The rickshaw, invented in Japan in 1869, helped to produce a revolution in mobility for millions of people in Asia and Africa. By the 1930s, the everyday mobility offered by the hand-pulled rickshaw gave way to several of its off spring: the cycle-rickshaw, trishaw, pedicab, cyclo, becak, and the auto-rickshaw. The three articles in this special section describe how these “primitive” non-motorized vehicles continue in the twenty-first century to play a valuable and irreplaceable role in urban and rural transport in South Asian cities. The authors are traffic experts, geographers, and urban planners who live and work in contemporary rickshaw cultures. Despite the reality of urban hazards, the articles describe cultural, economic, and environmental reasons to keep rickshaws on the road, now and in the future.
Rickshaws in South Asia
Introduction to the Special Section
M. William Steele
Gijs Mom, Georgine Clarsen, Liz Millward, Dorit Müller, Mimi Sheller, and Heike Weber
The fluidity of modernity has surely reached the outskirts of the earth when even the new Pope Franciscus admonishes his cardinals that “our life is a journey and when we stop there is something wrong. […] If one does not walk, one gets stuck.” The current economic crisis has enhanced the fear of congestion and the interruption of flows: the circulation of capital in the first instance, but also of people and stuff, and of ideas and knowledge. It is time to rethink mobility.
The Mobilization of Weimar Radio
Actuality, Microphone, Radio-film
This essay addresses the effects and experiences that become possible, and become the object of fascination and reflection, when early German radio mobilized-when it moved out of the studio to transmit from places in the "outside world." Mobile electro-acoustic technologies enabled a new sense of exteriority and new experiences of time and space. The paper reconstructs and analyzes three rhetorical figures associated with this mobilized radio. First, the complex concept of actuality, among other things, referred to temporal liveness and the palpable auditory presence of location sound. Second, the popular rhetorical and visual image of the "traveling microphone," emphasized new relations of inside and outside, studio and world, reality and representation. Third, comparisons between radio and film-including the term "radio-film," an early name for live location broadcasts-provided a vocabulary for understanding the properties of a mobile radio, including the intense sense of an outside world made present for the listener at home.
Gijs Mom, Georgine Clarsen, Peter Merriman, Cotten Seiler, Mimi Sheller, and Heike Weber
In the middle of last year, a large survey in the Netherlands revealed that the average Dutch person dedicates seven hours per day to “media consumption.” That is the gross value, the surveyors assure us. The net value is 5.5, meaning that 1.5 hours are spent multitasking, such as watching TV and surfing on the net, or “tweeting” (on Twitter) during a football match. Remarkably, using the cell phone while driving would not qualify as multitasking as the car is not considered to be a medium. Users know better, as we will see in this issue, and mobility researchers are devising conceptual frameworks that are adequate to the complex and multiple relations between diverse media.
A Theory of Migration
A poem by Tim Cresswell
On the Historical Alignment of Media and Mobility
Dorit Müller and Heike Weber
In a nineteenth century context, traffic could mean both communication and the transportation of goods and people. For instance, the German term “traffic” (Verkehr), referred to “communicating” (verkehren) and to “traffic”/“transportation” (Verkehr). Historically speaking, before the age of telegraphy, any communication over distance required the physical transport of a message or a messenger. Many authors, thus, identified the latter as a fundamental caesura in the relationship between media and mobility, uncoupling media from their previous reliance on physical movement. At the same time, telegraphy and the railway formed a paradigmatic symbiosis that enforced the ongoing duality between media and mobility: traffic depended on and sometimes boosted communication and vice versa. Hence, traffic and media were not disconnected as such, but their connections were rearranged and new ones emerged while others such as the postal services persisted.
Gijs Mom, Cotten Seiler, and Georgine Clarsen
This issue is the last of volume 2. With this, we have reached a milestone in our fledgling history and a threshold to the last volume in our series of three in which we have strived, and still strive, to get all the important elements of a good journal in place. According to our original plans our priorities were to establish top-quality submissions, a splendid pool of knowledgeable and rigorous but generous transdisciplinary referees, efficient refereeing procedures, satisfactory rejection rates, timely manuscript production, and a subscriber base that crosses disciplinary boundaries. Although quantitatively not yet up to standard, our readership is variegated and adventurous enough to appreciate our desire to “rethink mobility” and dedicate printed space to “mobility writ large.” Before we begin to produce volume 3 (2012) this September, our editorial team will retreat, evaluate, and look each other in the eyes to determine what we can do better.
Mobility, Transfers, and Cultural Appropriation
In his recent “manifesto” for future “mobility studies,” Stephen Greenblatt demands that studies investigating mobility from a cultural perspective should (a) make sure not to ignore mobility in the “literal sense,” that is, the “physical, infrastructural, and institutional conditions of movement,” (b) pay attention to “hidden” as well as “conspicuous” forms of movement, (c) look at the “contact zones” of cultural transfer, (d) consider the “tension between individual agency and structural constraint” in these processes and, finally, (e) not forget the “sensation” of “locality,” and the “allure” of “local cultures.”1
Cycling in a Global World
Introduction to the Special Section
Ruth Oldenziel and Adri Albert de la Bruhèze
During their transnational circulation, bicycles became glocalized as local users tailored them to fit local laws, customs, user preferences and cultures. Bicycles thus acquired many different local meanings as users incorporated them into daily lifes and practices in diverse global settings. To show the importance of 'normalized use', i.e. rural bicycle use, in which cycling became enduring, sustainable, new, old and new again, we need globally grounded histories of mobility.
Gijs Mom, Georgine Clarsen, and Cotten Seiler
Last year President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela announced the appearance of what a Dutch national newspaper called an “anticapitalist car.” The two models, named by Chávez himself as the “Orinoco” and the “Arauca,” after rivers that run through Venezuela, are locally assembled under a preferential license agreement with the Chinese automaker Chery. The cars are sold for half the price of other makes and are marketed to the expanding Venezuelan middle class. They are intended as “new attainments of the revolution” that are meant to raise the “standard of life of the people.” This new venture was in a tradition that Chávez’s opponents claim started in 2006, when he came close to making a similar deal with Iranian president Ahmadinejad.