Coordinators: Ruth Oldenziel, Frank Schipper, and Martin Emanuel
SUM is a global Research-Book-Web-Teaching program for the long-term development of urban sustainable mobility, initiated by History Division of the Technology, Innovation and Society Group at Eindhoven University of Technology and the Foundation for the History of Technology in the Netherlands. SUM contributes to the current debate on how urban mobility may become more sustainable. SUM investigates developments in the past using a mixed methodology combining: newly digitized traffic data added to a GIS-enabled online database; historical reconstruction of the social and political context of urban planning decisions; ethnographic and visual study of key street corners. This mixed method research will in turn be linked to a major open access digital platform – thus contributing to ongoing efforts to refine methodologies in Digital Humanities research.
SUM addresses three key issues:
- How did sustainable modes of individual, non-motorized (walking and cycling), and collective motorized mobility (public transit) conflict with modern car-dominated urban planning and traffic engineering?
- How are these conflicts affecting today’s mobility choices?
- How can we sustain mobility for future generations with access for all on a planet with finite resources?
Current sustainability challenges have generated a global policy and grass-roots interest in the practices of walking, cycling, and public transit as alternative and more sustainable forms of mobility. Historically, these have long been highly contested and even delegitimized as old-fashioned, dangerous, and obsolete. Such cultural perceptions continue to affect today’s policy quest for more sustainable solutions.
SUM defines sustainable mobility according to the 1987 UN Brundlandt report in terms of environmental sustainability (cleaner air, free flow, and livability); economic feasibility (affordable transport); and social justice (access for all). SUM’s mixed methodology will implement a research-based public outreach program inspired by the larger movement of Environmental Social Sciences and Humanities (ESSH). The natural sciences, with their preference for big data, graphs, modeling, and abstraction, despite influencing the public’s knowledge of environmental challenges and policies, have thus far unfortunately failed to “solve” issues like the energy path-dependency of automobility amid rapid urbanization. ESSH offer a different approach, one that frames the questions of meaning and culture as critical for how ordinary people assess choices and confront planetary threats.
Find more information on the project website.