The view from outside – a Visiting Fellow’s report

VF door sign

First of all I would like to express my gratitude for granting me the CeMoRe Visiting Fellowship 2014. When I decided to apply for it after the 10th year anniversary conference at CeMoRe in 2013 I actually had quite forgotten how much one can benefit from a visiting fellowship. Since I did not have sabbatical, things was a little complicated but luckily I got pinned two visits down; a first and longer one in April, and then a week here in June.

The first thing to say about CeMoRe is that it is no coincidence that we have taken it as the role model for our Center for Mobilities and Urban Studies (C-MUS) in Aalborg. CeMoRe is the most inspiring mobilities research center to be found – period! And increasingly the mix (or should I say the relation to) with the Arts and more creative organizations and environments seems to point in an exciting new direction for mobilities research. As I found when preparing the ‘Mobilities & Design’ workshop that took place during my first visit (and which had never been realized had it not been for the tireless efforts of Monika Büscher … thanks Monika!), there is a fruitful and creative emerging milieu around the research-arts nexus here at Lancaster University. In fact the rationale behind the ‘Mobilities & Design’ workshop was precisely to test out this territory in general terms. In more specific terms my idea with the workshop was to explore the meaning of ‘mobilities design’ as a potential field of practice as well as of research.

During the last close to 2 years we have set the agenda in C-MUS to explore the relationship between design and mobilities and have produced a few publications on that note:

Jensen, O. B. (2014) Designing Mobilities, Aalborg: Aalborg University Press

Jensen, O. B. (2013) Designing Mobilities – Staging Materialities of Mobilities, Paper for the Danish Sociology Congress ‘Mobilitet & By’, Roskilde University, Denmark, 24-15 January

Lanng, D. B, H. Harder & O. B. Jensen (2012) Towards urban mobility designs: en route in the functional city, Paper for the conference Trafikdage, Aalborg 27-28 August 2012

Moreover, we also have established the ‘Mobilities Design Group’ (MDG) which host discussions and seminars related to this emerging field (see our ‘mission statement’ here: http://www.c-mus.aau.dk/050713_MDG%20mission%20statement%20paper.pdf). It was on this backcloth I imagined that a next exciting step would be to engage with a more international audience on such a discussion, and here the CeMoRe workshop worked out perfectly. From the two dense days I am still harvesting ideas and I dare to say I went back rather reassured that the relationship between design and mobilities makes a lot of sense articulating both from the point of view of practice and research.

The workshop’s aim and content is fully described here at CeMoRe’s web site as well as there is full video footage covering the whole event (see: http://www.lancaster.ac.uk/fass/events/mobilities-and-design/). Here my intention is rather to flag that the conversations and discussion up to, during, and after the workshop certainly gave food for thought. They will directly feed into a larger research application that I am preparing these days. Also the theme is ripe for another turn-around in order to explore in more detail how a joint CeMoRe/C-MUS research project on mobilities design may be established … and perhaps even a dedicated mobilities design conference?

During my second visit I participated in my co-visiting fellow Rachel Aldred’s seminar on Mobilities and the Media. A very fine event that gave many ideas to how differently mobilities agendas might look seen from the point of view of the media, politicians, citizens, NGO’s and researchers. It was also during this second visit that the annual CeMoRe Research Day took place. Here I acted as discussant on a session and had the opportunity to see and learn about the diverse set of issues that are being investigated under CeMoRe – a very inspiring event.

But being away also means more time to write and to the credit of this Fellowship I wrote a full conference paper on drones and urban surveillance, as well as a full introduction chapter to a book I am editing. During both my visits I obviously had good conversations with the CeMoRe staff, as well as I managed to see the city and some of its nice sites … personally I like the Williamson Memorial and the view from there … a nice place for a Sunday coffee if I may pass on a recommendation!!

Hopefully this ‘traveler’s letter’ gives a small account of the benefits and positive outcome of my Visiting Fellowship. It cannot possibly justify the many ideas and inputs I had, but those will be surfacing during the time to come in various settings amongst one surely will be CeMoRe to which I am very pleased to keep up my affiliation.

Ole B. Jensen

Aalborg University, Denmark

CeMoRe Visiting Fellow 2014

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