Masculinity and Autonomous Vehicles

A Degendered or Resegregated Future System of Automobility?

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Author:
Dag Balkmar Örebro University dag.balkmar@oru.se

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Ulf Mellström Karlstad University ulf.mellstrom@kau.se

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Abstract

This article addresses the anthropomorphization and interpellative experience of cars and trucks, in order to meet future mobility challenges. Autonomous vehicles offer an emancipatory opportunity within a wider movement of degendering and regendering motor vehicles. We argue that autonomous vehicles can challenge the foundations of a gendered economy founded on masculinity, speed, pleasure, and embodiment. Rather than thinking in terms of a process of demasculinization, this article anticipates a regendering and resegregation through which certain forms of masculine gendered economies of pleasure will lose ground and others will gain. A core question in this article asks who will be in the driver’s seat of future systems of automobility as the control of the vehicle is gradually being transferred from the driver to digital control systems and intelligent roads.

Contributor Notes

Dag Balkmar is a researcher at the Centre for Feminist Social Studies at Örebro University, Sweden. He has published within the areas of masculinity studies, gender and technology, gender and mobility, and risk and violence. He is project leader of “Trucks for All: Developing Norm-Critical Innovation at Volvo,” funded by VINNOVA (Swedish Governmental Agency for Innovation Systems). E-mail: dag.balkmar@oru.se

Ulf Mellström is Professor of Gender Studies at Karlstad University, Sweden. He has published extensively within the areas of masculinity studies, gender and technology, gender and risk, engineering studies, globalization, and higher education. He is editor in chief of NORMA: International Journal for Masculinity Studies. E-mail: ulf.mellstrom@kau.se

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