, even though you always ride the train within a certain time period, whether a specific train is normally late. Well, if you know the trains, then you know when it can be late, you also know where to find the train and where to punch [the ticket]. But this isn’t what I am saying – you can count on rush-hour [when driving a car] right, but you cannot control the train delays.



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No, I think that’s silly. What I am trying to say is that it often takes 10 minutes longer by train, but you are at the maximum five minutes late.

It is also very easy for the participants to discuss the rationales behind the structural story about the delayed trains: I guess it was just some bad stories that were in the news when the whole thing started. Habits and expectations. I guess it’s also a part of legitimizing one’s choices. I never use the train because they are never on time, then one says, oh ok this is why you never … and then we talk no more about it. It’s a lemmings effect. There are also many drivers who use them as an excuse to get in a car. I can’t be sure that I’ll be there on time etc. It’s probably something you do in all areas of life. I try out if this is a fair convention, does it encounter with your story, because then we just have to work with it. Usually, I guess, one presents a somewhat conservative positioning against others, to test each other. It’s rare that you meet anybody that just says something totally wildly about the design of the S-train. They are just super, great to travel in. It’s just so great. you love to ride the S-train and they look great on the inside. It’s cosy to wait at the S-train station.

Generally in the groups there is an agreement that the structural stories are used to legitimize everyday life choices, for oneself and for others, and the participants laugh at the grotesqueness of saying something positive about a public transport mode such as the S-train. It does not mean, however, that many of them do not acknowledge the appreciation of comfortable trains, as there are generally positive descriptions of the new S-trains and long-distance trains and their interior. However, it just seems to be that this is not something people are willing to openly divulge. Several of the participants also put emphasis on the fact that the public transport system is an obligation the state has to the public. Some say that it should be free of charge and that there is generally discontent about the price of travelling on the public transport

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system. However, the negative reference to the public transport system is explained by the fact that it is state-owned, and the press are always publishing negative stories about the system and its service. There is too much pressure in the media, and then it used to be stateowned. The most relevant thing is that people remember the bad but not the good experiences. In the car, there are no others to blame than yourselves, but the state can always be blamed. And it’s a problem that’s more complicated to understand. The story of the state, which does not do its job well enough in a field, is something we can all talk about. We pay a lot in taxes; we want value for money. One hears a lot about the delayed trains, and it goes from mouth to mouth.

The negative stories travel from mouth to mouth, and become internalized as a structure. We produce and reproduce the negativity by passing it on in a long line of different social communities. At the same time, it becomes even more long-lived because the press keeps it alive and participates in the structuration of this structural story. ‘Because when one listens to traffic news, they always say that the train is delayed, and then it’s in the back of one’s head, well then the train is probably always delayed.’ It seems that it would be a hopeless discussion to take a position about which was the chicken and which was the egg in the structural stories of ‘children and cars’ and ‘the delayed train’. But, there is no doubt that they mutually support and reinforce each other: when the train is always late, everyday life mobility with children seems even more hopeless without the car. As such, these two stories help to keep each other alive, but also feed into the structural story about the ‘car that offers some opportunities that no other means of transport can provide’. The Car Gives Possibilities that None of the Other Transport Modes Can Give In the structural story of the car as the possibility-creator, there is a lot of talk which says: ‘If you have a car you are not as tied down. One is not restricted in one’s planning of what one wants to do. If this is what we want, this is what we want and then we can just jump in the car and go to the beach.’ The



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opportunities offered by the car in one’s leisure time are articulated as a major reason for getting, replacing or keeping a car. ‘I would not have it if I didn’t have the [summer] cottage, and there it’s necessary to have a car, and it’s also nice to be transported out of town during summer … So it works only as an opportunity for transport, when one needs it.’ The opportunities which have an impact are not restricted to present ones. It is as much about possible options in the future: ‘Lately, I have been thinking that it might be an idea to get a shared car, then we could go get the car when we needed it. But right now, my husband is looking for jobs, and it’s nice to have extra possibilities.’ The potential of the car becomes articulated, although it is not necessarily a potential which there is a desire to use: ‘I first of all have it [a car] because when I was finished as a teacher and began to look for jobs, I didn’t know if I could get jobs close to where I live, and if I was to get one outside the reach of the S-train or regional train, I thought I needed a car to be able to get there.’ What was interesting about both of these opinions was that these individuals were very clear about not wanting a job where they were forced to spend time in a car commuting on an everyday basis. Yet the potential the car offers plays a large role in everyday life as a freedom-creating element: ‘The car gives you the freedom to change your plans at the last minute, maybe you won’t do it, but it is important that one can change plans at the last minute.’ The potential for mobility and motility, will be discussed further in Chapter 4. One of the places where mobility has embedded ambivalences in its clearest form is in the structural stories about the car as being possibility-creating. While it creates possibility, at the same time it also put restraints on our mobility. These counter-stories are prevalent in relation to the costs of buying the car: ‘Because what happens then is that now I am obligated to use the car, because now I have it.’ The Danish registration tax – especially for new cars – is quite high, which means that purchasing a car is expensive compared with other countries. Therefore, this example concerning the price difference of petrol and train tickets is a much-used example: ‘I think it’s too expensive [a train ticket]. It makes no sense to me – to take the train to my parents and back home again in relation to the petrol price, it’s too expensive.’ Thus, the structural story opens up to the ambivalence embedded in automobility, as the notion of price of various means of transport. Individuals’ economies are one of the strongest rationalities used to develop or limit everyday lives. Although the background of a possible choice does not solely depend on people’s economies, it is the rationality with which it will be presented. In the calculations of the costs of different transport modes created, it is often the case that not all the costs of the car are included (green taxes, depreciation, registration tax, insurance etc.). This is precisely why the structural story reveals a crack where mobility behaviour can be changed. The car gives freedom but simultaneously it also locks individuals to certain types of mobility behaviour.

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Ambivalence in Everyday Life which Produces Structural Stories To highlight the ambivalences late modern life contains, I used the issue of environment and health. These themes were chosen because of their importance to our ontological security. Environment and health are two themes which can bring out the individual’s sense of insecurity and fear. It does not necessarily mean that this will be reflected in everyday life but that there is an awareness of the issues’ importance to our daily lives. In the following, Anna describes how the perfect everyday life would look: ‘I think stressful mornings are enormously irritating. There was a period when I had time to exercise in the morning and it was just absolutely perfect. If I could just do that every morning. I would really like that, and then eat healthily and live healthily, I would really like that. It is actually not very difficult, it’s just about getting one’s act together and doing it.’ To live a healthy life has a great significance for her. Anna uses her car a lot, and used many structural stories about why she needs it. In her use of the structural stories, she was very consistent about the question of what ‘one’ does and what ‘one’ must do to get everyday life connected. It is interesting that when I discussed environmental problems and the mode of transport that generates the most environmental problems, an ‘I’ entered the explanation: ‘The car generates the most environmental problems. I think it’s a hugely inefficient and poor mode of transport. I just sit there. Sometimes I drive during rush-hour and you are sitting there, one person in a row, and all of us are going to nearly the same place, and I am completely aware that it’s completely stupid, and then if one is riding on a bicycle, one can really smell how bad the fumes are.’ Despite the use of a lot of structural stories, people are not unaware of the problems automobility creates. It is precisely this awareness which is co-creating our need for structural stories. We cannot afford to be lazy about or comfortable with our own or our children’s health or the environment. We know that we could do better but, quite simply, we cannot cope with acting according to that knowledge. It has become our own individual responsibility to solve all of these things (Freudendal-Pedersen and Hartmann-Petersen 2006) and this is a difficult puzzle to solve. The consequences of automobility for the environment were articulated by all of those interviewed. A car driver, Christina, explains why the car is the biggest environmental problem: ‘Air pollution and there is also the noise pollution, and then there is this thing about the car taking up so much space, but it’s definitely the emissions of particulates which is the biggest nuisance, and it’s quite unreasonable that it is such.’ Another car driver, Alex, wonders about the number of cars: ‘It annoys me that people to move their 80kg 3 kilomtres, have to move 1.5 tons back and forth. I think this is completely absurd – that is, if people thought a little bit about it, then it’s absolutely absurd.’ In the focus group, I asked them to discuss the mode of transport that was socio-economically most expensive, and here the topics of environment and



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health also arose. In all three groups, they ended up ranking automobility as being the most expensive. Here, Group A took part in a discussion: Yes, it’s the car. And then the metro. The buses pollute a lot, and are also expensive to operate. I have seen some statements that trains hardly pollute. Car, metro, train, bus. But do we have to take the investments into account? Here it has a lot to do with proper planning so that the metro is placed where it’s used. But the Treasury makes a lot of money on the car with the registration tax and all that. No, no, no, because someone in Germany has calculated that if you use a litre of gasoline and we had to clean up after it, then it would cost DK30 a litre, and we pay DK9 a litre, so somebody else is paying the remaining 20. It may be that some developing countries are paying the 10 by getting their environment smeared. But in Denmark we also pay three times for each car we buy. It’s probably also the mode of transport with the highest number of accidents one could imagine. Yes, very expensive. Yes, but they are probably more serious for bikers; a lot of them also get injured, I guess. Then the bicycles can move up the list, because the train has proved to be the most environmentally friendly and safest mode of transport. On the other hand, the cyclist has better health; they have fewer lifestyle illnesses.

There is no doubt that my presence as a researcher in mobility and everyday life had significance for the priorities and selection of environmental problems which were presented by the interviewees. It was consistent, though, that all of them listed air pollution and CO2 as serious problems. Environmental

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problems associated with automobility is something that all the interviewed had in mind. However, during the interviews, it was not the environment and health which were cited as reasons for the type of everyday life mobility modes chosen. What their clear responses on the environmental and health issues showed was the source of insecurity and sense of risks which penetrate late modern everyday life, which also gave a good picture of why we need structural stories. Negotiation of the Structural Story Structural stories were used in single interviews as well as in focus groups. There was a difference in the way they were discussed in the different groups, and which structural stories were negotiated or contrasted. As I described in the section regarding structural stories about children and cars, this story was rarely discussed concretely. In the focus groups, the interviewees were asked to discuss mobility in relation to some of the dynamics which characterize late modern society. Here, the structural stories are used in different varieties. Group A here discusses which transport mode is considered to give the most freedom: Yes, this of course depends on if it’s holiday or work because when you go to work you don’t drive on the highway. It is also because if you just miss the train by two minutes, and then you stand there swearing the rest of the day until the next train comes. It’s not as free. On the other hand with the car you can sit in a queue. Yes … but one plans to have better time when travelling by car; one leaves earlier. Earlier … but I guess it’s the same as to plan when you need the train. No, because sometimes you just go online and see when the trains are running. So you don’t plan so much after all. But, if I, every day in the morning, am in traffic when I have to get somewhere, then I am thinking I will leave earlier.



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But then you are forced to get up earlier. I would rather get up an hour earlier, than wait for the train. It’s in the mind. It’s also something to do with what you’re used to. I think it very much depends on where you’re going.

The discussions were followed through and ended up with a compromise which stated that ‘it is in the mind’ or ‘it depends on where you are going’. Focus Group A was one of the groups in which the participants knew each other in advance. This was clear in the ways they debated the structural stories. They would go directly to the heart of the structural stories and question the rationales that lay behind them. At the same time, they were also very careful to end the discussions with some mediating comments to ensure that it did not turn into a discussion that would denigrate the other group members’ choices and motives. They exchanged views and pointed out when things were not coherent, and then the discussions were left at a place where the individual could make the conclusions as he or she wished. In Focus Group  C, which consisted of members who did not know each other in advance, more structural stories were used and were rarely contradicted. Instead of negotiating a structural story, they contradicted it without entering into a debate, either by creating a new structural story or just by closing the discussion. They did not approach each other in the same way in the discussions, and the group served as a good illustration of how structural stories are used in everyday life interactions between individuals who do not have a confidential relationship. Focus Group C’s discussion about the means of transport and which is considered to give the most freedom was over very quickly, and was more a list of statements and structural stories than a debate: That must be the car; you can get the furthest away, and you can choose on your own when you leave. Bicycle is as much freedom for me. And in the city, the bike clearly gives more freedom. I think the bus gives the least.

After this brief discussion, Group  C ended up ranking modes of transport according to which gives the most freedom, as follows:

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• • • • •

car; cycle; train; metro; bus.

The above ranking is entirely in line with their brief presentation of views. In Group  A (where the participants knew each other) there was a rather long discussion, and the quotes presented from the group represent only a sampling of this discussion. There was no consensus reached in the group, and they ended up mediating the discussions. The result was that they did not succeed in agreeing how to rank the modes of transport in relation to freedom. The structural stories can, in such cases, also reveal the areas where there is most vulnerability. Where there is awareness that the arguments may not be the best – and it is precisely here – there is a need for the structural story as a guide through the discussion. By not ranking the modes of transport, nobody loses face in the discussion and no individual’s experience of freedom and mobility is made less valid. The question of freedom in relation to transport is the third question the focus group was presented with, and Group C’s discussions unfolded along the way. However, it was clear in the initial phase that, when they did not yet have a sense of each other, a structural story was being used, and that it had an obvious effect on the outcome of the discussions. Later in the process, Group C started to contradict the structural stories which appeared. The following is a discussion of the means of transport which are seen to give the greatest sense of community: Drivers can, along with others, be mad at the other road users. Or be happy about the freedom they have. It’s also a status symbol. It’s also strange that in the public transport system, where you’re sitting together with other people, that one feel less a part of a community than in the place where one is isolated with oneself. But I just don’t think that when you’re sitting in a train you speak to anyone. I think that how I feel is that I know I am going to sit in the queue every morning, and I don’t snap about it. The days where I know I have to take the train to work it is just something that has to be done. Public transportation is just something that needs to be done, because those sitting next to you, guaranteed, smell of garlic.



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Yes, or are talking on the phone. Yes, there are some things that irritate one, but here it is funny, I would feel the opposite; I would go crazy in a traffic jam.

The difference in the group discussions was that when participants in Group C came up with a response or an argument against the structural story, the discussion stopped or changed track. In Groups A and B, on the other hand, the discussions were taken up, debated and then closed with some mediating comments. Here, Group  B discussed the mode of transport which was considered to give the greatest sense of community: If one often takes the train with the same people, one would perhaps nod to the same person in the corner. I would say that one often experiences in the metro that people are in their own world. There are so many people, it need not be experienced as a community feeling because it’s people stressing. There are not many of them providing community other than sitting in the car. But I think, jointly with the family, the bike gives as much community. I have more community with the children when I cycle, than when I sit with them in the car. I also think that when you cycle, you can’t cycle four people side by side chatting; one can easily sit four people in a car and talk together. When one cycles it’s two by two, we can talk. Then I get more community when more people are sitting in the car. Then it is easier to talk. If you are on the bus it’s also very social. Also if you are on the train.

In Group C the structural stories were contradicted more confrontationally than in the other groups. This creates both a softening up and also new and enhanced versions of the structural story. In the unsafe situations, the structural stories are clearly produced and reproduced, whereas in the safe environment there is a greater tendency to adopt ‘alternative’ or different structural stories. However, there is no doubt that the structural stories live equally well in all three groups: however, those in Groups A and B are more nuanced.

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Interviewees Reactions to the Idea of Structural Stories As a conclusion to the focus group meetings, the concept of structural stories was presented to the participants and put up for discussion. All participants in the focus groups could recognize them and were quick to reflect on the idea of structural stories. They came up with a number of different reasons as to why we use them in our everyday lives: Sometimes it’s just communication, then one has a real community, then one is together with someone about something. It’s also something about understanding the world around you in generalizations.

As structural stories were put forward, and thus presented as possible truths to be negotiated, counter-stories arose. Some of the interviewees, who had not gotten their messages through during the negotiations in the focus group, realized there was a free space with room for their counter-stories. When the structural stories were questioned, it gave room for some new structural stories, which suddenly gained a stronger position: To drive a car, it’s just okay. It’s like smoking was before but I see it this way; smoking and car driving, it’s not a private matter. If you sat there, speeding up in a carport, CO2 would be going up in the air. I think you are very right when you say it’s a little self-reinforcing. You are sitting with these mantras which are the truths because everybody says so.

Or the more direct counter-story in a dialogue between a car driver and a public transport user: Because you hear traffic news, and then they always say that the train is delayed, and then one has that in the back of one’s head that the train is probably always late. I think when I hear the radio that they always say the queue is not that bad, there is only 20 minutes of waiting, and the public transport is running regularly.

At the same time, the need to remain critical of themselves and others arose. As is said in the following quotation, it is to justify one’s lifestyle: I think we are very much guided by the media.



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It’s perhaps commuters who need an excuse. That is to justify one’s lifestyle. Even if we know it’s bad. Regardless of what lifestyle you have, then you have a story about how that lifestyle is okay.

In this process what happened was that the participants put great emphasis on the legitimizing factors which the structural stories can contain. It has been my desire to get away from this legitimacy, since the legitimizing aspect can easily end up somewhere where the needs the individual experiences in everyday life are valued to be morally right or wrong. I do not believe that it is irrelevant to take a position on our morality and ethics in relation to other people, the outside world and the community of which we are a part. This will be approached again in Chapter 7. The problem with the legitimizing element of the structural stories is that it places the responsibility for mobility on the individual. The structural stories are used to navigate in an ambivalent late modern everyday life. Each story is used as a defence against the incalculability of everyday life. The legitimizing aspect comes into play because of the strong individualization of mobility. The choice of, and responsibility for, mobility is something that we as individuals have to take a position on alone. There is no political vote interfering in the individual’s everyday life by regulating mobility behaviour because mobility is very much thought to be a private matter. Therefore, it is then up to the individual whether mobility habits can or should be changed (FreudendalPedersen and Hartmann-Petersen 2006). This is why we need structural stories on mobility to navigate between our everyday lives mobilities. One could say that it is a paradox, and that the more freedom we get, the more individualized we become. As such, more structural stories arise and then it is more likely that mobility will have unintended consequences in everyday life; consequences which we are actually striving to avoid. In this final discussion, participants looked at concrete ideas as to how to create counter stories about mobility, and how mobility may be something which is not only the responsibility of the individual: It requires a large amount of mass information that it’s not true, if you are to get rid of these structural stories just to get the wave set in motion about the trains. If the employer could accept that when we work on the train it’s also a part of our working hours. The employer could say, ‘I know you’re working on the train’, and then it would become practical to take the train. I, for example, read mails every day on the train.

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The idea here is that mobility to and from work is something the employer could take an active position on, and thus help to remove some of the responsibility of the individual: ‘It is better to take the train, because there I can work, and I do not have to put my transport time on top of my working hours – this would give me more leisure time.’ This proposal certainly has its problems in relation to the already fluid boundaries between work and leisure (Drewes Nielsen and Aagaard Nielsen 2006). On the other hand, including work on the train into one’s working hours offers some potential for those who do not have a flexible working life. Other common forums in which mobility could be discussed were also proposed. For example, with friends and acquaintances. A discussion arose on whether or not you can tell a friend or acquaintance, not to drive a car; It is easier to say something to one’s friends if one is not doing it oneself, so it requires that you have friends who do not drive. But it’s small communities where you can go to the edge of this, but if you move too far out, you become alienated from the group. It will probably depend on how good friends you are.

The discussion of whether mobility is something that can be discussed with one’s friends and family, was one I examined in the project Mobility in Everyday Life – Do We Talk Enough About It? (Freudendal-Pedersen et al. 2000). This project was centred on a comparison between everyday life transport and organic food as discussion themes between friends and family. It is now some years ago but, at that time, it was clear that mobility habits were not discussed with friends and family. Organic food and environmental problems, on the other hand, were a subject many said they discussed with their friends. They also sought to influence their friends to act differently in relation to organic food but the discussion of mobility was completely closedoff as something ‘not to interfere with’. It seems that there are indications that mobility is still a sensitive issue, which the established structural stories also indicates. While we need the structural stories to close the discussions, we do not necessarily agree on the stories of others, and as such, they have a protective and closing function. Structural Stories on Mobility The structural stories live clearly, and are often used both in the individual interviews and in the focus groups. The three most consistent stories about ‘children and cars’, ‘the delayed trains’ and ‘possibility-creating car’ were by and large present in every interview. These three types of structural story



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overlap and maintain each other, and maintain certain types of mobility behaviour. The individual’s mobility is based on a series of conscious and unconscious choices. Mobility can be seen as the means to achieve the lifestyle we want, as lifestyles are often spread over large geographical areas. It is much more the lifestyles and content of these which are essential for the individual, than it is mobility as a precondition for entering into the chosen lifestyles. This is, not the least, due to the essential need for the individual to select and deselect lifestyles in an attempt to construct an identity. In late modern society, there is a pronounced sense of entitlement to happiness which is often closely related to freedom. This has been the fundamental motivation for the individual’s participation in society. In this eternal quest for happiness and the maintenance of freedom, a high degree of mobility is also seen as a fundamental right and condition. Patterns of mobility are thus dependent on the lifestyle choices and the fragmentation of everyday life. In late modern everyday life, we have a wide range of opportunities, and mobility gains great significance as that which binds together the possibilities in the construction of the good life. In order to predict and control everyday life, we cannot reflect on each and every one of the decisions we make, and therefore we are often very aware of the temporary nature of the knowledge in which we choose to believe. This constant review and debate of knowledge creates a greater sense of risk where the media also plays a major role in this constant debate and assessment of risks. All of this leads to a basic fear and uncertainty about the truth of new knowledge, when the individual cannot be sure that new knowledge will not be reviewed and risks are, as Beck (1992) puts it, ‘the stowaway of normal consumption’. The uncertainties are not fewer – nor are they in the parts of the world where security is not economically, politically, environmentally or militarily dependent – but very much a matter of social and psychological standing and survival. Therefore, we design structural stories because they offer a rationality we can act upon. This also reduces the ambivalences which are an inevitable part of selecting some actions in place of others. The ambivalences as an inevitable part of everyday life were expressed in the interviewees’ stories on the environment and health. The ambivalences play a crucial role in our production and reproduction of the structural stories. The structural story is a way to bring order into this constant fragmentation and readiness to readjust, which has become a part of everyday life. Structural stories are also mentioned in connection with exclusion and inclusion in various communities and life situations, and it helps to maintain the structural stories position in the choice of mobility. Structural stories thus influence the communities that we each are part of, the lifestyles we enter and the life politics we have. Through the structural story we restore communities – communities that provide security in a world filled with diverse ‘for and against’ views. These are not necessarily communities that meet the traditional requirements for a community, when they do not necessarily require co-

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presence. We can be present individually, but these communities give us the safety, security, and reassurance that the world is as it should be and that we live our lives in the most rational and logical manner. The structural story creates a naturalness for the individual when explaining everyday life choices with an argument going like this: there are a lot of things we probably could do better but everybody knows that when you have children you need a car and it cannot be any different. The individual needs this naturalness because mobility has been individualized and we are alone with the responsibility to navigate through the risky ambivalent everyday life; here the structural stories act as a good aid. The structural stories are nuanced, and counter-stories appear as they are negotiated and discussed. One could say that the structural stories, by virtue of their form, can help to open up a space for reflection as they become articulated. The apparent rationality is taken out of the structural stories in the articulation and creates a free space which, by realization, can create reflection and space for the ambivalences. When I, as a researcher, articulate a specific structural story and make it available for debate in the focus groups, I have already included a critical angle. This can be relevant in relation to the fact that the responses from participants on the concept of structural stories are explained as the legitimizing of certain mobility behaviours. The danger of this is that it moves into a moral condemnation of certain types of mobility behaviour. The positive side is that in opening up to this critique it creates a free space for the counter-stories. A structural story is often a reflection of an experienced need. The problem is that structural stories are reflected upon as an ‘objective truth’ about how to be mobile. To increase the visibility of the structural stories, it can be claimed that there are several ways to be mobile. This creates a dynamic which can be used positively in order to create space for other stories. By illuminating and identifying the structural stories, a window is opened up in order to look behind the apparent rationalities we use in everyday life, and as a way of understanding the needs and utopias which we rarely articulate when asked about everyday life mobilities. The structural story has the opportunity to clarify concepts and dichotomies which are important focal points for an understanding of the dynamics of mobility. One of the stories closely associated with mobility is related to freedom: mobility and freedom are two often linked concepts. In the next chapter, I will use structural stories to get closer to the connection between mobility and freedom.

Chapter 4

Freedom

The structural story can be used to illustrate concepts and dichotomies which are important focal points in the understanding of the dynamics of mobility. In this chapter, I will use structural stories to illuminate the idea of freedom. Freedom is a dominant theme and driving force when individuals consider and discuss their choice of mobility and, not least, when the individual contemplates everyday life mobility (Eyerman and Löfgren 1995; Enevold 2000). The dichotomies of mobility – presented by freedom and unfreedom – are central to the critical mobility research as it can help us to understand both sides of the case. The question arises, when is mobility a resource and when is it a burden, and what lies in-between? The immediate answers in relation to mobility and freedom, however, are strongly related to mobility – especially automobility – as a resource. The sense, or the idea, of freedom of automobility is obvious. When the interviewees were each asked why they have a car, the answers given had the same theme: ‘I love the feeling of freedom’ or ‘it is simply the freedom and the time you save’ or ‘it gives me so much extra freedom to have the car’ or ‘when you’re 18 you almost live in your car. We could do things – it was freedom’. Here the car carries memories of a time when freedom was all encompassing, times where obligations from family and work did not tie a person down. As an object, the car has great significance in the reconstruction of memories (Lury 1997; Molotch 2003). As the title of this book suggests, there are other stories that later imposes oneself. There is also the unfreedom, and the place where mobility can be a burden. In addition, there are a lot in-between – not being an ‘either-or’ but a lot of ‘both-and’s. However, it is not both-and which is expressed by Bauman (1988): To be free means to be able and to be allowed to keep others unfree.

Nevertheless, the quote stayed with me when reading Zygmunt Bauman’s book on freedom (1988) as it went right to the core of the ambivalences and contradictions that live within mobility, especially automobility, as a key part of daily lives. At the same time, it goes to the core of a fundamental question and causes one to wonder why it is the case that certain types of transport modes are understood as freedom-creating, while others – which may still provide other elements of freedom – do not get this positive label. This examination of the concept of freedom is driven by this question and is thus not a clarification of the history of ideas of this concept, but instead is a

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problem-analysis of a concept which is ubiquitous in relation to mobility. The aim is to describe freedom through both its contradictions and ambivalences – not only to show the ambiguity in the concept, but also in an attempt to expose the reconciliations located precisely in these ambivalences. There is a myriad of ways to pursue this, because freedom’s roads are many and winding. It is primarily philosophical literature which arises when researching documentation with freedom as the focal point. It is literature based on freedom as an existential condition, either as a burden or as a resource, but without the connection to the concrete lived life. The aim of this chapter is to relate to freedom as something substantial in a late modern everyday life. Our age is dominated by a freedom-loving discourse where the concept of freedom is rarely problematized. The criticism which usually occurs in relation to the concept of freedom is based on the concept of neoliberalism – with a criticism of a personalized understanding of freedom – but it is rare that alternative concepts of freedom are described in detail. I find it interesting to try to develop a social understanding of freedom and the conditions of freedom as it appears in the late modern everyday life. With this as a starting point, I have searched for sociological analyses of the concept of freedom but they are infrequently represented. This might be due to sociology in its early phase in many ways being a break with liberalism and thus sociology is defined as opposed to the idea of freedom, as it is embedded in the liberal mindset. Freedom is, however, something more than an oppressive liberal idea, which is reflected clearly in the empirical work where freedom and unfreedom are embedded in the same stories. All mobility does not necessarily create immobility, and freedom does not necessarily create unfreedom, but sometimes this is precisely the case. It is this dichotomy which the sociological clarification of the concept of freedom will help to elucidate. The sociological literature I uncovered about freedom is, as a starting point, addressing the dichotomy between freedom and unfreedom, and focuses on freedom’s negative consequences. In 1988 Bauman wrote a book subjecting freedom to a sociological analysis, where freedom is understood as a social relation related to repression. Others have discussed freedom in a terminology of ‘freedom from’ and ‘freedom to’, both in relation to everyday life in general (Hylland Eriksen 2006) and also to mobility (Sager 2006). I have chosen the dichotomized relation of freedom and unfreedom in order better to show the inequalities and unintended consequences of mobility. Urry (2000, 207) describes the freedom to drive ‘one ton objects that move at fast speed’, objects that ‘can and do kill with predictable regularity’. Also, he mentions the freedom from, as the right to movement, the ability to ‘engage in co-present conversations with those in one’s various networks’ (Urry 2007, 207). These freedoms are centred on what freedom can give to the individual and how, in the event, unfreedom as the unintended consequence becomes increasingly invisible.



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As such, freedom and unfreedom are, in a number of different aspects, the starting points of this chapter. Freedom will also be defined in relation to freedom of movement – not only to be understood as the ability to move from one place to another but also, in particular, as the utopian notion which is located in the concept of motility – the utopia that one can do what one wants to do, when one wants to do it. Here, mobility plays an important role as the facilitator for freedom and the concept of motility is what frames the utopia. As a starting point I will describe the utopian idea of freedom by drawing some historical lines. I will outline why and how the concept of freedom has such significance as an important component for the good life, and thus, to a high degree, as living within structural stories. This retrospective angle will touch upon some of the other aspects of the concept of freedoms – the philosophical and political – but only briefly. Within these other approaches there are many interesting analyses and explanations which undoubtedly would contribute to this discussion in a constructive way. These approaches will be (almost) omitted in order to limit what is easily an all-encompassing discussion. What gives the individual the feeling of freedom is often different from person to person and can be traced back to the individual’s roots. Freedom, just like happiness, is very much a personal thing which can be difficult to define. What both concepts have in common is that they bear utopias of our daily struggle and quest for the good life. I will begin by shortly sketching the history of freedom. Following this, I will show briefly how the concept has been interpreted and used for centuries and how it has been taken into the late modern community as an essential part of our dreams and aspirations for the good everyday life. From the Christianity Myth about Freedom to the Renaissance Emerging Idea of Freedom According to the Christianity myth, human history begins with a choice between security and freedom. In the Garden of Eden, the world’s first two people had a safe and predictable life without freedom. Instead, in its place, there were limits and restrictions, which were creating security. These security frames were broken down when man (woman) chose to eat from the tree of knowledge and break the harmony with nature. This was man’s first free action associated with something sinful, and the consequence was that man was set alone and free, becoming, at the same time, weak and scared. ‘In the myth, the sin in its formal aspect is the acting against God’s command, in its material aspect it is the eating of the tree of knowledge. The act of disobedience as an act of freedom is the beginning of reason’ (Fromm 1969, 34). Thereby the idea of freedom of thoughts and action was created, which is clear in the understanding of the concept of freedom today. This dichotomy between freedom and security is also very much present today. For example, there

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can be freedom in choosing the safe and predictable where the framework is defined in advance. Marriage and family life can stand as examples of situations where a lesser degree of freedom and certain predictability work best for most people. It is said that when Adam and Eve left the Garden of Eden they obtained freedom but they also took over responsibility for themselves and learned suffering. It is with this thought in mind that the idea of the free human being entails that human beings assume responsibility for themselves and their lives. Freedom is something real and unavoidable but it is the only way that human beings freely undertake and practice its necessity. Freedom is not a ‘something’ which is behind one’s actions, and can be without them, but therefore freedom and responsibility are also one and the same. Freedom is man’s acquisition of responsibility for themselves and their lives. (Kofoed 1980, 43 [my translation])

Kofoed is inspired by Heidegger in this understanding of freedom, stating that freedom is not a reaction to external circumstances. Instead, freedom is the foundation under everything that happens to us and around us. This does not mean that freedom creates circumstances but that the desire and the longing for freedom occur in interaction with the opportunities the individual sees, opportunities which were previously abstract but which through actions and social constructions have been made a reality. Bauman perceives the understanding of freedom as universal property of the individual as an irrelevant and pointless discussion. This is because it is blind to the fact that freedom is in itself a social fact that is socially produced, and in social terms is attributed the position it happens to have in a particular time and at a certain place (Bauman 1988, 28). In the winter of 2007, three foreign journalists were invited to Denmark by Danish National Television to present a feature on Denmark. None of them had visited Denmark before, yet they chose the story they wanted to tell themselves. The Israeli journalist focused on the freedom we have in Denmark and reported on it as a freedom within a defined framework. He used ‘the youth house at Jagtvej’ as an example of what happens when groups in society choose to conduct the freedom of choices which are outside the guided framework defined by society (DR1 2007). In 1982 Copenhagen gave a group of young people who wanted a sanctuary where they themselves could define the framework ‘the right to use’ a house on Jagtvej. In 2005, however, the Copenhagen municipality chose to sell the house to a religious community. The young people refused to abandon the house and the situation escalated, involving street violence and a situation of deadlock. In the wake of a liberal idea of freedom, the problem with this situation at Jagtvej can be considered through the idea of ‘freedom with responsibility’. The young people in the house told the Israeli



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journalist that what they were exercising in the house was precisely ‘freedom with responsibility’ – a responsibility for other things and with a different purpose to that which the common idea of freedom under responsibility usually entails. This underlines Bauman’s point about what freedom is, along with the limits within which it can be achieved and how freedom is socially and societally produced. When, in everyday life, we connect freedom with the possibility of a high degree of mobility, it is based on a desire to create more time in a compressed everyday life, among other desires. The car as the creator of freedom becomes a self-referential process, where we try to overcome structures that we ourselves have placed our daily lives within. We do this through the structural stories. The major change or renewal of the concept of freedom occurred in the Renaissance. It was the break with the Middle Ages’ common religious bearing order, to the Renaissance where humanity, by virtue of its thinking and scientific research, discovered its own capacity and began to strive for freedom. In the Middle Ages, the human being had its fixed immutable undeniable place in society from the moment it came into the world. Society was seen as a nature-given institution, and the society granted man a particular place, which was mandatory, but in return offered a sense of security and cohesion (Fromm 1969, 38). This, however, did not mean that there was no freedom in the Middle Ages: within the limits placed on human social life there was great freedom to express oneself through work and emotional life. ‘Although there was no individualism in the modern sense of the unrestricted choice between many possible ways of life (a freedom of choice which is largely abstract), there was a great deal of concrete individualism in real life’ (Fromm 1969, 42). The freedom that the individual was awarded in the Middle Ages was a freedom which was defined as an ‘exemption for certain aspects of the overall power’ (Bauman 1988, 50). Life was very much structured in a framework that people were not expected to break out of. One was part of a guild and therein one lived one’s role, serving the place as God had intended. The church thus had an essential function in everyday life, as the security-creating institution which could alleviate the pain of life by offering meaning and an explanation of the affliction, roles that different forms of religion are still offering today (Hylland Eriksen 2006). The individual also defines freedom today as the exemption from certain aspects of overall power. We may today have an idea of another access to freedom, but that freedom should have its resurgence after the Middle Ages, is perhaps more the idea of freedom. Perhaps individuals in the Middle Ages experienced the freedom they were allocated as greater than that which we are trying to win today. Today, the individual has freedom of expression and other, far better conditions of life, but the individual experience is very much tied into various structures and overall social discourse, from which they must then fight to free themselves.

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In conversation with various interviewees, a common characteristic is the dichotomy between freedom and unfreedom. They must, as individuals, define by themselves to a high degree when they are free and at what expense. They must make their individual choice and individually live with the consequences, and this uncertainty may take some of the feeling of freedom away. As an interviewee put it: There are probably not many situations where we can feel really free, for we are all living reasonably programmed lives with work and family, friends and hobbies. It is not the case that I, every morning, wake up and think – what do I want to do today? I just think that it rolls along and this thing about freedom, I do not know really how much there is. There is, of course, the freedom that you can choose who you want to live together with, and to some extent the work you want to do, but otherwise I do not know really. I think freedom is just such a big word, and when you live one does not feel very free. You can, of course, choose what milk you want to buy, but I do not really think that is freedom. There is freedom of choice.

The freedom in the Middle Ages was perhaps more concrete and defined within relatively narrow and safe frames. The craftsman was set free by the community, being free to offer his craftsmanship to other employers. The farmer was set free by his county lord. He got his freedom letter and was thus free to move to another county lord and nothing else. The argument for the individual as being freer in the Middle Ages probably falls to pieces the moment we begin to investigate life conditions and consider the average life expectancy and infant mortality rate. Or is it that now, in this modern world, that we simply have higher expectations of what we need to survive? Do we feel privileged when we become old? We are, as the paid worker was, thrown out into freedom without a strong community to back up on the obtained freedom and individualization. The Renaissance broke with the Church’s order and launched a shift from the common as something outside each individual, and developed the perception that the individual was the centre and the starting point for everything. This was the introduction to modern individualism. There was a departure from ‘a pre-individualistic existence to one in which he has full awareness of himself as a separate entity’ (Fromm 1969, 49) and no longer just merely as ‘participants in the communal life’ (Bauman 1988, 37). It was the Reformation which drove the individualization of the city’s middle- and underclass, and was thus an important element of undermining feudal society and organizing the circumstances of the capitalist society. The young people at Jagtvej formed their own community precisely as a rebellion against capitalist society and the individualization that comes with it. They felt they were fighting a battle for society to achieve another kind of freedom – one based on the community instead of the individual (DR1 2007).



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Bauman (1988) defines individualism and capitalism from a sociological point of view, as being the two social phenomenon which, in relation to freedom, are of particular interest. If we look at the struggles fought in late modern society, capitalism and individualism are clearly important focal points. Capitalism and Individualism In the transition from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance, the medieval feudal system broke down and instead the beginnings of capitalism arose. In the Middle Ages business and economic interests were based on an ethic which had great importance for the position of the individual. The basic conditions for economic life were, according to Fromm, ‘bless’ and ‘salvation’: ‘Economic interests are subordinate to the real business of life, which is salvation, and that economic conduct is one aspect of personal conduct, upon which as on other parts of it, the rules of morality are binding’ (Fromm 1969, 53). This break with the feudal system and the entry of capitalism is clearly reflected in the understanding of freedom the individual has. When asked to come up with their first immediate thought, my interviewees responded with, ‘freedom is that nobody is forcing me to do something I do not want to do’ and ‘it sounds very materialistic, but money is freedom, to afford – this is how the world is today’. With the breakdown of the feudal system and the subsequent emerging capitalism, the individual no longer had a fixed place in the economic system or class. Instead, what mattered was the individual’s own performance. The individual became their own ‘creator of success’ and the degree of freedom and position in society depended purely on their own performance and not (only) on the traditional framework the individual was born into. ‘Each individual must go ahead and try his luck. He had to swim or to sink. Others were not allied with him in a common enterprise – they had become competitors, and often he was confronted with the choice of destroying them or being destroyed’ (Fromm 1969, 61). This new experience was not, however, a weakening of the social dependency individuals still have. Individuals are still dependent on various communities helping to shape them into the individuals the society we have demands and needs (Giddens 1991). Bauman argues that the degree of this form of social dependence has largely been unchanged over centuries, as it is a necessary condition for the human community’s existence and continuation (Bauman 2001, 39). The freedom of the coercion of the feudal system made the individual the master of their own destiny. It gave individuals the right to their own merit, but accompanied also by sole responsibility for the risks. Thereby, the collapse of the medieval feudal system had one very apparent consequence: the individual came to be free – and alone. This freedom, however, brought about the consequence that the safety and undeniable sense of having a permanent place in society – which the individual had previously

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had – disappeared. ‘Man was deprived of the security he had enjoyed, of the unquestionable feeling of belonging, and he was torn loose from the world which had satisfied his quest for security, both economically and spiritually. He felt alone and anxious. But he was also free to act and to think independently, to become his own master and do with his life as he could – not as he was told to do’ (Fromm 1969, 99). This began what now features as the essence of late modern individualism. The individual began to consider its ‘own I’ as something that should be cultivated and protected (Bauman 1988, 36). Due to the fact that this individuality was planted firmly in the secular society, it … occupied from the very start an ambiguous position towards society, one pregnant with never-subsiding tension. On the one hand, the individual was credited with a capacity for judgement, for recognizing interests and taking decisions on how to act upon them – all qualities which make living together in a society feasible. On the other hand, however, individuality was imbued with intrinsic dangers: the very interestedness of the individual, which prompted him to seek collective guarantees for security, enticed him at the same time to resent constrains which such guarantees implied. (Bauman 1988, 38)

The ambivalence between what the communities and society must offer the individual and the restrictions which the individual feels the public is placing on them is often expressed in conversations on mobility. Most of my informants believe it is important to have a good public transport system and, as such, they expect society to provide this service to its citizens. It is not uncommon that individuals think that the public transport system should be free of charge – and there is often an overlap between those who have these opinions and those who do not use the system, but instead choose to use the car. Furthermore, they usually think that all forms of restrictions on automobility are an unforgivable restriction of their freedom: Transport I see as a public thing, and I think I see it as a right. The car is not a right. To me the car is a luxury product, too expensive in Denmark. But I think the public should be there for us, as an offer from the state. Right now, I can not imagine that they are only getting it to balance; I think there is a huge surplus, and I cannot see anything other than there must be a huge win … I think the prices are extremely bad. What the hell is this? I am very pissed about the prices, and it clearly affects me. If it coasted as little as it should, it is more or less cheaper to take the car instead of the train.

This statement ends with an example of a structural story, indicating that ‘it is cheaper to travel by car than by train, when you already have the car’. Although there may be some truth to this statement, it is a truth with modifications, since this rough calculation rarely takes into account what the car costs to buy,



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insurance and maintenance. Nonetheless, this is one of the structural stories which, in other variations, describe the unfreedom the car also contains. It makes sense that once a car has been acquired, an individual is then forced to use it for everyday life mobility, since then it is the cheapest method. At the same time, however, there is a sincere criticism of the public transport system and we then ask the question: is this a result of a sense that the collective puts too many restrictions on our lives, and do we form the structural stories to have a good reason to opt out of it? Travel, it seems, might be considered by many as free activity, and the train holds individuals in a system where timetables and locked-in carriages are in control (Morse 1998; Sachs 1992). During the Renaissance, considerable inequalities between different social classes existed and therefore the different sides of the freedom aspect had unequal importance for members of the various classes. After dissolution of the feudal system, it was mainly the new capitalists who were part of freedom’s positive aspects. The lower classes – who were driven by a longing for freedom – saw more of the negative aspects of freedom, as uncertainty and anxiety (Fromm 1969, 78). Thereby, fellow human beings were also potential competitors and the freedom that humanity achieved had a dark side: ‘He is free – that is, he is alone, isolated, threatened from all sides’ (Fromm 1969, 62). Protestantism came in as the facilitator that could satisfy the human need for security in the frightened, uprooted and isolated individual. There was a character-building through Protestantism which was a productive force in the capitalist system: ‘Compulsion to work, passion for thrift, the readiness to make one’s life a tool for the purpose of an extra personal power, asceticism and a compulsive sense of duty …’ (Fromm 1969, 101–2). Thereby, for many individuals, it was no longer an external pressure which the feudal system created through duties which led people to work. Instead, it was an internal urge to obtain or meet this new type of character and to acquire the big prize which was in the horizon – ‘freedom’. ‘Undoubtedly, capitalism could not have been developed had not the greatest part of man’s energy been channeled in the direction of work. There is no other period in history in which free men have given their energy so completely for the one purpose; work’ (Fromm 1969, 94). The beginning created by Protestantism, giving humanity ‘spiritual freedom’, was continued mentally, socially and politically by capitalism. This effect that capitalism has had on the individual’s understanding of freedom stands out clearly in the empirical work as one of the first definitions, which comes under the concept of freedom: ‘Money is freedom, to afford – such is the world today.’ The second has a spiritual dimension, which explicitly dissociates itself from the economic opportunities and the capitalist system: ‘I guess freedom is probably, most of all, to be allowed to be the one you are. It is not freedom to have a huge income, I do not think that is so important … but I think there a lot of people who define freedom from an economic point of view, and this is not that important to me.’ Thereby, the capitalist system plays a central role in the individual’s struggle to create the lifestyle and life

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politics that, in the best way, expresses who it is. The economic opportunities determine which types of products can be used, which locations can be visited, the people you meet and, not least, the means of transport to facilitate all these activities in everyday life. As such, the mouthpiece that capitalism uses to manage individual behaviour has great influence on the way we understand and articulate the world around us. … We feel that freedom of speech is the last step in the march of victory and freedom. We forget that, although freedom of speech constitutes an important victory in the battle against old restrains, modern man is in a position were much of what ‘he’ thinks and says are the things that everybody else thinks and says; that he has not acquired the ability to think originally – that is, for himself – which alone gives meaning to his claim that nobody can interfere with the expression of his thoughts. Again we are proud that in his conduct of life man has become free from external authorities, which tell him what to do and what not to do. We neglect the role of the anonymous authorities like public opinion and ‘common sense’ which are so powerful because of our profound readiness to conform to the expectations everybody has about ourselves and our equally profound fear of being different. (Fromm 1969, 105)

Freedom of expression, freedom of choice and other types of freedom, are important parts of the late modern everyday life. When the individual talks about these as important motives for the choices they make, the freedom may, in fact, be an unattainable ideal conception. They cover themselves, their lives and their actions behind a structural story. As Thomas Hylland Eriksen puts it in his book on the individual, Roots and Feet: The belief in the free, individual choice is the modern man’s greatest life lie. The only thing you owe your surroundings in our days, is realizing your selves. The outside world is a backdrop, you are the foreground. The ideal is the chameleon like, hundred percent flexible, ever-changing and free individuals, who can be exactly what she wants to be. (Hylland Eriksen 2004, 169–70 [my translation])

What is freedom then? Is it a life lie? Or is it a tool of navigation, to help individuals along the way to the good life? The philosophical literature frames it like this: ‘We have very many options when we have to act, but we can, generally said, not choose between, choosing or not choosing, between acting or not acting. Sartre puts it such that we are condemned to freedom’ (Savater 2005, 25 [my translation]). The problem here is, quite simply, that just because we are forced to choose, the choices are not then necessarily free. Bauman (1988) would criticize this particular statement as being disconnected from the



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sociological processes, which are those that determine the display of freedom and not only its web of thoughts. Freedom and Mobility The car, as the possibility-creating element in everyday life, is an object which may give the individual the status and freedom he or she dreams of. This technology is maintained by an industry which invests huge amounts of money into convincing the individual that the type of lifestyle they want to be a part of is not possible without the car as a symbol of freedom and power. The sectors producing and selling cars – as well as those providing associated infrastructure, products and services – receive increasingly huge returns (Urry 2007). In 2002 the budget spent on advertising cars in Denmark alone was DK305 million. The only sector spending more money on advertising was the telecommunications sector (Fredslund 2003). The symbols which the car carries are more visible if they are in opposition to something else, such as the public transport system. In an advertisement for the Daewoo Nubira, one sees a brand new silver-lined car parked across some old railway tracks overgrown with grass. The advertising text reads ‘A new barrier to the public transport system has arrived’. One might be tempted to ask whether the new Daewoo Nubira gives more freedom because it creates unfreedom for others. There is ‘an intrinsic ambiguity in freedom in its modern edition, wed to capitalism. The effectiveness of freedom demands that some other people stay unfree. To be free means to be allowed and to be able to keep others unfree’ (Bauman 1988, 45). The symbols of freedom – closely associated with capitalism – play an important role in the structural stories on public transport and cars, which the individual constructs and agree on. To ‘sell’ the public transport system as an important symbol of the right kind of life, would never have the same budget as the automotive industry. Goods and services which are not mediated by the free market (so-called ‘public services’, … like … public transport … which are unlikely to be sold at a profit, or by their very nature are unfit for selling to individual costumers) tend to fall in quality and loose in attractiveness in both relative and absolute terms. Unlike the goods and services merchandised by the market, they tend to discourage their prospective consumers; to their utility values negative symbolic values are attached (stigma falling upon those who are obliged to consume them), so that they appear as a liability in the symbolic rivalry serviced by consumption. The overall shoddiness of public goods and their low grading in the hierarchy of positional symbols tend to encourage everybody who can afford it to ‘by themselves out’ of the dependence of public services, and into the consumer market. (Bauman 1988, 69–70)

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It is clear from the structural stories that flourish that the public transport system has a negative reputation. In the early days of public transport, it was perceived as a system of equality, since it provided mobility to all levels of society (Urry 2007, 104). Today, the car is the obvious better alternative, and the public transport system is perceived as a right within society, which is available to all, although the more privileged individuals have the freedom to opt for other means of transport. The negative reputation of the public transport system is prevalent in all the transport companies I have visited. The Danish public transport system has a high regularity and frequency, but certainly has its problems as well, which carry negative stories. This is closely linked to the symbolic value of these different technologies of mobility, which are being produced and reproduced through structural stories. Identity, it seems, has become a question of who we are in relation to how we transport ourselves, and mobility thereby has earned a symbolic meaning for the individual (Enevold 2000; Thomsen 2001; Sheller 2004). The public transport system is often labelled as second-class mobility. A traffic spokesman from the Danish Conservative Party, Henriette Kjaer, expressed this duality at a Copenhagen conference relating to the organization of the public transport system: ‘In the Conservative People’s Party, we like public transport. It means that those who drive their private cars have more space on the roads.’ The symbolic and institutional characteristics of the public transport system and the car are key ingredients as to why the individual designs and accepts the structural stories about mobility. These structural stories also live in the political system. Anne Jensen (2006) shows how the structural story of ‘mobility and freedom’ is omnipresent in the political system. Jensen names the rationales that pervade the political system the ‘taken for granted knowledge’, which she examines through a discourse analysis of European transport policy. She shows how ‘taken for granted knowledge’ – which I would call structural stories – undergirds the whole idea of how mobility is politicized. One of the strongest structural stories in the political system is the idea that ‘more mobility gives more freedom’ (Jensen 2006, 223–9). When individuals make decisions in everyday life, they choose something instead of something else. When making these decisions, they are aware of the risks each decision entails (Beck 1992). In order to live a foreseeable everyday life, with the risks it incorporates, the individual has to ignore some of these risks. The media, advertising and the political system help us navigate the jungle of expertise by producing and reproducing the structural story. This works as a reinforcement of the structural story and there is a clear relationship between the structural stories contained within my material and those floating around in public. The structural stories about ‘children and cars’, ‘delayed trains’ and the ‘potentials’ have a large degree of support within our modern, global society. This does not mean that alternative structural stories do not exist – they do, as described in relation to the negotiations of structural stories in Chapter 3.



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They do not, however, have the same strength, but they exist and are waiting for the right time to enter the scene. One of these structural stories could be, ‘money does not give freedom – community does’. While such structural stories may not be as strong, they are still present in the material. Accepting and constructing the structural stories are linked to living an everyday life with a manageable level of ambivalences. Minimizing ambivalences happens when choosing a lifestyle which, to a high degree, is guided by the symbolic power of various products (Shove 1998). When the car is being linked to freedom, most who have the chance to do so would choose it as their everyday life mobility. When things related to mobility are presented in public and in everyday life, in most cases, they contain a structural story relating to necessary mobility and how to best perform it. The idea of mobility as a facilitator of freedom recurs in both theoretical and empirical literature in late modern society but is, however, a view that mobility researchers also problematize (Sheller 2006). The most consistent view is on mobility as a resource: ‘Mobility climbs to the uppermost rank of among the coveted values – and the freedom to move, perpetually a scarce and unequally distributed commodity, fast becomes the main stratifying factor in our late modern or postmodern times’ (Bauman 1998, 2). The description of automobility as a creator of freedom is also a predominant feature when talking with individuals about having a car: ‘Freedom is also that I can be allowed to choose to take the car’, or in response to the question asking when the person felt most free, ‘I think that was when we got the car – there is more freedom’. It is also this freedom that Vincent Kaufmann (2002) touches upon in his description of the mobile society. Here, mobility embraces both physical and virtual mobility, which involves the whole spectrum of possibilities being open to individuals. Mobility is ubiquitous and flexible, and thus there will be developed ‘forms of movement that allow people to avoid having to choose between alternatives such as moving or taking up a new job, between a partner and living alone, taking a vacation and travelling, and so on’ (Kaufmann 2002, 42). The freedom in the car is, however, not left unsaid but is, to a high degree, negotiated in all focus groups. Below, members of Group B are discussing which modes of transport allow them to feel the most free: The car must be in the top. I don’t think so. It depends if it’s daily freedom or in the weekends. I think the car gives a different kind of freedom, but if I sit in rush-hour traffic in the car, then I’m not free, then I feel more free when I bike past all of them.

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Mobility in Daily Life What if you are listening to the latest Depeche Mode CD just throbbing away? Yes, and I’ve just dropped off the kids, and just have to go to work right now, or I’ll be home too late. And you know when you arrive this late at work, there is no parking lot. It depends on whether you’re in the city or in the countryside.

As this discussion suggests, automobility as a technology has duality within itself which is, to a great extent, launched on the concept of freedom. It would seem that, in comparison, no other technology has caused so much unfreedom – both to oneself and others. Freedom of Movement/Mobility The idea of the freedom of movement is the driving force in, for example, Bauman’s (1998; 2000) descriptions of the globalized and fluid society: ‘We are on the move even if, physically, we stay put: immobility is not a realistic option in a world of permanent change’ (Baumann 1998, 2). In his book on globalization, Bauman (1998) introduces the tourist and the vagabond as metaphors of the unequal distribution of mobility. He describes the tourist as the cosmopolitan businessman, the academic and global heads of culture, flying around the world or remaining were they are as it suits them. The vagabond is the image of the involuntary tourist who does not dwell for long in the same place because he or she does not feel at home anywhere. The vagabond and the tourist move through spaces, with no relations between physical closeness and moral proximity. Hereby, the aspect of power and inequality enters back into mobility. However, there is, in general, not great acceptance in the focus groups when power is linked to mobility, especially automobility, which I will return to in Chapter 7. Here, Group B responds to the claim that ‘You feel a certain power by driving in your car – power and freedom’: It’s freedom of movement and one can determine things. One can’t have power in a car. It’s the thing about freedom and power as equivalent. I have some difficulties with that. I have no power when driving a car, well, maybe if I drive in one of these big Hummers.



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As shown here, there is unease when the direct relationship between power and automobility are articulated. In the following segment of the discussion, where this discomfort stems from is reflected: It’s not power. You have power in relation to the situation, but you do not have power in relation to others. But don’t you have more power in traffic than those on a bicycle? I can feel free, but not powerful. I love to drive fast, but it doesn’t make me feel powerful. No, but I could imagine certain types would.

It is important for them to point out that driving a car does not necessarily give power in relation to other people, when the power is exercised in relation to the locally-based everyday life. When Bauman (1998) claims that the local loses its importance and there no longer is a difference between here and there, based around the vagabond and the tourist metaphor, he speaks primarily about the powerful elite: ‘It was primarily the availability of means of fast travel that triggered the typically modern process of eroding and undermining all locally entrenched social and cultural “totalities”…’ (Bauman 1998, 14). It seems that it is easier to talk about and accept power in relation to the great distances that Baumann’s (1998) tourist is moving in. The individual – who is tied up in an everyday life – still puts a great importance in the location. This is often reinforced when starting a family or equivalent ties (re)enter everyday life. In this situation, the security bound in the specific place, is then renewed in importance, and the idea of power becomes more difficult to handle. Bauman (1998) also discusses how the development of information technology which, with a speed that is not surpassed by anything else, can send information, and thereby help to dissolve the local, and put an end to the concept of ‘journey’. According to Bauman (1998), the ‘close community’ of the past was ‘… brought into being and kept alive by the gap between the nearly instantaneous communication inside the small-scale community…’ (Bauman 1998, 15 [italics original]). This idea of what virtual mobility or the communication technology would carry along has not proved to be correct. Hylland Eriksen (2004) points out that a large percentage of the contact and information-sharing occurring on the internet is between people who already have close contact. This could indicate that virtual mobility also helps to maintain the local. ‘Although the internet potentially is borderless and placeless, nothing is automatic. Most individuals, on the contrary, seek the safe and well-known, which confirms rather than challenges their existing world

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structures. The Internet is there as a supplement, or an extension, to existing social ties and networks, not instead of them’ (Hylland Eriksen 2004, 137 [my translation]). Hylland Eriksen does not suggest that the internet cannot be part of creating a globalized cosmopolitan consciousness. Although it may well be doing this, the knowledge we have on the internet so far suggests the contrary (Hylland Eriksen 2004, 138). It is, to a high degree, due to cosmopolitan and globalizing reasons that we have the car. The idea of the possibilities that this technology potentially holds just does not coincide with what this technology is primarily used for. For some users, it will never happen. ‘Indeed, far from being an objective, impersonal, physical “given”, “distance” is a social product; its length varies depending on the speed with which it may be overcome …’ (Baumann 1998, 12). Here, my interjection would be that ‘its length varies among others depending on the speed with which it may be overcome’. When distance is a social product, as Baumann (1998) points out, it is also dependent on the organization and maintenance of a certain everyday life. Thereby, what becomes important is also how we choose to use the opportunities for mobility in everyday life. In order to precisely capture this important focal point, the opportunities or potential for mobility have their own theoretical term within mobility research, as the next section elaborates. The Potential for Movement/Motility To live a late modern life requires a certain level of mobility: We must be able to move around quickly, be flexible, and be prepared to move in a second. Most importantly, we need to have the possibility of mobility – also termed ‘motility’. Motility enables the maintaining of the idea of endless potential as a part of everyday life. The structural story concerning the potential for mobility is prevalent in the empirical, and this potential is often associated with having a car: ‘The car gives you the freedom to change the plans in the last minute, maybe you won’t do it, but it is important that one can change plans in the last minute.’ Simmel (1997) reflects on the significance of mobility infrastructure, as what creates connections within our fantasy, imagination and possibilities. The car as a technology enables and feeds this fantasy, and thus the materialities, to a high degree, create motility. What makes mobility and motility possible is also what connects immobility to unfreedom. It is not necessarily about using the possibilities; the most important thing is the feeling that the opportunities exist: ‘I wouldn’t have a car, if I did not have the cottage, and there it’s necessary to have the car, and it’s also nice to be transported out of town in summer … So it works only as an opportunity for transport when one needs it.’ It is not only the current mobility but just as much the potential for mobility which is essential in trying to understand everyday life mobilities. Simmel



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(1997) also talks about ‘the desire to be elsewhere’ as adventures occurring ‘outside the usual continuity of this life’ (222). The possibilities of adventures are an expression of motility, while the possibility to be elsewhere in our minds is often the possibility to mentally escape everyday life continuity. In his book Re-thinking Mobility, Vincent Kaufmann (2002) stated a process aimed at redefining the concept of mobility and creating a distinctive concept for the potential for mobility. Based on sociological theories surrounding liquid society, he defines the concept of motility as an equivalent concept of mobility. The aim is to make sociological categories which can be used for a closer analysis of the empirical field of mobility. Motility is defined by the ability or potential the individual has to be mobile. ‘[A]s the way in which an individual appropriates what is possible in the domain of mobility and puts this potential to use for his or her activities’ (Kaufmann 2002, 37). Despite the fact that motility is identified at an individual level, it is not shaped by the individual but by social life. Motility is formed by the lifestyle and the life politics the individual has chosen, and by their economic, social and cultural capital. All of these aspects combined together define the extent of specific possible choices in connection with opportunities and projects (Kaufmann 2002, 40). The framework everyday life defines, and the life politics which the individual wishes to pursue thereby, have a big significance on motility. The acquisition of motility and its transformation into mobility takes place through decisions related to projects and behavior that surpass spatial mobility alone. Finally motility is at the service of people’s aspirations, their projects and their lifestyles, and constitutes a ‘mobilizable’ capital for their realization and their combination. (Kaufmann 2002, 44)

Very different life situations with large differences in economic opportunities and local connections can have an equal amount of motility, but can be shaped very differently concerning the use of mobility (Kaufmann 2002, 46). As always, in relation to new concepts, there have been some critical voices with regards to the need to construct the concept of motility. This critique has, among other things, stemmed from traditions which, some years back, made the switch from transport to mobility research, a tradition I am a part of. For transport researchers, the significant difference between the concept of mobility and transport was that mobility also contained the potential for mobility, whereas transport is mostly concerned with getting from ‘a’ to ‘b’. Thereby, the wish to also include and emphasize the potential for mobility was felt, for transport researchers, to be a shift already made. What convinced me that this concept could be a constructive tool was working with structural stories of everyday life and their relation to freedom. Motility is closely linked to the idea of freedom, which is one of the guiding utopias in daily lives. The idea of the good life is primarily navigated

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through the ideas of freedom and happiness as their guiding utopias. Motility has the potential to contain and frame these agenda-setting utopias, offering a focus on the utopias, dreams and potentials. These are all aspects which are extremely important in an analysis of the increasing mobility. Motility has great influence on how we design our daily lives. As such, to have a narrower and more precise analytical framework, from where these important aspects of mobility can be handled, would be seen as very constructive. Kaufmann (2002) describes four different ideal types, each of which have varying starting points for mobility which define their individual ways in being mobile in everyday life. He has, among other things, examined whether people are freer when they are more mobile, and if there is a stronger link between mobility and motility for the most mobile people. He concludes that there is no evidence to suggest that the most spatially mobile individuals have more freedom in the way they handle their lives (Kaufmann 2002, 58). It is, in all certainty, questionable as to whether it is possible to make an assessment about the degree of freedom in relation to how individuals handle their lives, but nevertheless it is interesting that he invalidates the structural story that ‘more mobility gives more freedom’. What is then perhaps relevant to the feeling of freedom is the motility. The following example shows how motility can give a sense of freedom, although if put into concrete mobility it would instead mean unfreedom. This example also expresses the ambivalences and dichotomies embedded in mobility and motility. During the individual interviews, different stories arose when I interviewed the couples separately. The woman in this family explained why it is important to have a car: ‘Lately I have been thinking that it might be an idea to get a shared car, and then we could go get it when we needed it. But right now my husband is looking for jobs and it’s nice to have these extra possibilities.’ The man in the family has limited job opportunities because of his education and knows he might have to commute to his new job. In the individual interview, he expressed how he would feel if this motility would have to be materialized into mobility: ‘Freedom is to be able to decide yourself on your own time. Unfreedom to me would be to be forced to spend hours everyday driving a car to work. That would feel like somebody took my freedom away, forcing me to spend time on nothing.’ This example clearly demonstrates the gap between mobility and motility – a tension or a rapid transition which may result in a dichotomy between freedom and unfreedom. Kaufmann also describes this dichotomy as A ‘freer’ mobility is often the sign of people having assigned the degree of freedom that they have, into their mobility rather than something else. Thus there is ambivalence: ‘using the potential rapidity offered by technological transport and telecommunications systems broadens the potential in terms of mobility, but this broadening is used to reconcile more constrains rather than to obtain more freedom. (Kaufmann 2002, 58)



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In this way Kaufmann also addresses mobility’s duality in freedom and unfreedom. It is reasonable to suggest that motility is close to the utopian idea of freedom, where freedom does not have any negative effects and where insecurity and unfreedom do not exist. Thereby, motility contains the utopia or the idea of what options we have which, to a high degree, frame the conceptions on, and the need for, mobility in everyday life. Freedom/Unfreedom Is freedom, as Bauman defines it, ‘to be allowed and to be able to keep others unfree’ (Bauman 1988, 45)? Fromm (1969) presents an example of precisely this dichotomy between freedom and unfreedom. He starts from the traditional battles for freedom in which the oppressed classes fought against those who had privileges to defend. The underclass, who struggled to free themselves, did so from a conviction that they fought for human freedom on behalf of all those who felt suppressed. The paradox is, however, that at a certain time ‘… classes that were fighting against oppression at one stage sided with the enemies of freedom when victory was won and new privileges were to be defended’ (Fromm 1969, 3). It is not the case that most individuals in late modern everyday life can identify with a repressive class, fighting for a diffuse freedom. For many, these types of struggle are something they associate with the first half of the nineteenth century, where struggles were fought for basic rights for the working class. It might be added, though, that there are still repressive systems modelling modern humanity into obedience, working to create more capital for a selected few. But according to Fromm (1969), this unfreedom – or subjugation – is not only something which relates to external authorities but, equally, to the structures we navigate by in everyday life. He raises the question of whether, in addition to an inborn urge to freedom in the individual, there is an instinctive desire for submission. Furthermore, he queries whether the submission must necessarily be compared to ‘an overt authority, or is there also submission to internalized authorities, such as duty or conscience, to inner compulsions or to anonymous authorities like public opinion?’ (Fromm 1969, 6). Another possibility is that the unfreedom becomes an unintended consequence of an attempt to gain more freedom. A good example is a story of how the acquisition of new freedom creation and time-saving technology also creates unfreedom and a lack of time. To illustrate a circumstance which reflects this theme, a colleague once told a story about how moving to the countryside obliged the purchasing of a car, making her and her husband dependent on their cell phones. The cell phone was primarily used to coordinate their joint transport in the car. In addition, they also had to buy a dishwasher because their guests no longer went home in the evening but often stayed overnight. Thereby, the desire for more freedom – which was

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an essential part of the motivation to move to the countryside – created an element of unfreedom and a dependence on a wide range of technologies which they did not need before. This dependence on new technologies was created because moving away from the city meant that the flexibility they had had when living close to a variety of amenities needed to be maintained in their new living situation through new mobilities. ‘It was also just because we wanted to move to the countryside and be organic – then everything went wrong.’ This duality of the car’s unintended consequences is also described by Shove (1998) in her analysis of the meanings of automobility. She describes how automobility has created a paradoxical situation, whereupon more freedom comes to mean fewer choices, since it seems that the car at the same time creates exactly the same problems which it also promises to overcome (1998, 7). She also touches upon the obligations followed by opportunities provided by mobility. Opportunities entail obligations (Shove 2002) to be present in a variety of family, work and leisure time events and situations. So, while creating freedom and opportunities, mobility also creates unfreedom, when our participation is expected in different situations, regardless of space and time. In our desire to create the best opportunities for ourselves and our children as a way of creating the good life, we place a series of activities spread over greater distances, because we have the opportunities of automobility. The complex socialities of family life, leisure, work and the joy of movement, etc., are interwoven through a complex juggling with time and space which is made possible, but also necessitated, through the car (Urry 2000, 59). Individuals are now in a position to query why to settle for a lesser football club, school, shopping possibilities or cultural event, simply because it is located near to where they live when, with the aid of a car, they have the possibility to select what is further away. Automobility gives a number of possibilities but at the same time it forces the individual to design a lifestyle that, in a more precise way, shows who they are, or who they would like to be (Thomsen 2001). The car gives flexibility to seek out new types of communities that support the chosen life politic. At the same time, it demands a lot of space and materiality, where the only function is supporting the car and thus occupying the space, which could have otherwise been used for other purposes: automobility creates non-places (Auge 1995; Urry 2000). The unfreedom automobility contains is seldom articulated in the public domain but is nevertheless clear in the interviews: … When you have bought a car, it can’t pay off not to drive in it; if it’s a cheap car, its okay. But now I mostly buy inexpensive cars because I don’t want to pay too much in insurance, so I think I would take the train and then have a cheap car. A new car puts limits on you because you are forced to use it, and then one would have to sit in mind-numbing traffic jams more often, which is extremely boring.



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This complex juggling is a consequence of two inherent characteristics of automobility, the car being extremely flexible and extremely binding (Urry 2000, 59). Automobility can thus be both freedom-creating but just as freedomlimiting. As Alex put it: I feel very unfree if I don’t have other options than driving a car and there is long way to go. Then I have to sit for a very long time, bound to a chair, or there are tailbacks so I feel enormously tied down, really. This is also why I won’t live in the countryside; you are tied down to several hours of cartime each day. I can hardly stand to think about that, and so I am not that enthusiastic about cars.

The car creates unfreedom while also establishing inequality. If you can afford it, you have the opportunity to make your own choices – or this is, at least, one of the structural stories I often hear: ‘I feel very unfree if I can’t afford to have the car’ or ‘Cars can take you exactly where you want to go, You can take a detour and then drive 3km down a road, and jump out on a deserted beach, where there is no one else. One feels a certain power when driving a car; this is why people love it – power and freedom’. This is one of the major differences between how individuals perceive the car and the public transport system – to be the one in power. Despite the fact that they are not keen to articulate this power, once they are directly questioned, the aspect of power clearly comes up in several situations. This is particularly evident when the participants are asked to explain the difference between public transport and automobility. Those who travel by car control, public transport users are controlled. Car users control and have power because, through their own personal choice, they decide when they want to do what. Public transport users, however, are forced to adapt to certain systems with a number of other passengers: If you take your car, you can be forever assured on one thing: you sit in the queue and you sit there every morning. It’s like something I have accepted. But we still feel that we are in control. And you don’t in a train.

It is debatable, however, how much control the car users actually have. As Beckmann (2001) states, car users are forced to plan their mobility as much as the public transport user when planning their daily lives (Beckmann 2001, 36). In spite of this, car users still feel they have more power. Some of my interviewees expressed that it bothers them more to have to wait five minutes on a delayed train than to spend 10 minutes in a car queuing on the highway, as they feel they have more control in the car:

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Mobility in Daily Life I couldn’t dream of taking the car to work. That would make me stressed. I feel that way about trains and buses because when the working day is over and I have to go back and pick up my child, if the train is 5 minutes late, well, then I am delayed on my way back. It’s easier to manage when I travel by car. You can honk your horn in a car; you can’t do anything in a train. No that’s true, one is lost, somebody else is making the decisions.

As I showed in the chapter on structural stories, this is also very much about the fact that when the train is delayed there is always someone to blame. The public transport system in Denmark is operated by the state; thus there is someone to blame other than the passengers when the train does not arrive on time. Even if the materialities of public transport in many other countries are not owned by the state, they are still ‘public in certain other senses’ (Urry 2007, 92). Use, safety, access etc. are all regulated by the state and thus the chance to blame the state is still available. There is not really anybody directly to blame when the individual sits in a traffic jam. One could demand more or wider roads, both of which would be about the state meeting public needs, whereas public transport systems deficiencies are viewed as the result of a badly run business. It is also easier to blame the state for the possible unfreedoms we feel, but more difficult to accept that we ourselves, through our mobile everyday life, are co-producers of the unfreedom we do not want. This plays a decisive role in the public transport system’s bad image. After being given time to reflect, the majority of the interviewees, especially its users, were all quite satisfied with the public transport system. The structural stories, however, maintain these worst case scenarios on public transport. Well, public transport, it’s expensive and you can never rely on it, and you have to walk to the bus stop… it’s terrible. With taking the train, one looks a bit more on the website to see what time the train leaves, and then tries to match it a little bit. If one just has to take the bus, then one has to stand there and wait, and then one just missed it, or if one needs the last regular bus, then it left at 12.30am, and then one must pay double with the night bus …

Often the argument that late modern individualized society produces individualized transport that only the car can satisfy is brought forward. But taking Beck’s (1997) and Giddens’ (1991) arguments on the individualization taking place in the risk society freeing individuals from structures earlier framing social being seriously must mean that living in a late modern individualized society cannot be conducted through one particular type of



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transport technology such as the car. In the light of this the individual is forced to ask themselves what type of vehicle best meets their mobility needs in a specific situation. This, it seems, is actually what a large part of my interviewees do: ‘I can see that the car can give you a sense of freedom but I think that other forms of transport can do that too. For instance, when public transport works, then it can give you a feeling of freedom in the sense that things just work; it is connected and it’s fast.’ Some are also very aware of the negative consequences of using the car as everyday life mobility: ‘Freedom, for instance, is that I don’t have to sit on the highway for an hour each day.’ This is in line with what Beckmann (2001) says when he points out that the car has freed the individual from some structures but, simultaneously, has imposed some new ones. He describes how the mobile individual is rooted within the new structures, reintegrated into standardized automated ways of life. This standardization appears most clearly in the regularly repeated traffic jam (Beckmann 2001, 49). In order to reverse the argument, one could say that public transport users are freer and more individualized than the car user. Public transport users are, like the car user, pressed into specific transport systems but, in the process of getting from ‘a’ to ‘b’, have a time of their own to use in a manner that feels the most comfortable. While being mobile they are not forced to pay attention to the various structures and systems which automobility requires. Thereby, the train offers one’s own time: ‘Trains are good because you can relax and stress down and you can read or prepare, so I probably like that the most.’ Car users of today are not free but although some of them are aware of the possibilities provided for freedom in the public transport system, the car’s flexibility wins nonetheless. ‘And although it’s very nice, the thing about taking the train where one can just go in and turn off the brain and be transported, in relation to driving your own car. Still it (the car) gives a greater freedom anyway, I think, to decide when one wants to leave.’ The car gives us possibility as it forces us to design our way of life so that it more accurately reflects who we are, or who we would like to be. In addition, it also gives us the flexibility to seek out the types of communities which contribute to, and support, our life politic. Freedom/Community One is left to question what then happens to community in the name of freedom? Are the two concepts contradictions or supporting institutions? As described in Chapter 2, the search for, and formation of, new communities is essential for the individual in late modern society. These new communities function as replacements to traditional communities of the past, whose primary function was to facilitate exchange of everyday life experiences. The late modern individual still needs communities where life experiences can be

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exchanged. They still need communities as frameworks for understanding and validation in relation to, for instance, work life, family life, environment and maybe mobilities. What differentiates late modern communities from traditional communities is the perquisite that the specific communities and their maintenance fit into the individual’s reflexive, organized life course. When talking about freedom, the importance of communities is articulated: I think that communities can help to create freedom exactly if one can use each other in some contexts, and one can help each other, and so on. It is, for sure, community which creates freedom. I see it in a completely different way than most others. There is this kind of tendency in our society today, that freedom is very individual and is symbolized by cars and houses and so on, what, in the old days, was called status symbols. This is the kind of concept of freedom we have today.

It was far from all the interviewees who linked community and freedom as clearly as this and articulated it in such a way – it is more the exception than the rule. However, common to all interviewees was that communities play a crucial role for the individual. They help to create the ontological security fundamental for the creation of the good life (Bauman 2001). In contrast to pre-modern societies, late modern communities are often short-lived and not based on lifelong projects. The ties we have with others in the same situation are fragile (Bauman 2001, 85), not least because, in the mobile everyday life, we always have the ability to seek out new and different communities if we grow tired of the ones we currently have and of which we are a part. In Beck’s, Bauman’s and Sennett’s work the discussions of communities take place within a search for a ‘common good’ for society (Drewes Nielsen and Aagaard Nielsen 2006; Freudendal-Pedersen et al. 2002). This ‘common good’ is not fixed, but is embroiled in a conflicting and contradictory understanding of what levels these communities can work on or within. Thereby, community is not necessarily in conflict with freedom but is just as much a prerequisite for it. Community as the basis for freedom forms the basis of ideas of anarchism. ‘In the practice of mutual aid, which we can retrace to the earliest beginning of evolution, we thus find the positive and undoubted origin of our ethical conceptions, and we can affirm that in the ethical progress of man, mutual support – not mutual struggle – has the leading part’ (Kropotkin 1952, 300). The idea of communities rather than individualism as a prerequisite for freedom also arises in interviews: If you can see the happiness of being in some communities, it also creates a freedom. For me, I think, it’s closely linked with the feeling that I can do something together with other people. This thing about being able to do something with other people is also very closely linked to the feeling



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that you can be used for something, to feel that other people need one. This feeling we all need because we don’t work as humans if we can not feel that other people need us in some sense. This is, of course, also a little lost when everything we do – also to a high degree our work – has been individualized. It‘s difficult to establish the freedom and be happy, especially when everything is so individualized and this is also were values are lost.

Hylland Eriksen (2004) touches on the same tension between freedom and community in relation to the individual’s constant efforts to form a life politic and, thereby, through a myriad of opportunities, to define who and what we are as human beings. ‘… Freedom is a heavy burden, and there emerges a chronic field of friction on anything that has to do with community. For if I cannot even feel somewhat sure, that I know who I see in the mirror, how am I supposed to know when it’s appropriate to use the pronoun “we”’ (Hylland Eriksen 2004, 59 [my translation]). The individualization driven by the ideal of freedom easily comes to be in a contradictory relationship with community. The late modern human being has a number of different options in which the emergence of a strong ‘we’ can be created. This can be through having a common language, living in the same place, having the same sex or family structure and also by experiencing similar structural stories, which is also a way of creating a ‘we’ through common experience. ‘If one, in addition, have a common project, a goal for the future which is dependent on the other group member’s effort to succeed, it helps tremendously. And if one furthermore can plead a common enemy, someone else who threatens to thwart the plans, then everything is laid out for a strong and solidarity we-feeling which last as long as it is possible to put forward the enemy …’ (Hylland Eriksen 2004, 63 [my translation]). Within the area of everyday life transport, there are clearly defined enemies. The boundaries of who is on the one side and who is on the other are, however, liquid. Zeitler (1998) talks about ‘mobility and morality’ and notes that there is no longer mutual help between the different mobilities but there is, to a higher degree, an insistence on own rights. Here, exemplified through a discussion concerning which of the modes of transport provides the most community within road user groups: It’s definitely cyclists. They hate everyone else but mostly drivers No, buses as well. Yes, yes, because they have to stop when people are getting off the bus and because the buses drive too close to the cyclists.

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Mobility in Daily Life It’s also true the other way around because car drivers also get mad at cyclists. Because they are running the red lights and because they are not looking out. Yes, yes, and all that. Drivers cannot agree on anything other than they think others are ridiculous. And they think that those who take the train and bus, they are daft because it is too expensive. It all stems from bad conscience of the drivers, because drivers do in fact not think like that, its prejudices you are coming up with. No, but if one only looks in the news and in newspapers, and everything else one hears all over then I think. It all stems from the driver’s anxiety about running someone down, and the cyclists are rotten when moving about in traffic [Copenhagen]. They are, you know; if it is yellow or red, they cross the road anyways. But it’s also annoying with cyclists because they are a little sacred. Oh I am so environmentally friendly and healthy.

Car spaces symbolize a private, personalized space, an individual space, moving around, as part of the community traffic is. The structural stories are often used to produce and reproduce this space and its community, and you get the urge to ask the question as to whether new types of communities are defined among car users. Has the community of motoring made it independent, created its own inner life? Is motoring moving within a system evolutionary perspective and is it thus a subsystem which is dynamic, with its own distinctive character? Simmel (1997) talks about co-presence, the pleasure and attraction of face-to-face meetings, with regards to what creates communities. But he also emphasizes the social interactions which are freed from context and, somehow, it seems that mobility can give us both. There is co-presence in transport modes and, in addition, it also seems apparent in the car. This co-presence freed from context (not of materialities, but most social context) is, perhaps, what creates new types of mobile communities. When Urry (2000) and Kaufmann (2002) say that late modern society must be understood in new categories, it would be appropriate to consider whether we should redefine our understanding of what a community



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is. As such, this might possibly also change the content and structure of a late modern flow society. These new types of communities are discussed through theoretical and empirical discussions on networks (Larsen et al. 2006). Here, the emphasis is put on ‘work’ to stress that creating these types of communities or contacts should also be seen as something which constitutes ‘another’ form of work. From an everyday life perspective, the emotional and utopian ideas and dreams which are also part of communities and, not the least, communities of mobility, seem to be overlooked. This discussion about what communities are and what they consist of is an interesting and urgent discussion. It clearly appears in the work with the individual’s conception of the good life and the cohesion of everyday life through mobility. This aspect will be discussed only superficially in this book (in Chapter 6) but will be an important component of future studies of the culture of late modern automobility. Freedom/Security Communities are an important component of the individual’s ontological security. It is in communities that the individual is approved and recognized for who they are and what they do. There is, perhaps, a tendency that communities are taken for granted by the individual or their importance might be forgotten or underestimated. This was expressed by Christina, who stated: I actually believe people need to feel it themselves through some crises in their lives. Then they feel, on their own body, how important it is to have people around who can help and support them. I really believe that where we are today, where one is closest to oneself, then one needs to get out there where it hurts. Then one gets an idea of how important the community feeling is.

Communities, at all different levels, are what give us confidence and courage to navigate forward in an immense world. It also means that ‘in good times it is great that there is plenty of freedom and the options are so many, but in adversity, freedom emerges as insecurity and choices as coercion’ (Hylland Eriksen 2004, 120 [my translation]). It is also within communities that individuals are reprimanded and driven back into the fold if their views or actions are too different or outside what would be labelled ‘the norm’. This is precisely why communities contain the essential security that gives the individual courage to continue, corrected or undaunted. On the other hand, the individual does not want too much security or to be driven back into the fold too many times, or there is then the chance that it becomes suffocating. The individual has an equally great need for freedom and to decide their own life politics. This makes security and insecurity – or perhaps freedom and

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unfreedom – two poles at either end of a continuum, which the individual moves between while moving from situation to situation (Hylland Eriksen 2004, 123). In this focus group discussion, Claus described a journey as an expression of precisely this continuum: Five years ago, we took half a year off and drove around the United States in an auto-camper. I wouldn’t dream of doing this for five years because it was also terribly exhausting. Because where are we going to sleep tonight? There was always something which needed to be mastered. The little things took up a lot of space, which were what one’s time was spent on. It was nice to come home and, phew, now you have a refrigerator, now we have fixed boundaries. We probably feel better with fixed boundaries. One is precisely free. If one dares something or experiences something outside the fixed boundaries.

Freedom as the basic philosophy of life plays a role at different levels in the late modern individual’s everyday life. Freedom and its close relationship with capitalism – or, more correctly, capitalism and its inherent message of freedom – form the world we live in and the everyday life that becomes ours. At the same time, one of the most important tasks individuals have in everyday life – for their own life and those they share it with – is to create a sense of security in a world that, for many, is experienced as being very insecure. ‘The world is fragmented but the individuals living on this planet seek connection. The world is unsafe, but most gravitate towards security when they can. The world is becoming more globalized but does not necessarily lead to its inhabitants becoming more global’ (Hylland Eriksen 2004, 138–9 [my translation]). The structural stories bring security to life stories. They are the designation that some things are as they should be and what we expect them to be. They constitute security in their often-immutable diagnosis of the present circumstances we can navigate by. Beck (2004) calls this process of individualization – which capitalism holds – where the individual’s behaviours are brought into the centre of action for institutionalized disembedded individualism. He argues that classes and layers in society can no longer determine our actions, and thus becomes the disembedded individualism, the late modern community’s social structure: ‘Institutionalized disembedded individualism does not mean everyone is becoming more individual … The opposite might be just as probable. We might end up observing the retreat of the self into blind obedience. The desire for relief from the pressure to individuate can lead to all kinds of fundamentalism. Unfreedom becomes more appealing and the more unbearable becomes the



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pressure to choose between mutually exclusive alternatives’ (Beck and Willms 2004, 67–8). The structural stories can be seen as a consequence of the disembedded individualism, whereupon it sets standards for mobility behaviour and diminishes the number of choices. Dismissing classes and replacing them with disembedded individualism seems unnecessary. Late modern capitalism still has classes and Beck’s (2004) argument is, for me, more relevant in relation to tradition. Classes do not necessarily take the same form as in the Middle Ages or 50 years ago. Nevertheless, different life conditions and possible choices are still bound up the different layers and classes in society. The way disembedded individualism can create a desire for unfreedom is clear in the continued discussion on Claus’s experience on the need for routines and standards as a guide in everyday life: There’s also norms and conventions which says that you can’t just leave your wife and your children if you want to, if one just did that. It probably has something to do with how one mentally works: does one enjoy new experiences or does one get more energy when things are running in routines? I think that’s subjective. When there are no routines, everything is always negotiable if you are a family, and that is very tiring. It might seem free. I never thought about how much of one’s energy this could consume, that one did not know how next week was going to be, it drained me completely. One is so used to it being there – the structure – so one gets totally flabbergasted when it’s not there

It is the same dilemma Fromm (1969) addresses when he tries to answer why and how freedom are forcing people into a self-imposed situation of unfreedom – an unfreedom which can simplify everyday life and life in general. Fromm (1996) illustrates this through followers of fascism or Nazi leaders. These forms of unfreedoms can also take place on a smaller scale, for instance, when mobility patterns dictate the idea of how one transports oneself, as the structural stories are helping to maintain. Structural Stories about Freedom Freedom has a long tradition and in this chapter I have only approached small samples of the history and literature which touch upon the development of freedom. However, it is clear that many of the notions we have concerning and surrounding freedom can be historically traced far back. Capitalism and

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individualism, as it flourished in the Renaissance, has had a major influence on what we see the concept of freedom as containing today. The utopia – or the idea of freedom – is presented to us by the Protestant upbringing, which is a major part of our primary school education (in Denmark as in many other countries). This utopia has been maintained and reinforced by history and lives with great strength in our capitalist society where different objects’ symbolic power plays a major role in the design of everyday life. The idea of freedom is embedded in the structural stories, not least because of the historical link between freedom and mobility. The structural stories are closely tied to the symbolic power of mobilities and their reproduction is greatly supported by the press, media and the political system. There is a close relation between the way different mobility modes are presented in the public, press, advertising and by politicians and, as such, the expression the structural stories end up with. The structural story of ‘increased mobility allowing more freedom’ is therefore maintained both in the political system and in everyday life. The concept of freedom thereby stands as one of the key concepts when individuals talk about their mobility behaviour. Many structural stories can be traced back to the idea of freedom and are motivated by the organization of everyday life. An example of how the argument is formed in individuals’ minds might look like the following examples: ‘When you have children you need a car – or else my freedom is restricted even more than it already is when I have responsibility towards other people, not the least when I have to solve the complex planning of everyday life activities and mobilities.’ Another example could be that ‘the train is always late – and therefore it restricts my freedom to do the things I want to, and to be an effective player in the labour market. There are so many things in my life which are already planned, so if I also have to be subjected to the train’s timetable I am then subjected to even less freedom’. These two rationales can lead to the structural story that ‘the car gives me some options no other means of transport gives me. The fact that I have opportunities makes me feel more free, the utopian idea of freedom that I guide my life by. A freedom which I know is utopian, but nevertheless stands as a guide when I am trying to create the good life’. Through these examples, motility appears as an important element of mobility choices and as an essential in the structural stories – a motility containing the utopia of freedom; a freedom with no side effects and, as such, no unfreedom. Motility entails the opportunity to illuminate individuals’ dreams and aspirations about the content of everyday lives. The structural stories described in this book are those that I most often encounter. Thus, it appears that freedom is put together with the possibility of automobility. Automobility as technology is marketed on the concept of freedom, and one is tempted to suggest that no other technology has led to so much unfreedom for others. This technology takes up a lot of space in relation to how many people it transports: the spaces of our cities are largely occupied by roads, parking lots and other materialities, which are used only to



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facilitate automobility. Those individuals who do not use the car are therefore limited in their use of space, not least because of the increased sense of risks increased automobility also brings with it. However, there are alternative structural stories which attach importance to how automobility has freed us from a number of structures, while simultaneously inflicting new ones on us. A clear example of this is the queues in cities and on the highways every day. Passengers in the public transport system also feel that they have freedom. The public transport user is, like the car user, forced into certain structures and systems but, in the process of getting from ’a’ to ’b’, the public transport user has their own time to use for what they find most comfortable. While being mobile, public transport users are not forced to pay attention to certain structures and systems, which automobility requires. However, there is no doubt that the sense of motility is greater in the car when the car is more supportive of the idea of ultimate freedom – to not care about constraints and limitations, and to drive to the end of the world at the first sign of a sudden impulse, should the individual decide to do so. In relation to the concept of freedom, three dichotomized concepts are mentioned: unfreedom, community and security. These three dichotomies are not zero-sum games; there are a lot of in-betweens and a lot of ‘on one or the other hand’ in relation to these dichotomies. They thereby touch on the ambivalences that exist in the mobile everyday life. They also have the ability to open up the reconciliations these ambivalences also contain. Unfreedom stands as the unintended consequence we inflict on our own everyday life in trying to obtain more freedom. The dichotomy between freedom and unfreedom is also the question of why a specific type of mobility (automobility) is seen as freedom-creating while others (public transport) – which contain other aspects of freedom – are perceived as unfree. Some interviewees expressed that it bothers them more to wait five minutes on the train than to sit five minutes in a car queuing. They experience that they have more control in the car, whereas in the public transport system others control them. As such, when the train is delayed there is also someone to blame – the state. Good stories about the public transport system always appear at some point or another, even if the negative is more apparent. Community is in a dialectical relation to the individualization some forms of freedom bring with them. In relation to mobility choices it seems, however, that the individualized mobilities also create a sense of community – a different kind of community within new and untested conditions. Communities coupled with freedom exist in the empirical evidence as the alternative structural story ‘money does not give freedom, community does’, a story which emphasizes community as being of great importance for the sense of security in everyday life, as essential in getting everyday life to work. Through structural stories, the individual restores communities – communities that provide security in a world filled with miscellaneous ‘for and against’. However, it is not communities

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that meet the traditional requirements for a community: when they do not necessarily require co-presence, we can be present individually. Communities provide the safety and security that the world is as it should be and that we live our lives in the most rational and logical manner. As we have already seen, the structural story goes that there are numerous things we could probably do better, but we all know that when you have children you need a car – and it cannot be any different. Unfreedom, community and security can be seen in a dichotomized relationship to the concept of freedom. It can also be seen as an element of an everyday life with many choices and opportunities where the structural stories, therefore, have their natural place.

Chapter 5

Time and Space

Time and space are essential to the understanding of mobility. Descriptions of time and space tell us something about how we perceive the world around us, and within the various mobilities and dwellings in which we reside during everyday life. Time and space have, in various ways, been spoken of by the interviewees. The significance and use of time and space in mobilities was not the focus for this research. Therefore, no specific questions relating to this appeared in my interview guide. In analysing the idea of freedom through structural stories, however, the time and spaces of mobilities were highlighted as something essential in overcoming life. Dwelling in motion, one could say, should not come as a surprise when working with everyday life mobilities. Intensive work has been done on the way time and space in mobilities involve embodied experiences as ‘places of, and for, activities in their own right’ (Urry 2007, 11). Hulme and Truch (2005) talk of ‘interspaces’ as a way of describing new kinds of communities occurring in the time/space between events, where travel time is converted into activity time. The results of the empirical work showed the existence of dwelling or interspaces which was not surprising, but the articulated need for this time/space to overcome everyday life was. The story of mobility as a free space – a place where the individual has his or her own time and the potential to create individual time warps – is the focal point of this chapter. This will improve the understanding of needs and wishes behind the structural stories, especially those concerning freedom. By describing time and space in mobility as part of individuals’ own coping strategies for handling a stacked everyday life, the structural stories are highlighted as part of this coping strategy. Time and space in mobilities become the places where individuals create in-betweens as cocoons of slow time. As such, what the structural stories cover is then uncovered, as are the needs they express. Time as a Mobility-Demanding Element One of the key concepts in the sociology of mobility, and in everyday life, is time. As a substantial part of his sociology of mobility, Urry (2000; 2007) operates with the concept of instantaneous time in contrast to clock time: clock time is associated with industrialization, as an expression of a synchronization and the measurement of time. Instantaneous time is characteristic of the way we

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live in many parts of the Western world and is characterized by simultaneity and fragmentation. Within instantaneous time the individual is constantly ready to respond to the impulses and pieces of information which constantly surround them. Urry (2000) also talks about glacial time as an expression of slow-moving time, as intrinsic to dwelling, and can be seen as a resistance to instantaneous time. Instead of passing through places instantaneously, we find places for dwelling. Urry (2000; 2007) developed the term of dwelling from Heidegger’s description of the truck driver inhabiting the road, as a person residing in their home. Urry primarily focuses on the car as a home from home – a place of dwelling. Thus, the technology inciting instantaneous time is also the technology where glacial time can exist, and where everyday dwellings occur. Instantaneous time occurs because of the compression of time and space (Harvey 1989) and is a consequence of the acceleration of time. Things are now moving faster and faster – quicker than ever before – and products, places and people change status as quickly as lightning, with outlooks and perspectives changing from modern one day to outdated the next. The development of information and communication technology has been a driving force in this process. It has created a joint ‘global simultaneity and present’ (Oldrup 2005, 26) and time has been accelerated, causing everything to move faster and faster. This fragmentation of time means that activities become less and less collectively organized in everyday life. Instead, late modern everyday life is increasingly composed of individual patterns (Oldrup 2005, 26). Bauman (2000) suggests the invention of various means of transport along with the eternal quest against exceeding existing limits of speed as a driver in this development: Cars, trains and planes can carry us faster and faster, and modernity represents a continuous, accelerating process to achieve the speed of light, which cannot be stopped (Virilio 1998; Bauman 2000). The speed of movement has therefore evolved to be a key factor in determining the arrangement of the world, and this arrangement of the world is changing concurrently with the increase in speed (Virilio 1998, 115). This acceleration means that the time horizons for decision-making are dwindling dramatically. Products, relations and contracts increasingly become temporary due to the increased speed of various transactions, supported by information and communication technologies which are now exceeding space in a nanosecond (Urry 2000). This element also has its own expression in everyday life, which was demonstrated by the interviewees discussing the ever-present time pressure in everyday life. The following are some quotes in response to the question ‘How much do you feel you can decide on your own, in everyday life?’ One interviewee discussed the feeling of stress: ‘For my part, it’s because I want to do everything; I am not good at saying “no”.’ The vast variety of opportunities surrounding the individual inflicts stress on everyday life. This is also prevalent in relation to the flexible working life, which no longer provides a defined framework for leisure and work, the boundaries now becoming more liquid (Sennett



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1998; Drewes Nielsen and Aagaard Nielsen 2006). This, in itself, puts massive demands on the individual and is reflected in their thoughts concerning how to get more available time in everyday life: ‘Perhaps I should work a little less, come home a little earlier, not think so much about my work in the evening, perhaps have some more time to do more exercise.’ Each of the participants could also specifically note where things were going wrong: ‘It’s very often before I have to leave work, then it’s difficult for me to leave, because I just want to do the last things.’ It is this everyday time pressure which Hylland Eriksen (2001) talks about in his book The Tyranny of Moment. In his writings he shows concrete examples of the everyday life changes on which information and communication technology have had a major influence. He opens the book by saying ‘This book arises from an acute feeling that something is about to go wrong’ (Hylland Eriksen 2001, 7). What Hylland Eriksen (2001) is concerned about is the disappearance of in-betweens from our daily lives. He talks about how fragments are replacing the full picture and how each of us lives in a fragmented world where acceleration and exponential growth leads to what he calls ‘vertical stacking’ (Hylland Eriksen 2001, 123–5). It is an expression of how individuals are cramming more and more activities into everyday life. Now, more than ever before, there are more opportunities to combine the bricks of everyday life in any way we choose, forming giant towers. These building blocks need not have anything in common other than that they happen to be stacked on top of each other (Hylland Eriksen 2001, 135). The present moment is volatile, superficial and intense. When we only live for the moment, we have no room for building blocks which only fit together in a specific pattern, together with other bricks. Everything must immediately have the ability to be replaced with all possible others.

The opportunities provided by instantaneous time mean that one of the late modern parents’ main task is to organize time pressure (Hylland Eriksen 2001, 147). Within families, it is not only one’s own bricks which need to be stacked, but also those of children and partners which need to be merged into an overly complicated and squeezed tower. This organization becomes what squeezes everyday life and creates stress: ‘It’s the thing about getting everything connected where everything has to run according to schedule, especially in the morning or around meal times … I think one is hanging on a thin tread, especially in the morning, but I do know that it’s all about planning.’ It is prevalent that the individual is aware that avoiding a stressed everyday life is reliant on us ourselves having the ability to stack bricks correctly or most effectively, allowing us to save ourselves and our families from stress. Boundaries surrounding how much and when we work are often moved, as shown, for example, in the following explanation given by Blanca about when

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everyday life is stressed and how being unwell is no longer enough to stop working: When I have to get my daughter to school on time, when reaching things in time, to be at work before it is so late, that it takes time on the other end when I am supposed to go home. Right now we are privileged because my husband is not working, it relieves much of it. I am also often very busy at work, sometimes I have not called in sick, even if I was sick, and worked at home in the evening, and worked at home even though I was ill. I don’t feel stressed. There is also a limit to what you can achieve as a human being.

Hylland Eriksen (2001) further points out that when fast and slow time meet, fast time becomes dominant and always wins. The slow elements such as ‘well thought through work, playing with children and long-term romances’ are the losers in this acceleration (167). Hylland Eriksen’s slow time could be compared to Lefebvre’s (1991) lived time, which he claims ‘has been murdered by society’ (96). Time, it seems, is now no longer lived and inscribed within everyday life. Instead it has been replaced by an ‘independent decontextualized rationalized time’ (Urry 2007, 98) which frames everyday life within clock time. Enjoying the essence of slow or lived time within the frames of an everyday life juggling work, shopping, day-care etc. has become increasingly difficult. As such, some of the essential elements which contribute to the desire for the good life are threatened. Time has now become a scarce resource in the late modern community (Urry 2000; Hylland Eriksen 2001) and thus mobility has been infused with such paramount importance in everyday life, as it has created a way to gain more time by increasing speed. Hylland Eriksen (2001) therefore proposes that we install in-betweens in everyday life. These in-betweens will serve as a gap within fast time, so that we flex between slow and fast time (Hylland Eriksen 2001, 172–9). These spaces in everyday life mobility can help us: ‘When you get into the car or train, bus, metro, one perhaps just needs to relax and be themselves, disconnect mentally and concentrate on themselves.’ This gives mobility the ambiguity that it both fosters instantaneous time while it may, perhaps, serve as our means against it. The speed with which the individual can escape can be seen as an indication of power. The ultimate force of power is speed, and thus the possibility of detaching oneself, pulling back and moving away (Bauman 2000). Mobility is the way with which modern humanity is still able to keep up with a complicated and rapidly changing world. Thus, it is no longer simply a case of the place where one needs to go, but also of having the ability to be mobile and on the move which is hugely important. In the modern world, everything moves faster and the individual’s indulgence for delays and obstacles subsequently becomes less and less (Hylland Eriksen 2001); we complain about the traffic jam or train delays. However, Bauman believes this speed is reaching its limit. Beckmann (2001, 14) furthermore adds that tendencies – the fact that several



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agents develop strategies aimed at ‘slowing-down’ instead of ‘speeding-up’ – are present in late modern times. Zeitler (1998, 19) talks about living in spaces, instead of simply trying to overcome them, because the overall efficiency and increased speed of our daily lives prevents us from participating and living the life we have and desire. However, these votes on the installation of inbetweens and the reduction of speed do not offer any suggestions about how or where in-betweens can or should be achieved. Perhaps this is because the paradox that we are witnessing is that the installation of in-betweens and the reduction of speed are achieved through everyday life mobilities. In our insistence on push the margin beyond its limits, to achieve all, the slow down and the installation of in-betweens is something that happens in everyday life mobilities. In this way, the individual is released from the agony of choosing to leave out or drop activities – or bricks – in everyday life. Thereby, everyday life mobilities become spaces for individuals to take a break in. Space: Space, Place and Locale The understanding of spaces has major implications for our understanding of the world. The theoretical and practical understanding of space has a long history. Researchers in various fields have, from different starting points, analyzed the relationships between space, material and social processes (Harvey 1996; Lefebvre 1991; Smith 1984). Lefebvre (1991) aims to understand how social and mental spaces are produced through a distinction between ‘concrete space’ and ‘abstract space’. The logic behind concrete space is to be found in everyday life, where the value of the specific space is centred on use. Abstract space, on the other hand, is described as ‘phallic, visual and geometric’, with inherent modern values centred on exchange. Lefebvre (1991, 282) sees capitalist methods of production as one of the key drivers of this development, as does Harvey (1973), who uses the concept of ‘relational space’ which integrates the capitalist means of production, spatial production processes and the built environment. Here, space is coupled with social processes. In a social science context this means, in contrast to the relative conception of space, that space is not empty. Harvey thus moves from a conception of space as a factor to space as a product. In other words, from a separate physical material space to an economic-functional space (Tonboe 1993). Overcoming temporal and spatial barriers have, according to Harvey (1973), always been and remain central to the survival of capitalism. A free geographical mobility of goods and capital can moderate or postpone crises. It is not enough to merely integrate an abstract understanding of space and the social processes, as the concrete spatial material processes can call for a narrower definition. There is a distinction between the concepts of space and place. One way to understand space is through the feeling of space being related to one’s own relation to the world (Shields 1991). Place can be understood as

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a concrete space – such as the spaces of the car or train – as ‘moments of encounter’ (Amin and Thrift 2003, 301). Places/spaces need to be understood in relation to other places/spaces as no units exist in isolation (Harvey 1996, 261). Graham and Marvin (2001) emphasize that spaces and places cannot have a specific definition; instead, they should be seen as social processes. Mobility research is in line with this approach and rejects the idea of space as a container where processes are happening within, but instead sees it as flows or networks which individually define space in the broadest sense (Castells 1996; 1997; Graham and Marvin 2001; O.B. Jensen 2006). It must be understood in relation to spaces as myriads of flows of people, information, goods and power, which invalidate the idea of fixated spaces/places (O.B. Jensen 2006). The spaces I wish to focus on in this chapter are those which exist inside everyday life mobilities, where social relations can be observed and play a central role; a space which can be described as a place. Harvey (1996) uses the relational conception of space in an attempt to develop an understanding of the concept of place not functioning as a container and thereby points out that place is also socially constructed. Place, then, does not have one unique identity which makes it a homogeneous area; instead, it is full of internal conflicts (Massey 1994; Katz 2004; Simonsen 2004). What this underlines, in addition, is that spatial structure makes a significant difference to social structures. Giddens (1984) presents the concept of locale – which refers to the use of space – in creating the surroundings for action where what is central is the social importance attached to the premises and actions taking place (Giddens 1984). Thus, Giddens emphasizes social action but, at the same time, reduces space to an airy backdrop of social action where materiality has no significance. Simonsen (2004) responds to this problem by discussing practice, as it makes sense to study the social practices of individuals in relation to the materialities. She points out that practice and context have to be understood as being inseparable. Armatures and Enclaves O.B. Jensen (2006) chooses a different path and instead uses the concepts of armatures and enclaves in describing the space and flows of mobility. Armatures are channels of flows linking complex distribution networks, and cover everything from pavements to international air corridors – in other words the spaces of mobility. Enclaves are to be understood as captive units, districts or territories, which may vary in their openness in relation to surroundings. They can be both broken through by armatures or hermetically sealed. The significant difference between armatures and enclaves is the different speed these spaces contain. The idea is to give equal power to both concepts, so that enclaves are not the dominant hegemonic idea of space, and thus develop a greater understanding of today’s mobility (O.B. Jensen 2006, 14–15).



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There is a current tendency for the modern individual to live increasingly in enclaves, and the car constitutes an enclave in the middle of armatures. Those armatures that only facilitate automobility are named non-spaces (Auge 1995; Urry 2000), spaces in which there are no social processes, since the space is cleared of social interaction. The car is a place or a cocoon using non-spaces. It is in these cocoons that social interaction takes place. The car is thus a space within space. When I choose to use the word ‘cocoon’, it is to emphasize the aspect of security which is embedded in the term; it is not just a random room but the spaces the individual creates for themselves, where they can subsequently achieve a sense of security. O.B. Jensen (2006, 16) also describes how mobile phones and MP3 players function as virtual places, or cocoons, where the individual can retire from public interaction or meetings with strangers. The same effect is attained through newspapers and magazines, which are all similarly used to create ‘civic inattention’ by minimizing attention to others (Goffman 1963, 137). Cauter (2004, 80) proposes eight laws for the need to be in a cocoon, the first of which concerns speed: ‘The higher speed the greater need for encapsulation.’ This need for an undisturbed place of one’s own is clear when interviewees talk about everyday life mobility ‘I am self-contained, I have my work and I have my family, and if I want to do something together with others, then I will sign up to an association. You want to sit in your own mentally closed space occasionally, use the half-hour back and forth on this.’ O.B. Jensen (2006, 17) states, however, that the armatures can also serve as spaces containing meaningful interaction and points out that Cauter’s (2004) argument is a consequence of a perception of armatures as non-spaces. The idea behind armatures is important to see the possibilities of making them a space for public domain. O.B. Jensen subsequently asks the question, employing Augé and Urry’s critical understanding of non-places, why a nonplace cannot become a place (O.B. Jensen 2006, 19). A non-place might be a place or community whose borders and co-players do not always emerge in a specific form, but which nevertheless have an impact on identity creation and identity constructions. This opens up the opportunity to examine something I briefly touched upon in the freedom chapter. Does mobility, also in the form of automobility, create new types of community with different shapes in late modern mobility society? In the following, Group A are discussing which mode of transport gives the best sense of community: Trains – there one can sit and talk to people. I think, definitely the car. I think it’s nice to sit and talk while driving a car. And one can sit and talk, and listen to the music one wants to hear.

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Mobility in Daily Life While driving a car with someone you know – now I am not picking up hitchhikers! – the other person in the car can’t really go anywhere, and then we just sit there and talk when we have to drive for a long time. I think it’s very nice travelling by car with others. Every time I try to kiss you – you say ‘no don’t do it, I will crash’ – I think it’s more fun on the train. One can, of course, not do that while one is driving a car, you know. We can also talk about some private things; nobody can hear what one talks about. It’s limited what you can talk about when you are on the train or bus. On the train more people can be together. That’s also possible in a car. If you’re more than four people then it’s clearly the train.

Schivelbusch (in Urry 2007) claims that modern traffic increases the modern individual’s ability to be co-present with many people without being in contact. The empirical data presented here, in many ways, sustain this claim. There is no doubt, however, that the spaces of mobility contains a number of social processes – it is not just about where we have come from or were we are going. The communities need not only be related to those the individuals are sharing spaces of mobility with, but can also take place across spaces. This is also expressed by Houben (in O.B. Jensen 2006, 18): Mobility is a part of modern society, it is a daily pursuit, just like housing work and recreation. Mobility is not just about traffic jams, asphalt, delays and tollgates, but also about people deriving a sensory experience from their everyday life mobility. Every day, travelling along roads and railways, millions of people experience the changes of the city and the countryside. For the train and the car are also ‘A Room With a View’.

In relation to the discussion concerning whether mobility creates new forms of communities, there is evidence to suggest that mobility also provides communities with dependence and security, although not necessarily in the traditional way in which players on a football team are dependent on each other and must work together to win the battle (or just have fun). However, as seen in the following discussion, there is a community which is created on the basis of the dependence and security found in the validation from others that ‘this is a good way to get everyday life mobilities executed’:



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Drivers can, along with others, be mad at other road users. Or be happy about the freedom they have. It’s, of course, also a status symbol. It’s also that, in the public transport system where one is sitting with people, one feels lesser community than when one is in fact isolated by oneself. But I just don’t think that when one is sitting in a train, one talks with anybody. I just think that the feeling I have is that I know I will have to sit in the queue every morning and I don’t complain about that. The days where I know I must take the train it is just something that has to be done with, the public transport system is just something one has to get over with because those who are sitting next to you, will guaranteed smell of garlic! Yes or they sit and talk on the phone. Yes, there are some things which annoy one, but it’s funny because I would feel the other way round; I would go crazy in a traffic jam.

In Bowling Alone, Putnam (2000) examines how involvement in social life has changed in the US and describes, amongst other things, mobility as being one of the major factors in this change. He describes how massive increases in the number of cars has had a significant impact. In 1990, the United States had more cars than they had drivers for them (Putnam 2000, 212). Urban sprawl has played – and still plays – a major role in this development. People have moved to cities where they do not work, shop or have their friends, thus a large proportion of their time is used shuttling between these activities: ‘One inevitable consequence of how we have come to organize our lives spatially is that we spend measurably more of every day shuttling alone in metal boxes among the vertices of our private triangles’ (Putnam 2000, 212). Putnam argues that the fact that we spent so much time in the spaces of mobility has major consequences for communities and social life. Putnam (2000) examines the importance of mobility for communities and social life in relation to enclaves. The individual comes from and ends up in enclaves, but Putnam overlooks the armatures – the spaces of mobility. I am not arguing against this description of the local community where the home is increasingly emptied of functions, nor disputing that this involves a number of problems. The communities given to us by mobilities are not immediately positive communities, but may to a higher degree look like a survival strategy. On the other hand, my argument is that if we want to understand the continually increasing pace of society, and our inability to stop it, it is important to understand and study the identity

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constructions and constructions of communities which are happening in mobility. There is a strong correlation between the means of transport we use for daily life and where we feel it gives most community. The positive stories concerning a specific mode of transport come from those who use it and they are, in turn, more negative towards communities in respect to other types of everyday life mobilities. When I am driving in a car during rush-hour, I often wonder why individuals choose to spend so much time every day in a traffic jam. The perspective in the media, it seems, is that there is a negative feeling concerning the waste of time spent in the car queuing, or waiting for the train. However, as I have suggested earlier, it appears that waiting in the queue can meet a need which the individual is unable to fulfil elsewhere in everyday life, which therefore allows it to work as an in-between. The main reason why I take the car it that it’s easier, in the sense that it transports me from a to b without any stops, without me having to move. I sit in dry weather, it’s comfortable, if it is too hot outside the car has air conditioning, I can sit and listen to the radio, I can also do that on a cell phone I know … but I wake up in my car going to work and I relax on the way home, I’m like slowing down the pace.

The in-betweens which the car and the train can give to the individual are important in mastering everyday life. It is here that the individual accumulates energy and prepares the transition from one stage of everyday life to another. Here, Bitten describes how she creates space on the way home from work and what this means to her: ‘… the thing about having those afternoons where you just saunter around. If we had children I don’t know if there would be time for that, then one probably would have to get a part time job. It is one of the things that I appreciate very much, having that hours where I just empties my head.’ Bitten was a frequent user of the structural story on ‘children and cars’. If it was possible to foresee the future, I would imagine that she, when having children, would use the spaces of automobility she is ‘forced’ into as a replacement for the current city spaces which are considered as being highly important for her sense of the good life. The in-betweens the individual creates in mobility are used to gather energy and as a mechanism for coping with everyday life. Through mobility, these inbetweens give the individual a private space of their own. It is here that the individual gets the time alone which, it seems, is difficult to find in a stacked everyday life. Consistently, the interviewees spoke about the need to create time warps in everyday life. What is also very interesting is that this is hardly discussed in any of the focus groups. In the focus groups, the conversations were more centred on the annoying moments to which mobility subjects travellers. The only focus group where the spaces in mobility were mentioned, however briefly, was in Group C;



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I only talk to someone if their music is too loud, or if they are talking on the cell phone right next to me and I am not interested in hearing about their private life. When one gets in one’s car or train, bus, or metro, one perhaps just needs to disconnect and be oneself – disconnect mentally and concentrate on themselves. This is exactly how I feel – I am a teacher so I have to talk to a lot of people all day.

These statements represent the material from the focus groups on the needs which mobility fulfils for the individual; the need to have one’s own space and own time – the need to create a cocoon. The question then arises as to whether this is because it is a private space where the function is solely for the individual to disengage with no desire to share this with others. However, this can not be the only reason, as the above discussion is from the focus group in which the participants do not know each other. Perhaps it is more about daily lives being stacked because of an exceedingly large number of activities. Simultaneously, working life now takes up more and more time, therefore the feeling is that the time left should be used with the family, not on oneself. The individual does not articulate the importance that spaces of mobility has on their lives, when everyday life mobility to and from work most often takes time from their family life and not from their work life. However, I cannot confirm this consideration through empirical substantiated knowledge. Instead, I will confine myself to concluding that these spaces in everyday life have a great importance for the individual, and indeed help them to cope with everyday life. In-Betweens as Coping Strategies Bærenholdt (2007, 1) speaks of developing coping strategies: ‘To cope means to manage a problem successfully, but a problem not of the actors “own making”. It is something people have to contend with, something they cannot escape.’ The formation of identity is about developing meaningful coping strategies. The development of mobility and the importance it has come to have in the organization of society means that it is no longer possible just to see mobility as an in-between without essential societal organizing and identity creating processes. Bærenholdt (2007, 18) speaks of ‘the social-spatialities of coping’ which is a strategy linking the various arenas of everyday life. It is these coping strategies which have an impact on the development and innovation of the territorial space we live in, and mobility is what allows the excess of these spaces. Identification with the communities we move between is being challenged by

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mobility, and defining mobility territorially is not easy (Bærenholdt 2007, 22). The identification must be seen on different scales. Bærenholdt (2007) argues for coping with mobilities in relation to fishing and trade, and described the abstract as spaces of flow or cosmopolitan identity. I believe, however, that these processes are also constantly taking place in the small things within everyday life. This identification, which happens in everyday life mobilities, is often overlooked in favour of other scales. The small things in everyday life have a profound impact on who we are, how we understand the world, and how we reproduce it. The identification which occurs in everyday life mobilities can be between the different enclaves mobility penetrates or ends up in. It may also be in the armatures that this identification takes place, not with mobility as a means but in mobility itself. This underlines the importance of understanding and analysing mobility’s own space and asking which processes are embedded in this space as mobility incentives. Aagaard Nielsen (1996) uses the concept of ‘free spaces’ as a procedural oriented approach to action research. Free spaces may also be considered in a more everyday life oriented and freer context. The aim is to create a space which can build the bridge between the dichotomies and ambivalences mobility creates. Marx defines free space as the absence of the coercion which is derived from a material need or the power of tradition. The free space Aagaard Nielsen (1996) defines is a concept of space which includes the creation of communities which appeals to freedom. Free space can potentially facilitate joint discussions of individual problems. It has the potential to be an ‘as if space’ – a meeting place where freedom and community are not contradictions, a place where reconciliations between freedom and unfreedom can be created through authoritative relationships and binding communities. These free spaces – or ‘as if spaces’ – could be an arena where security could also have a place of residence. When community is presented as a contrast to freedom, questions surrounding security arise, since community is the place where the individual can create fundamental ontological security. Whether the spaces in mobilities can facilitate these processes is an unresolved issue. However, there is evidence to suggest that the spaces of mobilities contain some potentials which are possible to develop. Creating these spaces in mobilities is, to a high degree, about changing the foundation for the structural stories by removing the necessity or expectation of a rational reasoning behind the choice of everyday life mobilities. Instead, focus should be on identity-creating processes in the spaces of mobilities, which can facilitate new types of communities, such as in the following example, where the benefits of everyday life mobility by train are outlined: Yes, it’s this thing about being able to sit and read on the train. And it’s also cosy to be able to look at other people when you take the metro. There is a great big city feeling about taking the metro, and you can bring the



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newspaper. I like that; it’s very cool. You get a free space as opposed to when one has to sit in a car and concentrate on driving.

It is interesting that the interviewees, in general, detailed the benefits of their own everyday life mobility by relating critically to other forms of mobility. As has previously been expressed in the quotations from the focus groups, there is the feeling that ‘it is a war out there’, a war on multiple scales concerning space taking place in all spheres of society (Hansen 2006). When the structural stories have a majority that announces automobility as the winner, and this is supported by the media, politics and advertising, it is easy to declare an initial winner of this war. However, there are trends which indicate that things can be different, that the battle can be reversed if one focuses on some of the counterreactions that exist. Increasingly, questions are asked about the possibility of creating inbetweens in everyday life, and about how to make space for slow time. None of these questions take for granted that ceaseless acceleration and thus increased speed is the only voice that exists in late modern everyday life. There are, from several sides, signs of a desire for counter-reactions or installations of inbetweens (Hylland Eriksen 2001). In The Tyranny of the Moment, Hylland Eriksen (2001) suggests creating slow time through automobility. He lists some choices the individual can make to create slow time in everyday life, one of which reads, ‘Every day I commute 100 km. So I sit alone in the car and turn off the mobile phone and car radio’ (Hylland Eriksen 2001, 175). I was quite surprised by this proposal, when automobility, from my perspective, is precisely what creates the instantaneous time and removes the in-betweens, which individuals then create in the very mobility. Hylland Eriksen (2001) touches upon the consequences of automobility in his book several times, so the proposal is perhaps more evidence of the central role car space offers today, and the possibility of an in-between. The individual needs in-betweens – their own small places where they can have some time on their own. Time seems to pass slowly in a car, even if it actually goes quickly: ‘I think, for some people, there is the thing that they link the possibility of driving a car, to the feeling of freedom. They feel free when they can drive in the car, perhaps also because they can sit in their own little world and think their own thoughts and so on’ or ‘I love to sit in the car, many of us do; there is something good in the freedom one has – one can listen to music and one can just get that time alone’. However, I maintain that Hylland Eriksen’s (2001) advice was not necessarily positive, as the in-betweens the individual creates in the car cause unintended consequences for the remainder of their daily lives. How can there be room for slow time the rest of the day if the individual, on top of a working day, must add 100 km of commuting time, not to mention the lack of freedom created for others by individuals driving in their cocoons? And is the slow time outside work time, to a high degree, what creates ontological security, freedom and happiness? The critical question is, thus, how can we create more slow

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time and cocoons in everyday life outside mobility? This poses a project which provides no simple solutions, when success criteria in late modern everyday life are not about slow time and in-betweens: I think it is very much about identity, because at some point I actually think that one gets tired from … Let us talk in a year then I think … Tired of sitting in your car when the time could have been used to be with your children, if they created new public transport connections and so on, I think we could entice people over. Not at the place were I live, I have a hard as nails calculation which says that not until it takes considerably longer to drive by car than by train, will I take the train. Today, it’s not the economy of if that matters, it’s the time and flexibility.

The In-Betweens of Mobility One of the most highlighted advantages of automobility is its potential to bind the community and everyday life together and thus, at the same time enable increased speed. This has meant that time has been accelerated. Things move faster and faster, and there is no longer necessarily a link between the activities individuals cram into everyday life. We live in a age which is characterized by instantaneous time – but clock time still plays a vital role in our daily lives. The organizing and planning of everyday life and the mobilities it carries along are guided by clock time. Everything that the individual expects to achieve and to do within this everyday life, in order to meet the requirement for the good life, is guided by instantaneous time. So, apart from being able to stack activities and fill their lives with the ‘right’ activities, the individual must navigate in a world where they must constantly be ready to commute between these two conceptions of time. Mobility has the duality that helps individuals to overcome this puzzle while also creating additional problems for the individual to tackle and overcome. The structural story is a way to bring order into this constant fragmentation and willingness to adapt, which has become a part of daily lives. This fragmentation of time has also meant that activities in everyday life are less and less collectively organized, being replaced by more individual patterns. The slow elements which require consistent time have less space because when fast and slow time meet, fast time always wins. This means that less time is available for some of the essential elements in the desire for the



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good life. The individual still needs slow time in everyday life and this, amongst other things, is obtained through mobility. The individual installs in-betweens, creates their own cocoons, where they get their own time. It is paradoxical that the individual uses that which increases speed to slow it down. By installing inbetweens in mobility, the individual can still stack new activities into everyday life and is thereby released from choosing to do without. As such, everyday life mobilities become the space where the individual can take a break. It is in these armatures that individuals link everyday life, where individuals create cocoons in order to achieve a sense of security. The in-betweens the car and the train can provide are important in mastering everyday life. This is where the individual is able to summon energy and prepare for the transition from one stage of everyday life to another. All of the interviewees talked about this need to create time warps in everyday life. In the focus groups this subject did not come up in discussions, although there was an exception in the group where nobody knew each other in advance. This research does not provide enough material to conclude fully on these aspects but I will just note that these cocoons are important – and perhaps also very private spaces. Mobility addresses a different level within the individual than those most often articulated. Structural stories, as an analytical tool, open up to this level and show some of the other needs mobility satisfies for the individual. There is, in the space of mobility – and especially in the car space – a time which is one’s own. It is not ‘okay’ to say one is driving in the car because one needs the in-between. This is true both in relation to the individual’s awareness of risks, where it is difficult to argue that it is okay to cause pollution by driving a car when there are other modes of transport. It is also evident when considering an individual’s everyday life where, to the best of their ability, the individual tries to combine many elements so that their needs for freedom and happiness are met – an everyday life which seems to be unable to meet individuals’ needs for their own place. It is important to understand that an in-between is perceived as a private place; a private area which cannot be fitted directly into the rational frame of explanation, where the individual wants to (and has learned to) place their activities. In our pressured late modern everyday life, the spaces of mobility, especially the car, are the only alternative left. It is about processes which are beyond the spacious concrete. The individual installs pleasant in-betweens, and these in-betweens give the flow its own identity. It is therefore not just mobility or transport but rather a myriad of different processes taking place in these mobile spaces. The armatures, however, also have the potential to be spaces containing meaningful interaction, which will generate new types of communities; communities whose borders and fellow players do not always emerge in a specific form, but which nevertheless have an impact on the creation and construction of identity. When the individuals use the structural stories as a form of coping strategy, it gives significance to the development and

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innovation of the territorial space we live in. Mobility is what allows us to move in and out of these spaces. It is not just about the exceeding but also about the armatures themselves. Here, an identification happens, not with mobility as a means but in mobility itself. The spaces of mobility contain potentials which can be developed by, amongst other things, changing the basis for the structural stories by removing the necessity and expectation that there should be a rational reason behind the choice of everyday life mobilities. An interesting focus would be the identity-creating processes in the space of mobility as a means of facilitating new types of community.

Chapter 6

Conclusions

In this book, theories which discuss the relationship between mobility research and transport were used as a way of understanding the dynamics of mobility. These theories were supplemented by others to conceptualize the social aspects of mobility. Concepts such as lifestyle, reflexivity, time, risk, ambivalence, security, freedom, community, etc. are all examples of frames of understanding in which various researchers in recent years have tried to identify new nuances and schisms between attitude and action, behaviour and responsibilities and everyday life and time. These theories were the starting point for this book, where the focus has centred on and around how the individual perceives and understands everyday life mobilities and how this affects their mobility choices. Meaning and Rationalities in Everyday Life This book is a contribution to the empirical research on everyday life mobilities where the construction of meaning is examined through qualitative research. I have shown, through the lens of mobility, how the individual on a daily basis produces and reproduces the foundations for creating the good life – both for themselves and their family. In understanding the meaning behind and the consequences of mobility, it is important to pay attention to the voices of everyday life. These voices reveal the cracks through which mobility patterns can be changed. With a view to capturing those voices, I developed the concept of structural stories. This concept is used as a way of understanding the meaning and action behind everyday mobility, and the apparent rationalities which direct the individual’s use of everyday life mobilities. Illuminating and identifying the structural stories enabled me to examine and unearth the apparent rationalities individuals use in everyday life. Also, it proved to be a way of understanding the individual’s needs and utopias, rarely articulated, when asked about everyday life mobilities. The structural story has the opportunity to clarify concepts and dichotomies which are important priorities in an understanding of the dynamics of mobility. Structural stories are produced and reproduced through daily lives. The media, advertising and the political system sustain this by participating in the production and reproduction of the structural story. This reinforces it, and there is a clear link between the most widely used structural stories in my empirical work and those that infuse the world around us. The structural

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stories concerning ‘children and cars’, ‘late trains’ and ‘the possibilities within mobility’ have a large amount of support in almost all areas of society. This does not mean, however, that alternative structural stories do not exist; they exist but do not have the same strength and, as such, are awaiting the right time to enter the scene. One of these alternative structural stories could be ‘money does not give freedom – community does’. This structural story did not appear often in the material but it does exist. When themes related to mobility are presented in public and everyday life, in most cases, they contain a structural story about ‘necessary’ mobility and how it is best implemented. Mobility Choices Embedded in a Complex Composition of Purpose and Thought The mobility patterns of the individual are based on a series of conscious and unconscious choices. Mobility can, to a great extent, be seen as the means to achieving a specific lifestyle, as lifestyle components are often spread over large geographical areas. It is, to a far higher degree, the lifestyles and their content which are essential to the individual, as opposed to mobility as a precondition for entering into the chosen lifestyles, because constructing an identity by selecting and deselecting lifestyles is essential to the individual. In late modern society there is a pronounced sense of entitlement to happiness which is often closely related to freedom. This has become the fundamental motivation for the individual’s participation in society. In this eternal quest for happiness and the maintenance of freedom, a high degree of mobility is also seen as a fundamental right and condition. Mobility patterns are thus dependent on the lifestyle choices and fragmentation of everyday life. In late modern everyday life, the individual has a wide range of opportunities, and mobility has great significance concerning what binds the possibilities together when an individual works towards constructing the good life. In order to predict and control daily lives, the individual cannot reflect on all decisions made. Therefore, the individual is often very aware of the provisional in the knowledge in which they choose to believe. This constant review, debate and assessment of knowledge and risks – where the media also play a major role – creates a greater sense of risk. This leads to a basic fear and uncertainty in the individual relating to the truth of new knowledge. They cannot be sure that new knowledge will not be reviewed. As such, risks then become, as Beck (1992) states, ‘the blind passenger of normal consumption’. Uncertainties are increasing – even in the parts of the world where security is not merely economically, politically, environmentally or militarily dependent, but very much a matter of social and psychological standing and survival. Therefore, the individual designs structural stories when they offer an apparent rationality to act upon and thus reduces the inevitable ambivalences of choosing certain actions over others. The structural story offers an apparent



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rationality and a matter of course which the individual needs when making choices in everyday life. When a structural story helps master a time-pressured everyday life, it also maintains certain types of mobility as ‘objective truths’ and thus maintains specific types of mobility behaviour. Being ambivalent is an inevitable part of late modern everyday life. Through the structural stories, the individual is then able to manage life with these ambivalences and, as such, they are rarely questioned as ambivalences are something we all share. Late modern mobility is increasingly linked to the use of the car. Automobility has huge environmental impacts, which is why the primary focus lies in the regulation and planning of transport (environmental) problems. However, it is important to bear in mind that mobility in the broadest sense is also discussed, even when being environmentally neutral, since mobility is about societal and everyday life organization. The sociology of mobility works with empirical and theoretical concepts which can capture the social dynamics of the perception of mobility needs and habits. Thus, the sociology of mobility is also about the good life: questions about what the good life can or should contain, how it is achieved and at what expense are asked. The concept of mobility contains both the actual distance travelled but, just as importantly, the potentials for movement. It is in the potential for movement where the opportunities lie – also the possibilities for change. In relation to mobility, the possibilities are, by their very nature, characterized by the individual’s ability to act out and dream of the things they want, when they want and as often as they want. In this way, it is to a high degree in the mobility potentials – in the motility – that mobility as the opportunity creator is associated with late modern life. Therefore, it is also through the potentials that we must understand how mobility becomes the underlying basis for the maintenance of this late modern life. An essential feature of mobility is, therefore, not only the current distance to be travelled, but just as much the potential to be mobile. Motility is closely linked to the idea of freedom as a guiding utopia in daily lives. The idea of the good life is primarily driven or navigated by the utopias of freedom and happiness. Motility has the potential to frame the agenda in creating utopias, when motility offers a focus on the utopias, dreams and potential. These are all aspects which are important priorities when trying to understand the increasing mobility. Mobility has a great influence on the design of daily lives and, as a tighter frame, motility may prove to be a constructive analytical framework in understanding these things precisely. Motility seems close to the utopia of freedom, the freedom with no negative consequences, where a lack of freedom and insecurity does not exist. The consequence of this is that motility and the utopias and ideas surrounding the opportunities we have become what frames ideas of, and the need for, mobility in everyday life. This produces and reproduces the structural story that ‘more mobility gives more freedom’.

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Structural Stories as Analytical Tool The structural story offers an important analytical angle when it gives a voice to the lived everyday life. Thereby, such stories can reveal the cracks from where the alternative structural stories may emanate. The structural story affects the choice of mobility while also simultaneously being used to explain that choice. It is part of a process whereupon it both helps to guide forthcoming choices while also acting as an apparent rationality when these choices are explained and sometimes justified to others and ourselves. Taking the structural stories as the point of departure for the analysis has provided me with an entry into the analysis of freedom, since freedom is a consistent part of many structural stories. By using structural stories, I have come closer to what lies behind the idea of freedom in late modern life, and how daily life and its mobilities are organized based on the idea of creating the good life. This approach has opened up time and space in mobility – as a place where the individual can create spaces or cocoons – which are essential for ontological security. The individual creates in-betweens in mobility and uses the structural stories to rationalize their mobility choices. It has been difficult for my interviewees to precisely convey the mobilities as a need for in-betweens in a pressured late modern everyday life. Mobility addresses a different level in the individual than what is most often articulated. The structural story as an analytical tool opens up this level and shows some of the other needs in the individual satisfied by mobilities. In the spaces of mobility – especially in the space of the car – a time that is one’s own exists. It is not considered all right to say that one drives in the car because of a need for this very space, when this would force the individual to reflect upon how they, to the best of their ability, have created a daily life and routine meeting their needs for freedom and happiness, which do not meet their need for their own place. These in-betweens are perceived as private places – a private thing that cannot immediately be placed within the rational frame of explanation where the individual wants, and has learned, to place everyday life organizing mobilities. In relation to the awareness of risks the individual has, it is difficult to argue that it is all right to pollute when the purpose is not merely transportation. In pressured late modern everyday life, the mobility spaces, especially the car space, are the only alternative left. This is about processes beyond the spacious concrete. The individual installs pleasant in-betweens, and these in-betweens give the flow its own identity. In these mobilities a myriad of different processes takes place, and cannot be considered as purely mobility or transport. We live in a time marked by instantaneous time, but clock time still plays a vital role in our daily lives, when it guides most organization and planning and thus mobilities. Everything the individual expects to achieve and do to meet the need for the good life is conducted by instantaneous time. So, beyond needing to stack activities and fill lives with the ‘right’ activities, individuals are forced



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to navigate a world where they are constantly ready to commute between these two conceptions of time. Mobility contains the duality that helps to overcome this puzzle, while also generating the problems. The structural story is a way to bring order into this constant fragmentation and willingness to adapt, which has become a part of daily lives. Through structural stories, communities are restored, and are able to provide security in a world filled with various ‘fors’ and ‘againsts’. They are not communities which meet the traditional requirements for a community, when they do not necessarily require co-presence. We can be present individually, but these communities created by structural stories give us the safety and security that the world is as it should be and that we live our lives in the most rational and logical manner. Thus we can tell ourselves that there are a lot of things which could probably be done better, but everybody knows that when you have children you need a car and this is how it is. Traditionally, studies on mobility have been divided into categories such as shopping, leisure, work, etc. and have centred on patterns of travel and duration. It has been my ambition to see mobility as a whole. I have therefore chosen not to focus on the specific transport patterns of individuals; this point of departure means that it is another narrative of mobility in everyday life which comes to the fore. It can be argued that the structural stories for some are ‘more real’ than for others due to the dispersed distances between home and places of work. However, this is precisely something it has been my aim to avoid – and one of the main reasons why I have not described actual transport. The structural stories are equally true for all. What has been my interest is the way the individual produces and reproduces these structural stories – and how they are used. Those with long distances between everyday life activities, one way or another, chose this because mobility allows everyday life organization to be spread over a large area. These are not simple choices, but are spun into a series of cultural and social ties, embedded in power relations which make some choices seem impossible. With that in mind, everybody makes a number of choices which all have consequences in one way or another, and my interest has been in examining how rationalities explaining these choices are formed. I have no interest in being the judge on whether or not there is a basis on which to form such a rationale. But, at the same time, I have chosen a homogeneous group of people which allowed me to opt out of the concrete information on material circumstances. The groups of people I chose to interview, were all people with the ability to choose. This is not to say that their lives are not bound by a number of restrictions and limitations. They were all white, middle-class, and with a high level of education, and thus their ties to such matters as class, ethnicity, gender and more, were seen as generally being the same. With this group as a starting point, I was able to produce results which can be tested and applied to other groups of people. It has been very interesting to follow the differences in the negotiations between the interviewees who knew each other, and those who

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did not. It has shown how the structural stories function as rationalities which the individual can share, especially in unfamiliar contexts. The scientific pragmatism which characterizes this book also has an impact on the analysis. I have chosen to hand-pick theoretical angles which, from my standpoint, best highlight an area where traditions of theory are in a process of creation. This might create epistemological challenges since some theorists used in this book have fundamentally theoretical concepts, such as class, which are left out of my analysis. I have, however, taken the liberty of using concepts which I think illuminate the field of mobilities. Structural Stories and Mobility Choices The concept of freedom stands out as one of the key concepts when the individual narrates his or her mobility behaviour. Many of the structural stories can be traced back to the idea of freedom. Some of the reasoning could read like this: ‘When one has children, one needs a car or else my freedom is restricted even more than it already is because of my responsibility towards others.’ Another example could be ‘The train is always late and therefore it restricts my freedom to do the things I want, and to be an effective player in the labour market. So many things in my life are planned, and if I, on top of that, have to be susceptible to a train schedule, I have even less freedom’. It is finally exemplified in the story that ‘The car gives me some options no other means of transport gives me. Having opportunities makes me feel freer, the utopian idea of freedom I guide my life by. A freedom which I know is utopian, but nevertheless stands as a guide, when I try to create the good life’. As the above shows, freedom is embedded in the structural stories, not least because the idea of freedom is historically linked to the idea of mobility. Automobility as a technology is marketed through the concept of freedom, and it is tempting to say that no other technology has caused so much unfreedom for others. This technology takes up a lot of space in relation to how many people are transported, with roads, parking lots and other materialities being used to facilitate automobility, which largely occupy the spaces of our cities. Those not using the car will thus be limited in their use of space, not the least because of the increased sense of risks which the growing automobility also results in. The dichotomy between freedom and unfreedom is not a zerosum game – there is a lot in between. But this dichotomy touches upon the ambivalences found in the mobile everyday life and has the ability to open up the reconciliations these ambivalences also contain. This dichotomy also poses the question of why a specific type of mobility (automobility) is seen as freedom-creating, while others (public transport) which contain other aspects of freedom, are perceived as unfree. Some of the interviewees expressed that it bothers them more to wait five minutes for a train than to sit queuing in the car for the same amount of time.



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Individuals seem to feel that they have more control in the car, whereas in the public transport system others are controlling them. When the train is delayed, there is also someone to blame – the state – but in a traffic jam you can only blame others who are in the same situation unless, of course, you require more, and wider, roads. Given time, the majority of people – especially those who use it regularly – are in fact satisfied with the public transport system. But the structural story contributes to maintaining the ‘worst case’ scenario on public transport and ‘best case’ scenario on automobility. The structural stories described in this book are the ones I have most often encountered. Thus, it appears that freedom is connected to the possibility of automobility. However, there are alternative structural stories, which emphasizes that automobilty has freed the individual from a number of structures but has also inflicted some new ones. One of the most evident examples of this is demonstrated when considering the queues in the city and on the highway each day. Passengers in the public transport system also feel that their mobility gives them freedom, a freedom which is in many ways, they believe, greater than when they use the car. The public transport user is like the car driver – pressed into certain structures and systems – but in the process of getting from ‘a’ to ‘b’, the public transport user has his or her own time to spend on what he/she finds most comfortable. While being mobile, the public transport user is not forced to pay attention to certain structures and systems required by automobility. As such, the car driver feels free in mobility, because he/she is not forced to use another mode of transport. The public transport user feels free in mobility because of the possibility of not having to consider anything. It does seem, however, that the good stories relating to the public transport system often appear after a while but negative ones are clearer and often more vividly present. The negative image of the public transport system is closely related to the symbolic values of this mobility, which are produced and reproduced through the structural stories. The need to create in-betweens in mobility shows that a constant acceleration, and thus increased speed, is not the only voice that exists in modern everyday life. However, creating the in-betweens through mobility earns character of a Sisyphus project. Through mobility it seems that the individual, in many ways, eliminates the chance to meet the needs for inbetweens in other places besides mobility. The great challenge for the future will be to find ways through mobility where the inequalities and the unintended consequences of mobility maintained by the structural stories can reach balance. Automobility is ambivalent and gives the individual opportunities while simultaneously applying restrictions on everyday mobility. Today, it seems that daily life is modulated into structures forcing the individual to keep moving. Through understanding and acknowledging the structural stories, it becomes possible to ask questions about, and deconstruct, knowledge that structural stories are composed of which is taken for granted, thus creating new mobility rationales.

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Understanding the meanings ascribed to mobility in everyday life does not have to be limited to a single scale. European and international politics – advertising both locally and globally – and news from all parts of the world play a key role in our need for mobility in everyday life, and not the least for the production and reproduction of the structural stories. With this book being based on everyday life, it is with a sense of different scales playing a crucial role. The materialities of mobility and the constructions of meaning span through all scales in an ongoing process. The story of mobility in everyday life is therefore a story travelling in space and time. The critical question which arises from this research may thus not be limited to daily life, but is very much about community and everyday life organization in the broadest perspective. One considerable challenge is to find ways to create more ‘slow time’ and more frequently occurring cocoons in everyday life, instead of in mobility, a project to which there are no simple solutions when success criteria in late modern everyday life are not about slow time and pace. The critical element in this context could be a discussion on how mobilities could be built up from an all-new criterion where automobility does not play the leading role. It is about finding ways to dissolve the strongest structural stories and create space for the weaker ones to enter the arena. It is also about stripping away the structural story of ‘more mobility gives more freedom’, and instead finding freedom in the enclaves. Mobilities will always play a significant role in our daily lives, but the challenge is now to find a level where many different types of mobility – both the slow and fast, quiet and the noisy, and motor- and human-driven – play together by meeting various needs in everyday life.

Chapter 7

Postscript: Ambivalences, Sustainability and Utopias

My work with mobility and transport has focused on everyday life. In this work, I have visited various transport companies, had discussions and completed research on sustainable cities with policy and planning researchers. This has been very valuable and improved my understanding of the materiality and politics of mobility. In this chapter, I wish to elaborate on some of these issues, which are all closely related to, and interdependent on, everyday life mobility. It seems unnecessary to state that everyday life, policy and planning – and thus the materiality of mobility – are highly interconnected, since sustaining and changing mobility habits and patterns is a societal matter. When working with individual’s everyday life habits, the question often arises: how to change individuals transport habits? My aim is not to provide an exhaustive response to this question. I do, however, wish to share the ideas, visions and utopias I have come across, and suggest where work on changing the autologic’s grip on late modern times can start. In recent years, climate change has again been placed high on the political agenda, drawing huge numbers of media headlines worldwide. Its importance has been further defined through the awarding of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize to both the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and Al Gore for their efforts ‘to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change’ (Nobel Prize 2007). The basis for this nomination was Al Gore’s film An Inconvenient Truth, which shows how the world is affected by climate change. From my point of view, what is successful about this film is that the blame for the current climate change is not placed on the individual. It does, however, point out the common – and thus individual – responsibility we, as a global society, have for our world. In my opinion, this film has played a paramount role in placing the global environment and climate change firmly on the political and media agenda and thus into everyday consciousness. However, despite its worldwide acclaim, Al Gore’s movie has still been the focus of criticism for removing politics from the climate agenda, making apocalyptic claims and thus annihilating critical debates concerning the root causes of this issue (Swyngedouw 2006). While this may be a valid criticism which has to be taken seriously, it is also not a path I intend to follow within this chapter. The re-entry of climate change has also affected mobility research, in which the significance of the consequences of automobilities for the climate

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has become an important topic (Urry 2007). Cars are visibly occupying city space, causing expansion into what was previously defined as the countryside. Therefore, automobility has profound and highly visible consequences, which increase the ambivalences of everyday life mobility choices. Changing individuals’ everyday habits in relation to transport – the car being the most preferred and favourable of transportation choices – is an incredibly difficult task. As this book has shown, these mobility habits are interwoven in a complex spin of late modern, everyday life needs and wishes. With this, everyday life ambivalence has become an invertible part of everyday life; a part of life we have learned to navigate and sometimes ignore. By recognizing and understanding this ambivalence, a space can be opened up from where change can be initiated and implemented. Just as everyday life is affected by policy and planning, policy and planning are conducted by individuals who also live in everyday life and thus they are interrelated. The individuals in the process of creating plans for the building or rebuilding of cities also have an everyday life filled with structural stories and taken for granted knowledge. Thereby, this book is not only about the ‘others’ with no influences on politics, advertising and planning systems. Changing mobility habits is just as much about the creator of plans where autologic plays a decisive role. In this chapter, I will discuss possible ways to address the core of everyday life mobility praxis, touching upon visions and utopias for different kinds of cities where autologic does not dominate. My way to the utopias will begin with the state of ambivalence since, as previously stated, this is the place from where the desire for change can begin and grow. I will discuss how the ambivalence of everyday life mobilities can be used as social learning, and thus affect the individual and the possibilities of creating common utopias as a way forward. Ambivalences as Social Learning In late modern life, the individual has developed a need to seek out new and different social interactions and is no longer restrained by tradition, place, social relationships and activities. Mobility, most often the car, provides independence and the possibility to seek out new places, while at the same time forcing us to design lifestyles which, in a more precise way, show and demonstrate who we are or want to be. The choices we constantly need to make and, consequently, the reflexivity which is an overriding part of late modern lives create an increased sense of risk. Knowing that we can never know for sure whether or not we are making the right choices creates a profound sense of ambivalence, accompanying the individual in everyday life as a loyal companion. As I showed in Chapter 3, questioning individuals concerning their mobility patterns in relation to the environment and health brings out the ambivalences most clearly. Knowing that automobility in particular has major



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consequences – which we have (re)learned from the massive media attention on climate change – creates insecurity and as such most individuals choose to evade the issue. Standing alone with a problem – the fact that the world (not the least transport) is producing too much CO2 – and facing it head on, is difficult and therefore it is easier to ignore it. However, because of the massive attention to the issue, this is not entirely possible and subsequently ambivalence in the individual is born. Ambivalence can have an overwhelming impact on everyday life and result in paralysis if not dealt with through routines (Aagaard Nielsen 1996). This can be part of the explanation as to why it is so hard to change individuals’ transport habits. A greater awareness of the potential problems concerning one’s specific mode of transport does not, it seems, create a greater and more urgent tendency to change everyday mobility patterns, even if such recommended changes were perceived by the individual as being more healthy and beneficial for the environment and themselves. But, ambivalences do not necessarily have to mean paralysis. Becker-Schmidt (1999) discusses how ambivalences create social learning. Focusing on women’s everyday lives, she describes two kinds of ambivalence, ‘ambivalence-tolerance’ and ‘ambivalence-defence’, as a way to describe how to learn to live with ambivalences and defend oneself against them. This is the effect of late modern everyday life and ambivalence is thereby the answer to both outer and inner conflicts. It is known that we learn to live with, adapt to, and navigate around some ambivalences, while we ignore or evade others. Social learning is about recognizing the ambivalences and their causes. It is a way of handling them and assuming that things can improve – not understood as contradictions that can be dissolved – but that individuals can handle ambivalences better when recognizing them (BeckerSchmidt 1999). This way of understanding ambivalences is constructive and hopeful when it indicates a way out, in which the ambivalences are not merely paralysing parts of late modern everyday life with which we learn to live and accept and navigate around, but instead a place for learning and evolving. The most important thing is then to create communities for social learning, when the responsibility for changing mechanisms of late modern life is impossible to handle alone. We need to share responsibilities including the responsibilities of what we have learned to consider within the individual sphere (FreudendalPedersen and Hartmann-Petersen 2006). The empirical work used in this book consisted of personal interviews, followed by focus groups with the same people. The focus groups showed the longing for the creation of a common ‘us’. The focus group was a forum for social learning, where structural stories were negotiated and questioned. This happened as a result of the interviewees’ willingness to be open and to enter a space for different stories, created by my role as questioner of the structural stories. It made the participants lower their defences and play with and consider the idea of different and new utopias. Recognizing that others have the same longings for creating or maintaining old and new communities

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– where dealing with the experienced problems of everyday life mobilities was possible – uncovered and highlighted additional ways of explaining the world around them. Ambivalences of Power and Freedom in Mobilities Bauman (1995) argues that re-establishing the individual as a moral actor is a consequence of a common understanding that it is impossible to achieve one specific certain order in our knowledge on social life. With this in mind, it then becomes difficult to maintain one set of collected societal ethics with rules for what is deemed as ‘correct’ behaviour. This means that the responsibility for deciding actions and what is morally correct then falls back on to the individual. Thereby, individuals are forced to relate to moral issues emerging in everyday life, where most actions are conducted by routine (Bauman 1995). Bauman discusses two kinds of morality: conformity-morals, whereby the individual is responsible in relation to expressed conventions or institutional rules, and second responsibility-morals, where the individual is responsible to someone or something based on a personal commitment. The following discussion which took place in the focus group demonstrates the two kinds of moral overlapping. The discussion was concerned with the relations between power and freedom when driving a car: It’s freedom of movement, one can decide certain things. One can’t have power in a car. I have problems with juxtaposing power and freedom. I don’t like that. I have no power when I drive a car, well yes, maybe if I bought a Hummer. It’s not power, maybe you are in control of the situation, but one doesn’t control others. But don’t you have more power in traffic than the ones riding a bike? I can feel free but not powerful. I love driving fast, but it does not make me feel powerful. No, but I could imagine that certain types do.

The way the interviewees handle the issue of power indicates huge problems when they consider the consequences for their behaviour that their



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mobilities could potentially have on other people. They can relate to power as something diffusible, but will not accept having power over other people unless, of course, they can attach the feeling of power to ‘certain types’. If an individual’s mobility habits entails power over other people, responsibilitymorals set in and their conformity-morals tell them that having power over others because of transport habits is neither all right nor acceptable. Thereby their responsibility-morals conflict with their conformity-morals. The climate change agenda is, in this way, creating massive conflicts and thus ambivalences in the individual. By their everyday life mobility routines, they draw a specific future path for their next-door neighbour. This is tough for our conformitymorals and my claim is that apocalyptic visions on future environments are visions producing ambivalences because of the individual as a moral actor. It is reasonable to consider that when a conformity-moral is challenged, guilt would be the outcome. However, when I look at my empirical work, guilt is not present, and yet one could argue that it is evident through the structural stories, when guilt first and foremost produces ambivalences and thereby structural stories. An individualized society, where everybody is forced to create their own version of the good life while pursuing freedom and happiness, does not have room for added bad conscience. The individual has many threats hanging over his or her head and the most immediate ones are those directly related to their own body, such as food, smoking, exercise and so on. Issues and concerns such as climate change, which are related to the common and not instantly visible in everyday life, do not – or very rarely – get considered as there simply is no space left for individuals to worry over so many different aspects of their own lives and the world around them. As such, the climate discussion can swing two ways: Either it can produce guilt, ambivalence and new structural stories, or else it also has the opportunity of challenging the existing structural stories, making them unfold in new and surprising ways, creating utopias. This is challenged through, amongst other things, the close connection between freedom and mobility. A value system created through modernity and sustained among other things through mobility, the freedom of movement, which today is seen as a fundamental right (Sennett 1977; Kaufmann 2002; Urry 2007; Freudendal-Pedersen 2007a; 2007b). The following quotation is a few years old, and although I did not find it in such an extreme form in my most recent interviews approximately four years later, this quotation still highlights the clear connection between mobility and freedom, and the right to drive a car without restraints: Raising the price on petrol, I would see as harassment against the people who choose to transport themselves, harassment against those who choose to be active instead of using the public transportation system. I would see it as a suggestion from the socialists against those who act on their own. I would definitely see it as a political move, not to protect the environment.

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Although this extreme kind of statement is rare, it does, however, illuminate how the freedom of movement is considered fundamental in late modern everyday life; a freedom where inequalities are not considered, although quite apparent for the individual when moving around in the car (Urry 2007; Freudendal-Pedersen 2007a; 2007b). When asked directly, the group did acknowledge willingly that the car provides freedom – though not a freedom with consequences for others: I guess freedom is when you can do more than others can. No, it’s not. If everybody else is hanging around and waiting for the bus and one can just get into one’s car, then one feels really free. It’s not dependent on others. No, maybe it doesn’t have to influence others, but if in the 60s you went on a package holiday it was free, people could say to one another, I can do this because I can afford it. But today you would not feel free going on a package holiday, because everybody else can do that, and there would be a lot of other Danes. Then one doesn’t feel very free. It’s a question of being able to do something others can’t, then one feels freer.

Mobility for some does create immobility for others (Beckmann 2001; Drewes Nielsen 2005) and the freedom the individual gets from automobility has consequences not just for others but also for the individual themselves to a very high degree. As Bauman (1995) would say, the modern project of ethics seeks to ground moral choices and rationalize accessible principles universally, and by doing so, relive the individual of the ambivalence – the ambivalence of freedom. In late modern life we have the freedom to define and create the good life on our own. Traditions no longer force on us specific communities with specific rules. The problem with this freedom is, however, that to a large extent it does put responsibility back on individuals as a heavy burden (Beck 1992b). Thereby, a deeper sense of insecurity is created and thus ambivalence due to the fact that we each are alone with the responsibility of our actions (Bauman 1988). Communities, Sustainability and Sustainable Cities Communities can be powerful by common vision or a joint project to enter in. Offhand, it is difficult to understand and comprehend how this could be possible in relation to mobility. The best example is when new housing



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projects or areas are planned with the potential for new communities built on sustainability at several levels. When considering sustainable cities, it encompasses a comprehensive gateway to sustainability, which includes social, economic, political/institutional and environmental criteria; a definition presented by the Brundtland Commission in the report Our Common Future (1987). The concept of sustainability can be seen as an attempt to problematize the interaction between human society and the natural environment, focusing on institutional, economic, ecological and social aspects. Sustainability is, however, not a homogeneous concept; it is a complex concept, for which there is no consensus in praxis, apart from the overall – and quite broad – principles. The concept is, at any time or context, actively designed for whatever purpose or subject it is used for. When sustainability is addressed in relation to the city, there are a number of issues relevant, such as water, energy, waste, food, and transport. What is striking when looking through literature on sustainable cities, however, is that transport is always raised as one of the major challenges in making cities sustainable (Beatley 2000; Giradet 2004; Burdett and Sudjic 2007; Newman and Jennings 2008). Transport has a visible imprint on the city, and it seems to be quite difficult and challenging to change, despite there being different levels of solutions to the challenges created by the growing mobility. For some, it seems that there is the idea that life can continue as always by subsidizing the technologies of environmental problematic hazards with new kinds of technologies, such as bio-diesel blends. This viewpoint only considers the environmental consequences of mobility and ignores the social and economic side effects. Others take the apocalyptic standpoint, expecting that the world will come to an end unless it wakes up: ‘Call me a utopian. Call me what you will, but the solutions are right in front of our noses. If only we care to look, to see and to ask we will find the answers, and then maybe, just maybe, we will realize that the solution is not for sale’ (Sinclair 2007). In diverse strategies of cities today, the concept of sustainability is placed at the top of the agenda – but with an overall emphasis on how to earn money by creating sustainable strategies. Anything else would probably be unrealistic in a neoliberal society, but it constitutes a dilemma: can we continue as hard core consumers and still expect to create a sustainable future? Planning cities with the goal of economic growth as the primary objective has been the way forward for cities during the last century. Because of the firmly seated discourse that more mobility gives more growth, the planning has been centred on creating infrastructural systems, dominated by the autologic. The private car has been seen as the starting point for growth, alongside the logistic networks (Jensen and Richardson 2004). Today, we see cities where the consequences of these planning strategies are visible and showing consequence, especially in larger cities which are articulating the unintended consequences of mobility and their infrastructural systems. Sudjic (2007) conveys this in The Endless City, which details the outcomes of the Urban Age Project: ‘… it

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may well be that cities are more often the product of unintended consequences than of anything else’ (35). The Urban Age Project is an investigation into the future of cities, organized by the London School of Economics and Political Science. ‘Given that more than half of the world’s population is now living in cities – a number that is likely to reach 75 per cent by 2050, while it was only 10 per cent in 1900 – these urban questions have become truly global ones with significant consequences for the future of our planet’ (Burdett and Sudjic 2007, 8). The investigation extends across the continents with an international and interdisciplinary network of national and local policy makers, academic experts and urban practitioners. The Cities Programme was established at the LSE in 1996, its main objective being to link the urban social sciences with the built environment. For this purpose, they have engaged a mix of internationally renowned specialists and practical and theoretical expertise in fields ranging from governance and urban crime to housing, city design and transport. The idea is to examine world cities and use the knowledge produced to learn from each other in an attempt to produce a better future for our cities. What the examination so far has showed is: … that beneath the skin of at least six world cities lie deep connections between social cohesion and build form, between sustainability and density, between public transport and social justice, between public space and tolerance, and between good governance and good cities that matter to the way urban citizens live their lives. Perhaps more so than ever before, the shape of cities, how much land they occupy, how much energy they consume, how their transport infrastructure is organized and were people are housed – in remote, segregated environments behind walls or in integrated neighborhoods close to jobs, facilities and transport – all affected the environmental, economic and social sustainability of global society. One of the overriding realizations of the Urban Age is that cities are not just concentrations of problems – which they are – but they are also were problems can be solved. (Burdett and Sudjic 2007, 23)

Shanghai is one of the cities investigated by the Urban Age Project in collaboration with local practitioners, politicians and planners. In Shanghai the decision to build upwards, with massive road systems in multiple layers, was made in order to accumulate economic growth. Because of sheer scale of traffic flows in and around the city, bicycles and motorcycles are banned in certain streets where they could possibly create congestion. The decision to accommodate growth by building high, with isolated point blocks surrounded by car ramps and empty open space, is damaging the subtle urban grain of a city of immense character and dynamic street life. Shanghai’s city planners are aware that in the pursuit of economic progress



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mistakes are being made that at some point in the future will need to be corrected. (Burdett and Sudjic 2007, 19)

Nevertheless, large cities such as Shanghai are put forward as demonstrative models of ways of creating sustainable cities in the future. This is not, however, due to their current structures and systems but due to the fact that each of these cities has the opportunity to create sustainable systems for many, with regards to sustainable buildings, renewable energy, the sorting of waste, the reuse of rainwater, and public transport. What this view represents is a focus on the potentials instead of the problems. However, it is important to note that this is not my way of suggesting that we should ignore the massive problems encompassed by big cities, but rather that we need instead to embrace the possibilities of recreating and learning from the faults of the past. Sennett (2007) expresses this in relation to our sense of time: ‘What is missing in modern urbanism is a sense of time – not time looking backwards nostalgically but forward-looking time: the city understood as process, its imagery changing through use, an urban imagination image formed by anticipation, welcoming surprises’ (290). Sennett discusses welcoming surprises and imagining the city. This is not a new idea (see, for example, Amin and Thrift 2003), but nevertheless it seems that the technological aspects of the city surpasses the lived life. And just as technologies can create new visions and be open-minded, they can also be narrowing and unimaginative for a mindset. Sennett goes back to urbanist Jane Jacobs’ ideas of the open city – an open form where incompleteness is encompassed. The idea is to make flexible architecture which simulates buildings or creates new open spaces around themselves, architecture which can be added to. Today, planners have an arsenal of technological tools and are working within an over-determination of visual form and social functions. ‘The technologies that make experiment possible have been subordinated to a regime of power that wants order and control’ (Sennett 2007, 290). This argument can be related to an idea presented by Zeitler (1998). He suggests removing all traffic regulation, thus forcing the individual to develop ethics and morality in relation to each other, when moving around in traffic. Removing traffic regulations would require planners to be creative in getting infrastructure to work, when today the infrastructural system is a closed form, sustaining certain types of transport modes and behaviour. As I will show in the following examples, several projects of building new, or changing already existing systems are being undertaken around the world with sustainability as a focal point. These can be seen as small islands of hope where planners, politicians and, in some cases, the inhabitants of the cities are trying to create new sustainable cities.

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Examples of Sustainable cities from a Mobility Perspective The first two examples are from Denmark; examples which, in their overall ideas, are alike in many ways, although their physical location is quite different. First, there is the rural location, where a new city – Store Rørbæk, approximately 50 km from Copenhagen – is being planned. The project was initiated in cooperation with several local and national policy and planning bodies. In the planning phase of this city, different experts were convened to make their bids on how to create a good city, which meets the needs and requirements of late modern everyday life. As a part of this, an expert group on transport and mobility was asked to discuss how best to create good mobility for most people. The discussion was focused on proximity to stations, systems of cycle and walking paths, car-free areas and low-speed roads with a high-speed canal into the industrial area, improved public transport and more. The result was a vision for the new city, where automobility did not have first priority but was instead a city which ‘combines health and mobility, among other things, through a transport system that invites to movement by one’s own power’ and ‘a city of traffic solutions that priorities children, the elderly and cyclists over car drivers’ (Frederikssund commune, 2004 [my translation]). One of the main ideas conveyed for this city’s mobility concerns how children will be able to transport themselves. This could create more time in a time-pressured society, and thus perhaps an opportunity to find room for in-betweens elsewhere than in mobility. Unfortunately, the project has now stalled, but it would still be interesting to see an actual example of lives being lived in this city, where automobility from the outset does not have first priority. The other Danish example is the urban Carlsberg area in Copenhagen. It is a huge industrial site located in the outskirts of the Copenhagen city centre where residential areas, sports and recreational areas and light industry are being planned. It is unique that a vast area inside the city of Copenhagen is laid out for an overall planning. Carlsberg A/S has moved the brewery away from this area where it had previously been located for 150 years, but they are, however, holding on to the property until the overall frames for the new area are created. The price of land in Copenhagen has risen tremendously during the last 10 years and Carlsberg is located in the middle of an expensive housing area. The fact that whole areas are currently being developed collectively provides a unique opportunity to create a different priority of mobilities in the area. From the preliminary plans, it seems that an area where automobility does not have first priority is being created. Instead, it is intended that most facilities should be within walking or cycling distance. Alongside, there is an overall aim of creating free spaces and communities and thus an organization of everyday life with the opportunity to ease the pressure on the individual. How the project develops – and whether the opportunity gives consideration to mobility and also whether a different everyday life is seriously contemplated – will be an exciting process to follow.



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In addition, there are also examples of new cities being built from the outset as car-free cities. A new zero-carbon city, Masdar in the United Arab Emirates, is being built in the desert outside the city of Abu Dhabi. The city is planned to be constructed over seven phases and is due to be completed by 2016. The city has been designed to be car-free and to encourage walking and public transport, so there is a maximum 200m walking distance to any of the nearest transport links. In addition, the climate and location of the new city has been taken into consideration throughout the design process. Due to hot summers experienced in the region – with temperatures up to 40C° – locals drive their cars instead of walking when it becomes too hot to walk the streets. This is reflected in the planning of the cities in the area, since there are no pavements within the city. This is, of course, an interesting case for discussion and debate: were the cities planned without pavements because nobody ever walks, or is nobody walking because the cities were created without pavements? In Masdar, narrow streets and shaded walkways are planned with a view to creating a pedestrian-friendly environment in the context of Abu Dhabi’s extreme climate. In order to progress change further, part of the city will also be covered with a large solar roof, providing the city with solar energy thus providing shade and a much-needed reusable energy resource. In addition, wind towers will funnel air through the city as natural air conditioning. As such, mobility in this city is reliant on walking and public transport. As sustainability is an important part of the policy agenda, the preparation for the Olympic Games in London 2012 is being developed from an allencompassing sustainability perspective. Thus, factors such as water, energy, waste, sustainable buildings and transport have been given much consideration in the construction of the Olympic Park. The Olympic Park will be built in one of London’s most underdeveloped areas – Lower Lea Valley. The hope is that the development of the Olympic Park in this area will trigger positive development, providing new collective transport facilities, employment, housing, parks, cultural and sport facilities. The majority of land in Lower Lea Valley is occupied by derelict industrial land and poor housing, divided by underused waterways, pylons, roads, the London Underground and railway lines. The Olympic Park plans to reuse and recycle the materials from the demolishment and clearing of the area. An example of the reuse of materials in the Olympic Park development is the reuse of timber, York stone and granite setts, which will all be used in paving and features. By using the materials already on the site, the need for transport of building materials is reduced drastically, as is expense. By weight, at least 90 per cent of the material from the demolition works will be reused or recycled. In addition, 50 per cent of the materials by weight will be transported to and from the Olympic Park by water or rail during construction. It is evident that the building of the Olympic Park in London is not only about creating a sustainable site in relation to energy, water, waste and, of course, transport, but is also about considering

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the enormous amount of transportation involved in building new cities, while placing paramount importance on recycling. What each of these four projects has in common is the overall idea of creating city spaces where automobility – and the facilities supporting this – has a subordinated role. These areas have the opportunity of becoming small enclaves of gated communities with the benefits of car-free environments on the inside, but with the ability to use the car as frequently as ever on the outside, such as in scenarios experienced in a wide range of cities, where car-free areas have been implemented (Peters 2006). On the other hand, importantly, these projects have an overall idea of a learning aspect. There is a vision behind each design which is focused around minimizing the unintended consequences of mobility, and creating communities with a high degree of sustainable mobility in both social and environmental terms. Making Space for Other Mobilities Recreating infrastructure in a city seems a difficult project. In Bogatá, Columbia, the city’s former mayor, Enrique Peñalosa, in 1998 initiated the move towards a more sustainable transport system by way of creating extensive cycle paths and a rapid bus system. A protected bicycle lane may be politically irrelevant in Holland, but in a city in a developing country it is a powerful symbol, showing that a citizen on a US$30 bicycle is as important as one in a US$30,000 car. A protected bicycle lane along every street is not a cute architectural fixture, but a basic democratic right – unless one believes that only those with access to a car have a right to safe mobility. Quality pavements and bicycle lanes show respect for human dignity, regardless of the level of economic development of a society. Many citizens in economically advanced societies cannot drive, because they are too young or too old, or because they have some kind of disability. A democratic city must be designed for the most vulnerable of its members. (Peñalosa 2007, 313)

More than 300 km of cycle lanes (ciclorutas) were built in Bogotá, stretching from the slum areas and suburbs right into the capital’s centre. The ciclorutas is an ongoing project under constant development. Since the construction of the ciclorutas, bicycle usage has increased by five times in the city, now with an estimated 300,000–400,000 daily bicycle trips made in Bogotá. Bogotá has also improved the public transport system. The city has no metro, instead implementing and providing a quick and affordable rapid transit system in the form of buses, known as the TransMilenio, The TransMilenio consists of numerous elevated stations in the centre of main avenues. The buses have dedicated lanes and throughout the station, extra lanes allow express buses to



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pass through without stopping. ‘A city is a vision as well as a mechanism, in the sense that Bogatá’s bus lanes represent an ideal of easy movement for the masses, as opposed to a negative regulatory system to force through change on the owners of private cars’ (Sudjic 2007, 44). In early 2006, the ridership was providing 1,050,000 trips per day. Because of the restriction on private cars in the inner city during rush hour, the TransMilenio buses run three times as fast as a typical New York bus. As such, and with so many changes introduced, Bogotá’s vehicle traffic has reduced by 40 per cent through restrictions by licence plate. Odd or even numbers regulate automobility during peak hours in the entire urban area and, with the overall goal of making the roads more pedestrian-friendly, the city has also removed a large number of parking places. ‘Cars parked on pavements and parking bays carved where there should be pavements are symbols of a democratic deficit and a lack for human dignity. It shows that the needs of citizens with a car are considered more carefully than those of people who walk’ (Peñalosa 2007, 313). In addition, car-free Sundays have a long tradition in Bogotá. On car-free Sundays, the streets are used as a large open park, with free exercise offers for the whole family. This, it seems, is an effective way of showing how the large amount of city space – normally used to facilitate automobility – can widely expand the free space of those with everyday lives in the city. Experiencing the ability to move freely in large areas is often a reason as to why people choose to move to the suburbs, where more space is available. The same applies when considering the people of New York or Copenhagen who are using the city parks and water front. The experience of having a large amount of space available when cars are not there is a significant tool in showing the inequalities and space-consuming factors of automobility. Automobility has a big impact on the lived life in the city, so the following suggestion from Peñalosa seems fair: ‘Just as environmental impact studies are mandatory, ‘human impact’ studies should be required for all infrastructure projects’ (Peñalosa 2007, 313). However, it does seem that even in wealthy cities where autologic has the dominant role, other modes of transport are regaining space and priority on the roads. While on a short stay in New York in the spring of 2008, I spotted a marked and painted cycle lane in the streets of Brooklyn which caused me to stop and realize the developments. This neighbourhood has a vast amount of cars, especially SUVs. However, in this instance, something different and somewhat contradictory caught my eye: a large new Hummer with a pair of baby shoes hanging from the front window. Next to the Hummer, however, was a painted green cycle lane, marking its territory on the streets. While these painted cycle roads are a very common sight in Denmark or Holland, for instance, in New York it was strange and refreshing to experience how other modes of transport are managing to reclaim space from the automobility ‘norm’. These projects are small islands of optimism – but they are not enough. Each day the individual has to create and implement ‘the good life’, proving

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it to both themselves and their family. Following this, the responsibility for the environmental, safety and health problems from mobilities, rests on the individual. This is a heavy burden – one which is difficult and overwhelming for the individual to tackle alone. ‘It doesn’t matter what I do because everybody else is indifferent’, is a comment I often hear when talking to individuals about limiting their automobility. This is why it is important that, as a starting point in changing mobility behaviour, the responsibility is not only placed on the individual. Instead, we need overall visions and strategies to lean on and a firm set of guidelines to help us. It is also important to focus on the solutions to traffic problems most frequently chosen today, which are often responsible for creating new problems. One of my preferred examples is the extension of the Ring Road 3 surrounding Copenhagen. The conclusion of the EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) report states that this extension will generate more traffic, and thus the congestion is expected to return to its current level within five years from the end of construction. The question then arises as to how to solve the congestion problem when it returns. Maybe the answer comes in the form of expanding the road one more time, but then when will it stop? The model used for calculating the congestion on Ring 3 has incorporated a logic which states that the widening of roads generates more traffic, if not complemented by other actions to reduce automobility – such as creating new public transport. Thereby, the method of calculation in itself shows that it is imperative to have many strategies and visions working together if we are not to end up in a vicious cycle of widening. If all new bottlenecks in the transport system are only perceived as technical problems, widening will not lead to an equal approach and accessibility. Security and freedom will not be increased, but automobility will systematically grow and thus manifest its position as the only possible type of everyday life mobility. Looking at the comparisons between cities in the Urban Age Project, it seems obvious that the price for passengers using public transport increases in line with the GDP per capita. Once more individuals are faced with the possibility and opportunity of buying their own car, the city seems to stop maintaining a good, efficient and cheap public transport system, creating a detrimental and less-approachable effect: ‘The city is a complex interaction of issues and ambitions that are shaped by the everyday choices of its citizens as much as by their political leaders or their officials, but these are also governed by the behaviour of the marketplace. In the development of a city, the involvement of oil companies and car builders is as significant as the role of the financial institutions that make house-building possible’ (Sudjic 2007, 44). As described in Chapter 4, it seems that the public transport system has an impossible task ahead in trying to regain passengers, not least because of opposing political and economic interests. Still, a range of attempts to improve mobility without it being auto-dependent exists. In spite of an aim to oblige the need for flexibility and low friction in everyday life, many of these attempts are unsuccessful. One might be tempted to say that this is because of the way



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the world around these attempts is planned from an autologic point of view, where all other means of transport are subordinates of the car (Urry 2007; Newman and Kenworthy 1999). The public transport system therefore has the major task of competing with automobility, which is usually perceived as offering far more freedom, flexibility and reliability. The public transport system has the possibility of providing a flexible, mobile, everyday life. One way of doing this would be to integrate all transport modes as a part of the collective system. This has been attempted in different places around the world, for instance, in Germany. Deutche Bahn has a strategy aimed at integrating all types of mobility, creating door-to-door mobility. In addition to the traditional technologies, cars and bicycles are also a part of the public transport system. ‘Call bikes’ are placed at the stations, and released by using a code obtained by calling the phone number listed on the bicycle. Payment is then taken by credit card or mobile phone bill. Also, a rented car, ordered through the internet or by phone can be waiting at a station if the final destination is not accessible by public transport. Businessmen are the most frequent users of cars, because they thereby have free time on the train without the concern of how to reach the final destination. Deutche Bahn’s Smartcard can be used for all transport modes, including cars and bicycles. Many of my interviewees find that the most stressful and inflexible aspect of public transport is having to change transport modes and thus being susceptible to even small delays. Such integration of all mobilities in the same system improves the possibility to choose mobility deemed most appropriate in the situation. Despite this effort to make the system more flexible, Deuche Bahn, like most other public transport systems, still struggles with a bad public image. Democratization of Mobility The only place I have met a representative from the public transport system who claimed there was no image problem was in Zurich, where the ZVV is the provider of public transport. I was, however, not presented with any evidence of a positively represented or conveyed reputation. According to the representative, the issue came partly down to the fact that choosing between a new road or a new tram was made through referendums. This forced citizens to consider which kind of mobility they wanted in the city. All things being equal, it is a case which would be interesting to examine further from an everyday life perspective. Perhaps it may well have a great impact and future importance, forcing the individual to actively take a stand on which kinds of mobility they wish the city to encompass. It would put focus on things taken for granted in everyday life. Whether or not the representative from ZVV is right about their image is not to say, but taking a position on mobility solutions could potentially give the individual different ownership.

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On the other hand, stories regarding forced mobility solutions which have turned out to be a success also exist. The most often referred to example is congestion charging in London. Reducing traffic in and around the inner city of London quickly became a success, leading to reduced traffic levels and pollution, shorter journey times and better air quality. As part of the scheme, all net revenue has been invested in improving public transport in London, with the revenue in 2006/2007 at an estimated £123 million. To further the success of this scheme, there has also been a 43 per cent increase in cycling within the zone and a subsequent reduction in accidents and traffic pollution – and no effect on property prices. The story concerning the former Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, being re-elected in spite of the implementation of congestion charging, has been highlighted as an example of how the experiences of reduced traffic can change public opinions. As mentioned earlier, the autologic dominates the civil society today. Urry (2007) goes as far as suggesting that ‘civil society in most countries should now be re-conceptualized as a civil society of “car-drivers” and “car-passengers”’ (130). Further, together with Sheller (2003), he states that the car society is the most unequal seen so far. Creating democratic and (more) equal societies is dependent, it seems, on a move away from the autologic when planning city spaces. This would create openness to other ways of organizing everyday life mobilities. Sennett (2007) mentions the open city as a way to create democracy and communities of participation. When the city operates as an open city – incorporating porosity of territory, narrative indeterminacy and incomplete form – it becomes democratic not in a legal sense, but as a physical experience. In the past, thinking about democracy focused on issues of formal governance; today it focuses on citizenship and issues of participation which have everything to do with the physical city and its design. (296)

The open city is also about leaving available, unplanned or changeable space. This is complicated through automobility, since several large cities use approximately 25 per cent of the city space to facilitate automobility, although in cities such as Los Angeles, the number can be found to be as high as 50 per cent (Urry 2007). In most large cities, available spaces which have not yet been developed is used as temporary parking lots. Democratic spaces can also be viewed as shared spaces where ‘informal mixing and connections among people using this space is prompting an ease among strangers – the foundation for a truly modern sense of “us”. This is democratic space. The problem participation cities face today is how to create, in less ceremonial space, the same sense of relatedness among strangers’ (Sennett 2007, 297). Democratizing mobilities would also mean surpassing the idea that the individual only thinks rationally, economically, when deciding which transport mode to use in everyday life. An attempt to change the individual’s everyday



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life mobility behaviour needs to be responsive to the values everyday life also demonstrates. The qualitative mobility research is valuable in understanding the priorities and considerations behind mobility choices. Knowledge concerning this can have a huge impact if the planning must respond to some of the needs and aspirations behind the idea of the good life. The aim for planners could be to facilitate the use of different modes of transport and make it a shared responsibility by giving the opportunity to be mobile to as many people as possible. There should be focus concerning making the options simpler, not least by absolving the individual from being ‘solely responsible’ for mobility patterns of the future. ‘[T]he most sustainable city is, before anything else, the one most propitious to human happiness. And although human happiness has many definitions and requirements, in terms of habitat it demands elements such as being able to walk and play; having contact with nature such as found in parks, trails and waterfronts; being able to see and be with people; and feeling included and not inferior’ (Peñalosa 2007, 319). Peñalosa states, taking developing countries as a point of departure, that governments have, to the highest degree, failed to comply with democratic principles in relation to transport. This is not far from the situation in many industrialized countries, where pedestrians and cyclists do have possibilities and rights, but mostly second to the car. Car drivers’ needs are the primary objective when new infrastructural suggestions are made. Making ‘human impact’ studies in relation to infrastructure projects, as suggested by Peñalosa, would be just as relevant in a country like Denmark. The idea of ‘human impact’ studies could be related to what Thrift (2001) names ‘an emancipatory politics of bare life’ – a politics he claims stands alone against the physical world (48). Peñalosa further claims that transport policy in advanced cities today means finding ways of achieving lower levels of car use, while in developing countries it largely still means the opposite. There is no doubt that the idea of the sustainable, responsible city is growing and increasingly being implemented in wealthier large cities’ policy documents, but whether this is a business strategy or a profound idea surrounding the future of cities still remains to be seen. ‘So far, urban quality of life has been referred to in relations to issues such as equality and happiness. But there is another aspect to consider – a country’s competitiveness in the information age will depend largely on the quality of life in its cities’ (Peñalosa 2007, 319). Quality of life is what Thrift (2001) centres on in his emancipatory politics, where the outcome could be cities created around the needs of walkers, instead of creating architecture of mobility. In making sustainable cities – in political, environmental and social terms – it is necessary to find ways of making the values creating a great city common, and thus democratic, projects. A common issue which needs a forum for discussion is freedom as a key player in notions of mobility. Questions may be based on the unintended consequences of majorities seeking freedom through automobility, and thus should consider the possibility of having a high degree of mobility and sustainability, while working towards a transport

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systems, which can give us a little of everything. The primary aim must be to create ontological security by working towards a framework which meets the wishes and dreams of the good life – for both the individual and their close ones. The question is raised as to how to bring about reconciliation between freedom – individuality – and communities, and how to proceed towards free communities as something substantive; a question which needs and deserves to be answered with a view to guiding the implementation of change. Utopias as Horizons of Change Community is one of modern day’s utopias – often described with a longing towards community as we knew it 40 years ago. Discussions surrounding ‘community’ have a long tradition, for example, from Tönnies’s (1972) discussions on gemeinschaft and gesellschaft to Bauman’s (2001) discussion on communities as ‘a paradise lost’; discussions which, to a large extent, are accusing mobility of being an important factor in the erosion of communities, through factors such as urban sprawl. Putnam (2000) has examined communities in the US – the land of freedom – as a part of a neoliberal consolidation. As mentioned earlier, he presents data on how, in 1990, the US had more cars than it had people who were able to drive them (212). This in itself is a consequence and a precondition of massive urban sprawl, which means that the primary activity for people in their hometown is sleeping. Working, leisure, shopping and more are spread to other cities. The majority of time is thereby used shuttling between different places. Urban sprawl also has the consequence that mobility needs more materialities to support it. One of my favourite stories concerning such materialities comes from a Swedish/ American friend with family in Florida. He describes how the US is paved with roads. I remember him telling me how despite being able to see the mall from his brother’s house, he still has to drive there by car, because there are massive roads and parking lots, preventing the possibility of just spending five minutes walking there. What made Putnam start his investigation was the fact that ‘more than 80 per cent [of Americans] said there should be more emphasis on community, even if that puts more demand on individuals’ (25). He claims that the car and the commute ‘are demonstrably bad for community life. In round numbers, the evidence suggests that each additional ten minutes on daily commuting time cuts involvement in community affairs by 10 percents …’ (213). What Putnam overlooks is time and space in mobilities as, in Putnam’s understanding, mobility time/space is dead time. Thereby, the important time/space encounters and dwellings are overlooked (Urry 2002 and 2007; Featherstone et al. 2004; Freudendal-Pedersen 2007a; 2007b). However, I find it interesting that Putnam ends the book with a utopia for the future of the US.



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Let us act to ensure that by 2010 Americans will spend less time travelling and more time connecting with our neighbors than we do today, that we will live in more integrated and pedestrian-friendly areas, and that the design of our communities and the availability of public space will encourage more casual socializing with friends and neighbors. (Putnam 2002, 408)

In Liquid Life, Bauman (2005) also touches upon utopias, but mostly as something without a driving force due to the fragmentation of late modern lives, and the processes that makes all – both individuals and artifacts – into objects of consumption. He claims that modern life is more than ever about consuming. Simultaneously, the individualization and its invertible ambivalence of risks and responsibility, are put solely on the individual to handle. ‘Liquid life means constant self-scrutiny, self-critique and self-censure. Liquid life feeds on the self’s dissatisfaction with itself’ (Baumann 2005, 10–11) – a life which creates dissatisfaction and thereby leaves no room for common utopias. The way Bauman (2005) considers ambivalence is overwhelmed with its inherent state of paralysis and not as something with possibilities of creating social learning. This also, almost predictably, brings forward the claim that ‘the advent of liquid modern society spelled the demise of utopias centred on society and more generally of the idea of the “good society”’ (Bauman 2005, 11). This critique centres on how modern society has shaped us into individuals, with no room for utopian visions or communities shaping these visions. As individuals, we are too preoccupied with creating our own individualized picture and reality of the kind of life we wish to inhabit; a life which focuses on unlimited freedom and the possibilities and opportunities to buy whatever we desire. The ways of life described as a consuming life is present with my interviewees. As a reaction to the question ‘What is freedom to you?’, answers similar to the following were not uncommon: ‘Money is freedom, to be able to afford; this is how the world works today.’ Also the idea of the individual as ‘only consumers’ came up: ‘I just think freedom is such a grand word and living doesn’t make one feel free. One can, of course, choose which kind of milk one wishes to buy, but I don’t think that’s really freedom – that’s freedom of choice.’ This quote I chose to discuss in the focus groups, which produced a lot of reactions. The following is just a short glimpse from one of the discussions: This isn’t true, it’s just a question of priorities, if one chooses to buy an expensive house then one’s freedom is limited. That’s priorities. But that’s how life is.

This is true for the late modern individual, and we know that prioritizing is one of the most significant tasks of everyday life. Interviewees with different

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priorities and life experiences had different ideas on how freedom was detached from a consuming everyday life. ‘I think community can help create freedom, precisely if one can use each other in different connections, helping each other, its community that creates freedom.’ The woman saying this also puts emphasis on the significance of places as deciding possibilities of having, creating and maintaining good communities. Through modern lives there has been a long tradition, especially for geographers, to create different kinds of utopias – utopias of concrete places with emphasis on the space and the imagined communities inhabiting these places. These utopias had an extensive spatial order where each and every form and function of life was laid out with the places being seen as the glue that would bind all social relations (Amin and Thrift 2003; Pinter 2005). These places have often become reality – the perfect city, the garden city and today’s gated communities – and formed the architect’s dream of the perfect city with no room for the odd, break-the-mold person. ‘[U]topia has become the game and pray for lone rangers, hunters and trappers; one of the many spoils of the conquest and annexation of the public by the private. The grand social vision has been split into a multitude of private, strikingly similar but decidedly not complementary portmanteaus’ (Bauman 2005, 152). Thus, according to Bauman, utopias are no longer common projects but have also become individualized: Drawing the maps of utopia that accompanied the birth of the modern era came easily to those who drafted them: they were just filling in the blank spots or repainting the ugly parts in the grid of public space whose presence was, and with good reason, taken for granted and seen as unproblematic. Utopias, images of the good life, were matter-of-factly social since the meaning of the ‘social’ was newer in doubt – it was not yet the ‘essentially contested issue’ it was to become in our day, in the aftermath of the neoliberal coup d’état. (Bauman 2005, 151–2)

Building cities on visions or utopias of the perfect city have progressed and developed to produce multiple problems, all of which were never imagined or considered in the creation phase. The low density city – like most European cities and suburbs – with no high-rise buildings has ‘environmentally disastrous results of low-density car-oriented suburbs, which allegedly will become unsustainable long before fossil fuels run out and which do nothing to support the traditional energy and vitality of urban life. However, it could equally well be presented as a model of freedom and sturdy individual choice, in the way Frank Lloyd Wright suggested it might be when he fantasized about his ideal suburban city, Usonia’ (Sudjic 2007, 44). Amin and Thrift (2003) claim that it is becoming increasingly more difficult to find urban utopias, partly because the number of possible utopias has been multiplied. This is a result of the late modern individual’s preoccupation with designing their own individual life profiles. Mobilities can easily be accused



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of destroying these kinds of utopian places, when moving away is always an option. As such, the commitment to the utopia is no longer a must, and one can search for a new utopia if the present one no longer feels adjustable to whom one wants to be. Amin and Thrift (2003) seem to blame new technologies for eroding the imaginative pulse and creating new utopias. The new technologies which attempt to create utopian social relations become ‘… mass mimesis which adjusts what people feel themselves to be: an exercise in self-construction thereby becomes an exercise in self-expression’ (116). Utopias of places with strong communities are not dead, however. Instead, readjustments in the striving for utopian places, benefiting from possibilities in mobilities, are needed. ‘[W]e feel, guess, suspect, what needs to be done. But we cannot know the shape or form it will eventually take. We can be pretty sure, though, that the shape will not be familiar. It will be different from everything we’ve got used to’ (Bauman 2005, 153). In a quest to research this further, I asked each of my interviewees to describe the perfect life, if they were individually completely in control. The answers were pretty much the same, with community, security and stability being the key elements around which all answers revolved. I presented this observation at a seminar on urban utopias, claiming everybody was pretty much alike in what they wanted. As expected, this caused a lot of reaction from urban scholars protesting that people were not all alike, with their research recognizing a lot of differences. And, of course, there are differences. Lived lives each have different expressions, also decided by factors such as class, gender, education and location. Besides all of this I do, however, still maintain that values and dreams of everyday life are, generally speaking, all in all the same. Behind the individualized ideas on how to attain wants and desires, the endpoint is the same. However, there is a real danger in using dreams and utopias, in using imagination, when it comes to inhabitation and the kind of world we want; there is the danger of looking behind and shaking the fragile irrationalities of everyday life. But, without imagination and aspiration another, more real and significant menace is born when these imaginings, dreams and utopias disappear, and we subsequently forget how to play and live life beyond the frames already existing. When it came to asking the focus group the question of why their answers of what constitutes the perfect life were so close to the one they were already living, they answered me: Well it must be because we’re happy. Yes, or maybe it’s because we can’t imagine anything apart from the life we’re already living.

If this discussion concerning utopias and dreams in everyday life and about creating strong communities gives the impression that I perceive it an easy

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task, then the summary is simple. It is a difficult task and we are getting swept into a cocktail of freedom as an individual good, with guilt becoming the regulator for how free we can really act. Reintroducing – or sustaining – utopias in everyday life might be the way to move forward, by keeping utopias and dreams alive and trusting that many of the individualized citizens in late modern everyday life still dream about and long for strong communities, close connections and less fear of the future. Strong communities can create social learning because they have the ability to provide a safe place. ‘We need to imagine just what a clean, safe, efficient, dynamic, stimulating, just city would look like concretely; we need those images to confront critical our masters with what they should be doing – and precisely this critical imagination of the city is week’ (Sennett 2007, 290). Impossible Possibles and the Right to the City This, in many ways, is what Harvey (2000) does in his book Spaces of Hope: he lays out the politics of concrete utopia, and thus discusses new ways of constructing utopias as ‘spatiotemporal utopianism’. Here, emphasis is no longer on spatial forms but instead focused on a ‘living utopia of process’ which is ‘rooted in our present possibilities at the same time as it points towards different trajectories for human uneven geographical development’ (Harvey 2000, 196). Harvey emphasizes that materialized choices involving certain institutions have to be made; the utopias have to take spatial form and cannot only be imaginary places. Some paths have to be closed and some opened. What is important, however, is that thinking utopia in concrete spatial form cannot be separated from critical social theory. Spaces of Hope is a book about desire – the desire to make the world a better place because we feel an absence in a world of excess. There are so many things to choose between, too much of everything, and yet still we feel something is missing. According to Harvey, fighting for the world in a different form has almost disappeared. This is what Swyngedouw (2008) outlines when he discusses fighting for the impossible possibles. A hundred years ago, the impossible possibles were asking for free education and health insurance, which is today something seen as matter of course in the Nordic countries. Today, an impossible possible could be considered as getting rid of the autologic as a dominating planning and policy discourse. To do that – to work towards attaining the impossible possibles – we need to recognize the conflict instead of striving for heterogeneity. As Harvey (2008) summarizes it, there is nothing worse than a passive and fearful consensus to preserve the status quo, which is clearly unsustainable in environmental as well as social terms. Within transport planning and politics, the lack of recognition of autologic as the overall planning, policy and everyday life principle is creating inequalities. All in all, we need to return to and maintain the imagination and resist the fear of



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fighting for the imagination’s dreams and utopias. In Spaces of Hope Harvey invites us to think about and fight for concrete utopias. Books alone do not change the world, and thus Spaces of Hope does not offer concrete utopias, but instead it invites us to create or find them ourselves, maybe by looking inside ourselves and taking steps to strive for what we desire. According to Harvey (2008), hopeful signs of utopias blooming are the assertion of ‘the right to the city’ and the ‘environmental justice’ movement. These are communities insisting on taking back the city as a secure environment, where all factions can flourish and claim their place. The right to re-make the city in a different image is a crucial and not heterogeneous process. It may bring about conflict but that should be welcomed (Harvey 2008). Late modern everyday life is a busy, time-pressured life, aiming at flexibility, with less friction and speed. According to Harvey (2007), we are in the middle of a neoliberal revolution and we need to create an counter-revolutionary resistance against the taken-for-granted knowledge neoliberalism modernity has forced upon us, such as individualization, ambivalence and too much freedom. This can be exemplified by taking control over time. Today, time pressure is one of the most prevalent aspects of lived everyday life. We know that we have to function within clock time (forced upon us by the Industrial Revolution) while, at the same time, we must be able to react on instantaneous time (forcing us to react within a nanosecond on new impulses from a globalized world) (Urry 2000; Hylland Eriksen 2001). We are losing control and power, and the right to go against the grain. Creating communities where social learning is possible through the omnipresent ambivalences – that we as individuals share as a part of late modern everyday life – has a strong voice and endorsement. Utopias carry hope and the individual needs utopias and someone to share them with. Hylland Erisksen (2008) proclaims, in his book on happiness, that working to attain difficult tasks is an important part of the feeling of happiness. This is of course only prevalent if basic needs are fulfilled, but in most parts of the western world increasing wealth does not make the main difference in the individual’s feeling of meaning and happiness. Striving for common utopias can thus be a way to reinstall a sense of meaning and happiness. The feeling of guilt are most often individualized feelings, and create paralysing ambivalence, but utopias have the ability to become common projects. ‘We have made an urban world in which we are forced to live, and in making that world we have re-made ourselves. The question of what kind of city we want cannot be separated from what kind of people we want to be. The attempt to re-make urban life, and thereby ourselves, in a different image depends upon a greater degree of enlightened democratization than currently exists’ (Harvey 2008). This can be exemplified on a small scale by future- or scenario-workshops. When taking part in this kind of workshop, the attendants are able to create new visions for the future. These visions are not easy to accomplish when entering back into the real world – but they do, however, demonstrate that the

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utopias are very much alive and present, when a democratic space to unfold them opens up (Drewes Nielsen and Aagaard Nielsen 2006). It is essential to realize that speed matters – the speed mobility creates and maintains – but, by the same token and with just as much value, duration matters too. Dwelling is still important, as well as creating and maintaining places where we seek to create ontological security and community (Urry 2007; Freudendal-Pedersen 2007). I will not argue the possibility that there might possibly be a mobile elite of people changing places whenever they feel like it, not caring if something gets worn out, when they will only find new territories. But, this is not realistic, as Beck (1992) points out in Risk Society, which delves into the boomerang effect. Whoever you are and wherever you are, environmental behaviour has global effects which will eventually rebound on you. For most people, there are wishes and dreams of a better world – one they know they have a responsibility to create and change. However, in a consumer society, with the idea of freedom and risks of everyday lived life following them around like loyal travelling companions, ambivalences with paralysing tendencies are taking over. At the end of Pinter’s (2005) book Visions of the City, he emphasizes the importance of wishes of desires of individuals inhabiting the cities: ‘A critical utopianism for today should not be afraid of demanding what has been deemed impossible so as to expand possibilities. It should also recognize the centrality of desire in utopian thought and action, the desire for a different and better life’ (262). Mobilities for the Future Mobility is a good thing. It provides numerous opportunities to explore the world around us, exchange ideas and welcome new input into our daily lives. Mobility also has a number of essential functions in relation to maintaining the type of society we know and wish to keep. However, too much mobility with the wrong type of technology is also a massive problem in all areas of society. This is why it becomes essential to discover how, in the most suitable way, to use mobility to meet the wants, needs and aspirations for lived lives; to use mobility without exaggeration so that it ultimately undermines rather than builds up. Ambivalences of mobility are omnipresent, which are increasingly coherent with the introduction and fast-growth of the media and political attention to the climate change debate. Thus, ambivalences are an invertible part of a late modern everyday life, where it is no longer accepted for an individual to be unhappy and right now it seems that the climate question is what creates a great deal of insecurity and unhappiness. The common political project, it seems, is the idea of sustainable cities. The utopia of sustainability is helping the individual to manage a risk society with a focus on climate change, and is a utopia mostly without spatial form, working as a defence against the ambivalences.



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It can be argued that this utopia rests primarily on a perceived risk. The sustainability utopia in a neoliberal form is driven by calculations stating that in 40 years, 500,000 people will be dead with global warming as the root cause. This neoliberal utopia concerning a better future society has a strong endorsement. This is, in many ways, a paradox when considering the number of casualties of hunger in Africa. It is a fact that inhabitants in other parts of the world are dying in greater numbers each day than predicted by the threats of climate change. Nevertheless, the ideas behind projects made in the name of sustainability have the potential to become a common vision with the use of the idea as a starting point, and claiming the right to the city – the right to open democratic spaces where all kinds of mobility have equal rights. Also, there are potentially greater things to come in the near future, when we will (quite possibly) see the results of cities built from a sustainable outset. Automobility has a strong grip on late modern everyday life and constitutes a great challenge. It occupies a large amount of space in the city, space which could be used for social and cultural activities. Cars take up a lot of space, which is taken from other forms of social life. In discussions on future cities or sustainable cities, automobility is seen as one of the most significant challenges. The ideas of transport systems supporting cities without automobility already exist in various locations. However, there is a hurdle which seems impossible to overcome – the idea that the car represents a form of freedom and growthcreating technology. With this as a common viewpoint, autologic dominates late modernity – from the small decisions made in individual everyday life right up to global political decisions. Miller (2000) establishes the car as an entire culture, which he claims the train system does not constitute. Therefore, it is surely important to have the courage to initiate and take part in new discussions on how transport systems and mobility could be built up from completely new criteria – where automobility does not play the leading role. Thinking of mobility in a new way could be based on the following points: 1. How does pressured late modern everyday life obtain the best conditions? A precondition could be ‘human impact’ investigations on new infrastructural projects. 2. What would mobility look like in a sustainable city? A socially, economically and environmentally sustainable city means systems of mobilities without inequalities, where ‘the right to the city’ applies to all its inhabitants, including children, the elderly, the homeless, and so on. 3. The city’s physical structure must not, at the outset, be on the premise of the car. We need to create new concrete utopias where the autologic is not dominant.

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Index Aagaard Nielsen, K. 104, 119 ambivalence 27 and environment 121 everyday life 8, 42, 50, 59, 118 and freedom 91, 122 of mobility 20, 31, 49, 61–2, 68, 78, 140 and social learning 118–19, 135 and structural stories 42, 59, 110–11, 121 and utopia 117–18, 139–40 Amin, A. and Thrift, N 98, 125, 136–7 apocalyptic 117–23 architecture 125, 133 Auge, M. 80, 99 autologic 7, 116–18, 123, 129–41 automobility and communities 99, 126–8, 130 and everyday life 7, 25, 30, 34, 118, 130, 141 and flexibility 80–83, 106, 131 and freedom 61, 68, 73–5 and inequalities 6 and lifestyle 21 as polluter 3–4, 111 and public transport 5, 83, 104–5, 115, 131 and structural stories 49–52, 115 and unfreedom 80–81, 91, 114 Bærenholdt, J.O. 103 104 Bauman, Z. 20–31, 61–84, 94–7, 120–22, 134–7 Bech-Jørgensen, B. 21–3 Beck, U. 26–30, 59, 72, 82–9, 110, 140 Beckmann, J. 81–3, 97 Berger, P.L. and Luckmann, T. 38–9 bicycles (bikes, cycles) 131, and the environment 50–51 and everyday life 44 and family life 55 and freedom 53 lanes for cycling 128–9 and urban mobility 124–31

Bogatá 128–9 boomerang effect 140 Brundtland Commission Report 123 Burdett, R. and Sudjic, D. 124–5 Cauter, L.D. 99 Capitalism 67–71, 88–90, 97 Carlsberg 126 car-only environment 4–7, 80, 99 cities and automobility 4–7, 36, 91, 101, 118, 132–4 and public transport 130 sustainable cities 116, 122, 140–41 and utopias 136, 140 class 20, 67–9, 79, 88–9, 114 clock time 20, 94–6, 106, 112, 139 community 30, 40, 59, 75, 87 and construction of identity 99 and everyday life 106, 116 and freedom 63–7, 73, 83–7, 136 and individuality 1–2, 24–30, 91–2 and security 87–9 and structural stories 92 and utopias 134 sense of 54–7, 85–7, 99–104 Copenhagen 64, 72, 126, 130 Copenhagen Consensus 26 critical realism 13 democracy 36, 128–33, 140–41 disembedding 25 disembedded individualism 88–9 discourse 13, 40–41, 72, 123, 138 Drewes Nielsen, L. 8, 58, 84, 95, 140 dwelling 7, 92–4, 134, 140 economy economic growth and automobility 4, 123–4, 128–33 and everyday life 70 and freedom 69 socioeconomic 28, 51, 59

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environmental 2–4, 7, 11, 26–8, 39, 50–52, 58–9, 111, 117–41 everyday life 7, 10, 19–32 and human security 14 and normativity 14–16 and structural stories 8–10 expert systems 25 Fairclough, N. 13, 40 Fascism 89 flows 98 as identity 107, 112 focus groups 10–12, 45, 119–120 freedom and capitalism 67–71 and communities 30–31, 64–7, 83–7 and human security 14 of expression 70 freedom from and freedom to 62 and in-betweens 105 and mobility 5–7, 52–4, 61, 65, 68, 71–6, 80, 121–2 in the Middle Ages 65 and motility 76–9 and power 74–5, 120–21 and public transport 81–3 and structural stories 42, 45, 49, 57, 68–9, 72–3, 90–92, 112–16 and submission 79, 89 free space 104–5, 126 friendship 30–31 and topics for discussion 58 Fromm, E. 63–89 future workshops 130 Giddens, A. 22–30, 36–8, 98 glacial time 94 globalization 74 Gore, Al 117 guilt 121, 138–9 happiness 14, 31, 59, 133, 139 Harvey, D. 97–8, 138–9 health 4, 40, 50–52, 118–19, 126 human security 14 Hummer 74, 120, 129 Hylland Eriksen, T. 21–31, 70–76, 85–8, 95–6, 105

in-betweens 16, 93–108, 115, 126 individualization 24–32, 66, 135 and freedom 66, 85, 91 of mobility 36, 57, 82 infrastructure 2, 71, 124–33 instantaneous time 20, 94–6, 106, 139 institutions 13, 24, 38–41 impossible possible 138 Kaufmann, V. 5–6, 20, 73–9 Kesselring, S. 3, 9 Kvale, S. 10–16 late modernity 24 life politics 24, 29, 32 life politics and structural stories 42, 59, 69–70 lifestyle 27–32 and capitalism 69 and the car 21, 27, 59, 71, 80 and discourses 40 and motility 77 and mobility 110, 118 and structural stories 35 56–7 liquid life 135 London 4 Congestion Charging 132 Olympic city 127 Marx, Karl 41, 104 Masdar 127 Middle Ages 65–7 motility 20, 76–9, 90–91, 111 moral 120–22 and ethics 57–60 and mobility 85, 125 questions 29 Morgan, D. 11 network 31, 76, 87 New York 2, 129 non-places 7, 80, 99 normative approach 14–15 oil companies 130 Peñalosa, E. 128–33 place 97–9 the car as a 7, 93–4

the meaning of 21, 25, 136 of ontological security 104–7, 112, 138–40 utopian 136–9 politics and planning 72, 116–41 power 65 and the car 7, 71–5, 81, 120–21 and speed 96 symbolic power 90, 128 public transport and community 101 and democracy 131–2 and freedom 83, 91 and the private car 1–4, 71–2, 81–2 and social justice 124 and the state 4–5, 37, 68–9 and structural stories 46–8, 54–6 and sustainable cities 126–31 Putnam, R.D. 21, 101, 134–5 qualitative interview 10–15 reification 41 reflexivity 24–32 risk 25, 26–7, 29, 32 and ambivalence 118, 135, 140 and automobility 91, 107, 114 boomerang effect 140 and everyday life 59–60, 72 and structural stories 33–4, 42, 52 Sayer, A. 13–16 Sennett, R. 84, 125–38 scale 9, 104–5, 116 Shanghai 124–5 Sheller, M. 73, 132 Shove, E. 73, 80 Simmel, G. 76, 86 Sisyphus project 115 slow time 93, 96, 105–7, 116

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space 97–101 and the city 114, 124–6 compression of time and space 94 and everyday life 22, 112 and mobility 4–7, 21, 86–8, 91, 93, 98–108, 141 and scale 9 separation of time and space 25 of utopia 138–9 structural stories definition 34–5 development of 35–7 and discourses 40–41 and reification 41 structuration 36–9 sustainability 3–5, 122–41 Swyngedouw, E. 117, 138 technology communications 75–76, 94–95 and freedom/unfreedom 7, 36, 71, 79–80 Thomsen, T.U. 39, 80 tourist as a metaphor 74–5 Urban Age Project 124–30 Urry, J. 3–12, 19–31, 62, 71–2, 80–87, 92–100, 117–22, 132–4 utopia 134–41 and the city 123 and everyday life 10, 14, 32, 114, 119 and freedom 63, 90 and motility 77–9, 111 and structural stories 60, 109 vagabond as a metaphor 74–5 Virilio, P. 21, 94 Zeitler, U. 85, 97, 125 Zurich 131