Future Directions of Mobility Studies? Insights from the Open Space Session organized at the T2M/Cosmobilities Conference in Caserta
by Anna Lipphardt (Freiburg), Katharina Manderscheid (Luzern)
As mobility scholars and board members of Cosmobilities (Katharina Manderscheid) and T2M (Anna Lipphardt, who is also a member of the EASA AnthroMob network), we have been engaged over the past years in intense conversations with each other on the differences, the common ground and the potential synergies between the three research networks. The conference in Caserta provided a great opportunity to open up this conversation by initiating a broader cross-disciplinary and inter-generational discussion on visions, questions and suggestions for the future development of the interdisciplinary field of Mobilities Studies. Using the Open Space format, a non-hierarchical forum of dialogue open to anyone interested, the objective was to collaboratively map out overarching questions, new thematic directions, as well as innovative theoretical, conceptual and methodological configurations that might contribute to the further development of Mobility Studies. In addition we were interested in collecting ideas on how to strategically move forward with closer or more systematic collaborations between the three research networks. The session was attended by 16 colleagues, among them several current and former members of the boards of T2M and AnthroMob, including Hans-Liudger Dienel, former president of T2M, and Noel Salazar, founder and former director of the AnthroMob network, as well as 3 junior scholars currently engaged in PhD projects. Encouraging the participants to split up in small groups that brought together members of different research communities, we provided a set of questions to be discussed over the course of 45 minutes. The intense conversations in the 4 groups led to the following insights voiced by the participants of the open space:
1. Asked to for their opinion the most important new thematic directions based on their own research contexts, participants in the small group discussions came up with the following:
- The relation between MOBILITIES and CITIES – SUBURBS – RURAL AREAS
- How to MEASURE mobility? And why?
- The use of SPEED / SLOWNESS / STILLNESS for and in the future
- How to shape the future with/through Mobility?
- Mobility as a means to define society – and someone‘s power/position within society
- Bringing in the social dimension to Mobilities Studies – families, close social ties and networks etc
2. We then asked: Where do you see the major challenges for the interdisciplinary field of Mobilities Studies? The participants in our session suggested to devote more attention to the interrelations between:
- MULTIDISCIPLINARY, INTERDICIPLINARY, DISCIPLINARY RESEARCH on mobility,
- different EPISTEMIC COMMUNITIES, i.e. interdisciplinary research communities that focus on specific mobility issues,
- theoretically-oriented, empirical and applied research,
- historical research perspectives and present- or future-oriented research perspectives.
3. Asked concerning which issues the three research networks and mobility scholars from different research communities should engage in a closer, more systematic dialogue to prepare the ground for better collaborations within Mobility Studies, the participants of the session last but not least recommended the following:
- We need to better clarify our respective objectives of closer collaboration.
- We should explore more systematically which research OBJECTS, TOPICS or ISSUES could provide a productive common ground for collaborations between the different research communities.
- We need to discuss TERMINOLOGIES more thoroughly, as we often use the same mobility vocabulary but actually relate to very different mobility concepts with the respective terms.
- We should think about the HOW? of future collaborations, i.e. about working formats and forums of exchange.
- In the short term, attention should be focused on a more systematic interrelation or coordination of existing COMMUNICATION CHANNELS, RESEARCH NETWORKS, and RESEARCH INFRASTRUCTURES, while in the long run we might think about the collaborative development of new research infrastructures/frameworks.
- Last but not least the three research networks should engage in a conversation about future TASKS and MESSAGES to both – the larger research community (that is within our respective disciplines) and the larger public, including the policy sector and funding institutions, to advance the interdisciplinary field of Mobilities Studies and make the important insights it has to offer better heard.
We would like to thank all colleagues who participated for sharing their ideas! While these are, of course, far from exhaustive and reflect the views of a very limited number of members of the three research networks, we hope nevertheless that they provide some food for thought for possible future directions of Mobilities Studies in respect to both – research and concerted institutional strategies.
Anna Lipphardt (Freiburg), Katharina Manderscheid (Luzern)