You participate in projects that involve specialists of a different kind. Which disciplines do you primarily associate yourself with?
Well, I consider myself as a pure sociologist who moved into a wide filed of interdisciplinary research and interests. Mobility is a basic principle of modern societies and as such there are only little spheres of modern lives which are not touched by mobilities. I am coming from a quite theory driven German tradition of investigating the challenges of (mobile) risk societies, modernization and reflexivity. But my interest in the impacts of different mobilities on modern lives, institutions and social networks brings about the need for understanding historical transformations, changes and pathways. In this sense historical research has always played an important role for me. And today I am working in a more planning oriented context whereas I understand planning and spatial as well as technological transformations as social processes. Long story short: sociology, history, mobility and transport studies and planning theory might be said to build the basis of my scientific work.
Please explain how you came to know about T2M. Are you planning to introduce some new ideas or forms of activity to T2M? What are the nearest plans?
I can’t say when exactly I came across T2M first. But I met people at different places. Probably Hans Liudger Dienel was the first who told me about T2M. We met in Berlin where we tried to set up a first German network of mobility researchers at the Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin. Very soon I realized that T2M was definitely one of the most active and productive players in the field. T2M quite early had this global view and outreach. I don’t think that I have any really innovative ideas to offer. The activities within organizations, associations and networks always need to fit into the existing culture at work. Cosmobilities is definitively a network and less an organization. But I think the ways we need to communicate our work, how to keep in touch and exchange ideas and how we collaborate become more and more network-like and project-oriented everywhere. Social media, the Internet, our websites, our ‘performance’ as this is called today, are key instruments and we all need to get better and more professional in presenting our work and activities. But the most important instrument is still meetings. In this sense we are participating in the contemporary meetingness culture.
What can Cosmobilities and T2M learn from each other – how might they support each other?
In a certain way we are all part of the mobilities turn in social science. Mobility research has moved from a more marginal position to the heart of social science and social theory. My observation is that the work of mobility/mobilities scholars gets more and more accepted and also in transportation research the qualities of these new approaches have been recognized. The mobility/transport discourse has changed and we should be aware of the scientific but also social capital that we have in our hands and which plays also a role for the careers of younger scholars. Networks and associations such as Cosmobilities, T2M, the Mediterranean Mobilities Network and the Pan-american Mobilities Network have a responsibility to build a backbone and a structure for contacts and expertise. These new forms of institutionalizing interest may be fluid and financially seen on low power. But they are also ‘pressure groups’, also representing and mirroring expertise and the rise of new research agendas and future perspectives. In this sense, Cosmobilities and T2M are a good example for working together and building up recognition and influence. And we work together not to sell cheap our social and scientific capital. Against this background I am a fan of solidarity and collaboration instead of competition.
In your publications you have touched upon the blurring of boundaries between work and leisure. Do you personally experience this phenomenon? How do you manage to organize yourself?
The short answer is: Yes, quite a lot. And: not very well sometimes. I am commuting constantly between Munich and Aalborg and spend a lot of time in airports. Often I enjoy the blessings of new technologies. But too often I forget to switch off the Notebook and the mobile.
During your career you probably observed the change in “fashion” of mobility studies. What would you forecast to become the most up-to-date topics within the next several years?
We all know forecast mostly fails. But I hope that immobility or as we put it some years ago ‘mobile immobility’ becomes a major research topic. The social sustainability of mobile practice will be the challenging research topic. We could also say the culture of physical immobility by maximum mental and social mobility. That’s my guess. Against the background of climate change, peak oil and the negative social impacts of hypermobility I consider this as the research topic of the future.
Do you think that in the global mobility age it still makes sense to publish in other languages than English?
Absolutely. No matter how you swing it, your mother tongue always remains your most advanced and sophisticated tool. I strongly believe that research only ends when we are writing and finishing papers. Using your mother tongue pushes you the closest to the point of clarity and precision in thinking that you can reach. We all need to publish in English and an increasing part of – at least my professional life happens in English. But what finally satisfies me the most is a round paper in German, because I can fully express myself to the scientific community. Therefore, both are important and those who are English native speakers are lucky! lucky!