Urban mobility prosthetics as armatures for cultural change
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AbstractWhile it might justly be said that desire for mobility under personal control is an intrinsic trait of western culture, the characteristics which create and sustain this integrated interplay are not often as immediately evident There therefore exists a significant disparity between the prevalence of the desire and material culture which facilitates it, and the degree to which these common aspirations and artifacts are the subject of dedicated inquiry. Instead, the mechanical nature of the subject as object seems to have subsumed consideration and response under the rubric of quantifiable effects of mechanisms, hence prevalent perceptions that solutions to problems caused by automobility lie in refining the technology of automobility itself. Evidently the sustained and in many cases escalating preference for automobility suggests that the technological specifics of this approach are reason for success. However it is equally and increasingly evident that many of the influences which result from inherent characteristics of these technologies are contrary to the contexts in which they operate. For example, while it is evident that many people want to commute individually, it does not follow that these people therefore want to harm the ecology of which they are a part, however this is ultimately the effect. It is therefore the intent of this work to critically examine the relationship between personal urban transportation as artifact and as cultural context, with the objective of first developing an understanding of the manner in which culture and object influence and give rise to each-other, and subsequently to inform the design of interventions which improve the relationship by facilitating desires while reducing inconsistencies. As neither culture not the artifacts in which it is manifest are static, proposals cannot simply reflect, but must by necessity interject as possibilities around which ambitions can coalesce. To do this requires reconciling the problematic and prevalent division between social scientific approaches and design. Consequently the present objective is in many ways an exercise in using insight that can be drawn from social scientific approaches for the purpose of conceiving material interventions which aim to improve the cultural contexts in which they operate and of which they are a part, rather than simply fulfilling or creating a desire for purpose of profit as is unfortunately characteristic of much industrial design. I call this methodology applied material culture; a term which will be explained in detail in the first chapter. Following a brief examination of the history of automobility as a topic of research, subsequent chapters focus on the interplay between the technology and context. This is first approached from the level of cultural metatheories such as nationalism, capitalism, art, and consumerism. From this point the approach is scaled to the level of the urban context, with particular reference to the interplay between public and private notions of Space and mobility, and specifically the way these relate to transportation infrastructure. From the scale of the city the topic is further scaled to the level of the user. This first involves the manner in which user and the technology of automobility interrelate physically, for example through sense of space, sound, amplification of personal mechanical ability, potential for violence, and speed. Subsequently direct interplay with the user is examined as it pertains to resulting cognitive constructs, such as associated notions of gender, communicating individuality and belonging, linguistic constructs, and the effects of familiarity and expectedness on perception. This is followed by a summary analysis of the complex interplay between humanity and the equally and perhaps appropriately complex technologies of personal urban mobility. This examination of the way in which we interact with the technology of personal mobility -from the level of cultural metatheory to personal cognitive constructs -is a means of distilling key criteria which will guide the resulting design response. These are annotated in the text with a 'DC'; an abbreviation for 'design consideration'. These design considerations are subsequently categorized and analyzed to clarify the manner in which they relate to the designs, with final chapters devoted to communication and assessment of proposed interventions. Given the availability of material and the scope of the project, considerations are drawn from argued critique of secondary source research. Specific areas of concentration have been determined based on the aforementioned need to explore the topic beyond the dominant focus on such impacts as that of fossil-fuel driven automobility on ecology. Such arguments are already well established. It is not the intent to focus on anyone given influence or specific approach as has already often been done, but rather to synthesize these specialized approaches to develop a holistic understanding of1tle interplay between culture and personal transportation technology as a means of insightfully informing future directions.
Bibliography: p. 171-181