Eirini Kasioumi, Anna Plyushteva, Talya Zemach-Bersin, Kathleen F. Oswald, Molly Sauter, Alexandra Ganser, Mustafa Ahmed Khan, Natasha Raheja, Harry Oosterhuis, and Benjamin Fraser
An Essay Exploring Dominant Values and Representations of the Driver in Driverless Technology
This article presents two representations of masculinity based on media images found in television and online promotion related to motor vehicles. The dominant image in much advertising is the bursting, thrusting power of what I refer to as “combustion” masculinity, identified as active engagement and connected with significant road trauma. The less visible, fluid power found in professional driving that I refer to as “hydraulic” masculinity draws on precision and awareness of the surroundings rather than aggressive force. Social analysis of electric and driverless vehicle promotion and media discussion indicate that moving to electric and fully automated driving requires overcoming the essential contradiction of combustion power, as it is associated with cars and freedom. Alternative modes and images of being mobile must be highlighted in order to challenge the combustion image. Fundamentally, activity should be ascribed to all mobile persons, and policy and mobility systems should be designed to maximize mobility for all.
Mobility Studies, a Transdisciplinary Field
Ulrike Ottinger’s Johanna d’Arc of Mongolia Goes off the Rails
Discursive Assertions of Mobility Futures
The car has been identified as an element of modern identities, interwoven also with gender relations. The masculinity of the automobile subject draws on the steering and controlling of the car as a technological object. Thus, driverless cars potentially call into question the gendering of the automobile subject. With the aim to assess this potential degendering, in this article I analyze two very different visions of driverless automobility. The focus is placed on the imagined users, the sociospatial context, and its gendered dimensions. I then reflect on the status of the videos, elaborating on their impact on the future of (auto)mobility and their meaning for mobility research. Gendering of cars, then, is seen as an element of a deeper socioeconomic order and its inherent power relations. Thus, future genderings cannot be simply read off technological visions but will instead develop in unforeseeable social contestations.
Views from Central Asia
Markus S. Schulz
Autonomous Driving and the Transformation of Car Cultures
Jutta Weber and Fabian Kröger
This special section on “Degendering the Driver” explores how gender intervenes in the potential shift from a driver-centered to a driverless car culture. It focuses on representations of imagined futures—prototypes, media images, and popular discourses of driverless cars. Following the tradition of feminist cultural studies of technoscience, we ask in our introduction how these new techno-imaginaries of autonomous driving are gendered and racialized. We aim to explore if the future user of an autonomous car is gendered or degendered in the current media discourse. The four articles explore what kinds of images are used, what promises are made, and how the discourse about autonomous driving is influenced by gendered norms. Some authors emphasize that self-driving vehicles could encourage pluralized forms of masculinity. Nonetheless, all authors conclude that driverless cars alone will not degender the driver but rather encourage a multiplication of gendered and racialized technologies of mobility.
A Degendered or Resegregated Future System of Automobility?
Dag Balkmar and Ulf Mellström
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.
Gendered and Racial Dimensions of Future Concept Cars
Julia M. Hildebrand and Mimi Sheller
The imagination of automated automobility puts into question the control of the vehicle by a masculine driver and potentially disturbs feelings of safety, power, security, and freedom. Given that systems of automobility and communication technology are already gendered and racialized in particular ways, this article explores how recent “premediated” depictions of automated car technologies reconfigure and reproduce the historically gendered and raced representations, meanings, and practices of (auto)mobility. This inquiry employs a media ecological approach within the qualitative analysis of two concept car previews by Nissan and Volvo. Rather than a degendering of the driver, we suggest a multiplication of gendered and racialized technologies of mobility via several forms of hypermediation. We also explore how the autonomous car continues to evoke utopian spatial metaphors of the car as sanctuary and communicative environment while allaying fears of dystopian metaphors of the vehicle as traffic trap, virtual glass house, and algorithmic target.