On 16 March 2018 the sixth edition of seminar series Cities & Mobilities focused on mobility and design. Anna Nikolaeva, is the organizer, and Anna has a great website dedicated to her research and the seminar series “Cities & Mobilities” that she am organising in 2017-2018 at the University of Amsterdam together with the Centre for Urban Studies. I was at the Roeterseiland Campus (University of Amsterdam) on 16 March, 2018 to present “Friction/Frictionless in the City.”
Human mobility does not occur without social and spatial friction. Yet, the notion of friction is largely understood in a negative manner. From urban planners to Silicon Valley developers, along with many urban residents, friction is seen as a pain. Uber, for example, removes friction at nearly every step. It calls you where you are, no taxi or bus queues and alerts you when it the car is approaching. For the busy urbanite, travel and payment for services like Uber becomes frictionless. Tom Hulme talks about shortcut called desire paths, which are often the path of least resistance. He argues that if you don’t offer “low friction” in your product and service designs, someone else will. There is a fantasy of the frictionless city, which can articulate the desires for a social world unbound by structural antagonism and ‘in which the economy can perform optimally with minimal government interference’ (Bach 2011:107). Products and services designed to be “low friction” often promote ease of movement, consumption of less time, and value of money. Yet, the concept of friction does require critical thinking to take on various perspectives. The presentation will explore the profound effects of ‘friction’ (e.g. friction points) and whether a frictionless city makes for a community of atomised individuals in privatised space protected from their environment and each other or makes for new societal directions, leading to as a freer, more sustainable, less antagonistic city.
Taken from the Cities and Mobilities Blog
Michael O’Regan presented his exploration of the notion of friction and frictionlessness, in particular in the vision of future mobility where the absence of friction is often presented as the greatest good. In the discussion of the subject we focused on what friction may mean as a positive and a negative experience in daily mobilities. Do we want frictionless movement at all costs? In which case is friction unevenly distributed and when is friction a choice or a burden? Marco te Brömmelstroet asked a broader question about the meaning of metaphors that we use to describe mobilities and made a link between the current language of transportation planning and the advent of the automobile as a prioritized mode.
You can see part of my presentation here.
Ole B. Jensen’s lecture, that day, revolved around theoretical underpinnings of connecting mobilities research and the field of design, pointing towards the new questions and possibilities that research in “mobilities design” may bring. You can see the full Ole B. Jensen’s lecture here