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Ehren Helmut Pflugfelder

Several recent surveys report a gap between how men and women feel about autonomous vehicles. While such binaries may have limited usefulness, female respondents rank autonomous technology as less trustworthy and are less likely than men to report feeling safe in an autonomous car. This comment frames such results within the articles for this special section on autonomous vehicles, showing how reported gender divisions are resultant from discursive formations that frame user experience and individual performed experiences. These discursive-material dynamics generate persuasive configurations of power that thoughtful research and action in autonomous vehicle development could help mitigate. After summarizing survey diff erences, this comment off ers a brief commentary on how they might be addressed, focusing on material rhetoric and vehicle design.

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Introduction

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.

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Masculinity and Autonomous Vehicles

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.

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Pegida

A Hybrid Form of a Populist Right Movement

Ina Schmidt

This article analyzes the Pegida movement from Germany, arguing that Pegida has to be seen as a special form of a populist right movement. Besides sharing the basic characteristics of such a movement, it also displays attributes from other forms of right-wing activism. The additional forms of right-wing activism identified as influential for Pegida were autonomous nationalism and ethnopluralism. These forms of activism contributed to the movement on different levels and their combination accounts for the special, hybrid form of Pegida. This analysis builds upon social movement theory and is based upon primary data collected in interviews with participants and from the official Facebook website of the movement.

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Sophie Toupin

I propose the concept of squatting as a way of exploring and understanding the recent Occupy movement and other manifestations that have taken hold of a physical and virtual space. To do this, I focus on squatting as a protest tactic employed by social movements, to gather, create and transform private and public spaces in common spaces. I follow Miguel Martinez (2006) premise that squatting has been aimed at constructing liberating spaces for living, communicating, and criticizing the global city and confronting capitalism. Using such framework to analyse the Occupy movement helps bring to the forefront what appears to be a somewhat similar experience, this time however, not solely via the occupation of buildings, but also via the occupation of parks or squares. The act of reclaiming and decommodifying open ‘public’ spaces in an attempt to create autonomous experiments visible to and ‘experimentable’ by all seem to have brought much visibility, appeal and relative openness to and of the occupy movement. From there, I discuss the particularities with moments of squatting, particularly with the occupied social centers movement, and instances of occupy sites in North America to underline a number of hidden and visible characteristics and features these phenomena share. In North America, the concept of squatting, including the practice of occupied social centers, seems to have had much less prevalence and impact on social movements than in Europe, but the occupy movement seems to have opened up new repertoire of actions for both activist and non-activists a like.

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Media Ecologies of Autonomous Automobility

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.

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Building a State in a State

Drawing of the Borders of the Komi (Zyrian) Autonomous Oblast in the 1920s

Indrek Jääts

This article analyses the conceptual path to the creation of national territorial autonomies of the Komi (Zyrians) and Komi-Permiaks in the 1920s. It focuses on the history of the idea of Komi autonomy and on the formation of the borders of the Komi Autonomous Oblast. The creation of the Komi autonomy was, first of all, the project of the small group of nationalist Komi communists. They tried to unite all the Komi politically, and were successful as far as their aims were in accordance with contemporary Soviet nationalities policy. However, they were not able to include Permiak areas, mainly because of the opposition of neighbouring Russian provincial elites.

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Gramsci in and beyond resistances

The search for an autonomous political initiative among a subaltern group in the Beninese savanna

Riccardo Ciavolella

Stemming from a Gramscian approach, this article engages with the anthropological debate about subaltern groups’ forms of resistance by using the case of marginalized Fulani groups of pastoral and nomadic origins in northwest Benin. Their experiences seemingly confirm contemporary theories on resistance, which emphasize subaltern people’s capacities to tactically circumvent exploitation and exclusion and to handle contradictions between different “moral economies.” Nevertheless, one should question the impact of small-scale reactions that remain on the infrapolitical level and the emancipatory role that political theories give to tactical forms of resistance of dispersed subjectivities while refusing collective strategies. Grounding Gramscian theories in ethnography, this article wonders about the possibilities and limits of margins to turn into the scene of an “autonomous political initiative” of a subaltern group.

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From Autonomous to Socially Conceived Technology

Toward a Causal, Intentional and Systematic Analysis of Interests and Elites in Public Technology Policy

Gunnar K.A. Njálsson

When administrative scientists look to the current scholarship surrounding the phenomenon of technological development, they will inevitably be forced to grapple not only with an entire battery of abstract theories portraying technological development as more or less socially determined or autonomous. These policy analysts will also be obliged to struggle with the daunting task of developing a coherent, causal, subject-oriented and systematic framework for describing, comparing and even creating public technology policies. Understanding the spectrum of theories available when examining public information technology policy development (hereafter IT-policy) from an administrative sciences perspective, including how these theories relate to each other and differ in nature, is paramount to any attempt to formulate such a systematic framework regarding the subject. Indeed, it is crucial in order to defend one’s choice of methodology.

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Sarah Amsler

This article considers the role of experiments in learning in movements to democratise higher education ‘under the rule of capital’ (Gutierrez, Navarro and Linsalata 2017). It focuses on the emergence of a new generation of ‘free universities’ in the United Kingdom, situating these in a historical tradition of educational experimentation and a current context of global movements for autonomy from the state, capital and dominating epistemologies. It argues that free universities can contribute to transforming the relationship between knowledge, university and society, but that these contributions are often invisible within the logic of the dominant institutional systems. Conceptualising the projects as struggles for autonomy renders these contributions visible and valuable for educational reformers working both within and independently of the university.