In this article Merriman responds to Gijs Mom's suggestion that mobility historians should develop a common research agenda, formulate big questions, and adopt a transnational and comparative approach. In reply, Merriman suggests that dissensus and multiple approaches have their advantages, and highlights the ongoing importance of the national as a frame of understanding, as well as the importance of spatially sensitive approaches that pose clear challenges to comparative methodologies.
Some Observations on Representing Roads
Roads may be represented in many different media and cultural forms, from planning documents and maps to postage stamps, children's books, and postcards. While there has been a tendency among some scholars to study representations for what they can tell us about the history of particular road schemes, this article argues that roads are constructed and consumed as much through paper plans, financial calculations, popular representations, and public imaginations as through concrete and steel on the ground. Representations of roads “matter,” and the article suggests that scholars should study the broad array of representations through which the meanings of roads are produced, circulated, and consumed.
Transdisciplinary exchanges and interdisciplinary debates have always lain at the heart of Transfers, but such movements generate challenges and unanswered questions as well as productive tensions. Has a new amorphous multidisciplinary field called “mobility studies” emerged, or do disciplinary debates and imperatives still underscore mobilities scholarship? How do “mobility studies,” “transport studies,” “mobility history,” “transport history,” “media history,” “migration studies,” and other fields intersect, differ, or interact with one another? Do the variations among different strands of mobilities research reflect distinct differences in method, approach, and style in the social sciences, arts, and humanities, or do they generate interesting questions that cross disciplines? How are different journals—Transfers, Mobilities, The Journal of Transport History, and Applied Mobilities—(re)positioning themselves, and what makes them distinct and different? Should we stop forming camps or drawing boundaries around subdisciplines, and stop asking questions like those framed above? There are no easy or correct answers to any of these questions, but I would suggest that Transfers occupies a privileged position at the intersection of the humanities, arts, and social sciences.
Peter Merriman, Georgine Clarsen and Gijs Mom
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.
Geographies, Histories, Sociologies
Peter Merriman, Rhys Jones, Tim Cresswell, Colin Divall, Gijs Mom, Mimi Sheller and John Urry
This article is an edited transcript of a panel discussion on “mobility studies“ which was held as part of a workshop on mobility and community at Aberystwyth University on September 3, 2012. In the article the five panelists reflect upon the recent resurgence of research on mobility in the social sciences and humanities, emphasizing the interdisciplinary nature of contemporary debates, and the ways in which established fields such as transport history, migration studies, and sociology are being reshaped by new research agendas. The panelists discuss the importance of engaging with issues of politics, justice, equality, global capital, secrecy, and representation, and they encourage researchers to focus on non-Western and non-hegemonic mobilities, as well as to produce “useable“ studies which engage policy-makers.