Published on February 24, 2014
Mobile Cities Prof. Stephen Graham Newcastle University
Introduction: Cities are Engines of Mobility and Circulation • Intensity of urban life sustained by many simultaneous flows, mobilities and circulations operating at wide variety of scales: from the body to the transnational • Such flows within and between cities help to constitute processes of urbanisation and neoliberal globalisation at same time
Mobility, Modernity & Urban ‘Progress’ • Speeding-up and improving transport and communications long been seen by urban planning and urban imaginaries as means of instilling ‘progress’ and ‘modernity’ to benefit all and create a better or utopian urban future • Modernity = sense of perpetual transformation through new technology, mobility, innovation etc
Modern Planning Utopias Stressed Progress Through Emancipatory and Transformative Mobilities (e.g.Le Corbusier's 1925 Plan Voisin for central Paris) Implications for notions of order, security, scale & politics of city?
• New systems of mobility, transport, communication and circulation allow cities and urban life to become increasingly interconnected and globalised • “time-space compression”
‘Time-Space Compression’ • New transport and communications advantages accelerate the flows between cities • Space and time barriers ‘compressed’ • Economic globalisation (finance, capital, investment, trade, labour) • Social globalisation: migration, tourism, people trafficking • Also cultural globalisation (e.g. global media events moving around between cities) • Cities at the heart of all these: Urban everyday life involves constant links to far-off cities and places • Need to look at multiple scales at the same time: From body to Globe
Parallel Growth of Physical and Electronic Mobilities
Similar global geographies of both (Internet flows top, BA’s air network bottom)
• Seeing cities as processes of mobility and circulation helps in ‘grounding’ discussions about globalization • A dynamic, material urban process emerges based on role of cities as hubs of flows of people, capital, finance, technology, information, waste, energy, water, and so on • Right: container port
‘Mobilities Turn” in Urban Studies
1990s Neoliberal Idea of Globalization Centred on the Myths of the ‘Friction Free Capitalism,’ the ‘End of Geography,’ or the ‘Death of Distance’ i.e. a ‘flat world’ becoming more homogenous and egalitarian
But this is a Myth!: Real Situation Marked by Extremes of Uneven Development Within International Divisions of Wealth and Labour • Far from overcoming geographical unevenness, they help dominant firms to exploit differences between places • Connective infrastructures and the flows they sustain vital in supporting what is known as the new international division of labour of globalized capitalism within which cities are key hubs • People and places are in starkly different positions to burgeoning mobility.
An ‘Archipeligo’ Economy with Extended ‘Divisions of Labour’
In Control: Global Socioeconomic Elites are also ‘Kinetic Elites’ who gain their power from hypermobility “Global Capitalist Classes”
Global Airports are Key Nodes
Explosion & Congestion in Transnational Mobilities (Heathrow Tracks)
Benefit from new ‘premium’ urban transport emerging with splintering urbanism
Seamless, Synchronised, Coordination ‘Just-In-Time’ Flows
Export Processing and Free Trade Zones: Spaces of ‘Glocal’ Mobilities
‘Global Cities’ are Key Mobility Hubs: Loughborough University’s Inventory of World Cities
These also act as Cosmopolitan Hubs of ‘Diasporic’ Migration Networks • Dominant or ‘Alpha’ Global Cities mostly in Global North: London, New York, Tokyo • Status as economic power-houses makes them extremely ‘cosmopolitan’ cities • Central hubs in hundreds of international migration and cultural networks sustaining countless ‘disporas’ of communities from all over the world (Pakistani Diaspora and London street; next: London)
Such Cities are also Central Hubs on Global Airline Networks…(BA)
Airport the Iconic Site of Globalizing Urbanism Key Nodes Demarcated Through Signature Architectures
..Such cities are also key hubs on Transnational Optic Fibre Grids
New types of automobile culture Local Bypass ‘Smart’ Highways use price to speed-up and remove congestion
Decongestion Through Commodified Roadspace
Tourist Cities • Increasingly important: cities constructed or repackaged as fantasy landscapes of escape • Primarily or exclusively for visitors but rely on massive cheap, local or imported labour forces • Las Vegas, Cancun (Mexico)
Good Example of How Internet Technology Supports New Types of Physical Mobility
Those Not in Control: Also large ‘kinetic underclass’: Poverty and powerlessness increasingly shaped by immobility, dangerous mobility, or lack of control over one’s mobilities (beggar, Indonesian public transport, African on Spanish beach, Mexican jumping US border)
Neoliberal Capitalism relies on labour being a lot less mobile than capital: Many attempts to cross fortifying borders or ‘Political equator’ Separating Global North and South (right, San Diego/Tijuana)
e.g. Global People Trafficking Geographies
Sometimes Kinetic elites and kinetic underclasses operate through colonial geographies e.g. Jewish-only highway vs.. Palestinian checkpoint on West Bank
Also water pipes in Mumbai: Proximity and Access Very Different Things
Forced immobility also used as punishment and humiliation e.g. ASBO Neoliberalisisng states all characterised by rapid increases in incarcerated populations e.g US
e.g. 4: Toxic Wastes • Global Flows away from richer cities where waste is generated to less resistant and poorer cities and regions with no or lax environmental protection desperate for even very poor quality work • Highly controversial when such flows seen to be going ‘wrong’ way e.g. ‘ghost ships’, Hartlepool, 2004 (right)
e.g. 5 Splintering Urbanism At city level, as we saw last week, a proliferation of ‘hard’ enclaves that come with Splintering Urbanism These undermine idea of the city as an open and relatively free space of mobility and mixing Bring in checkpoints so that rights of access have to be proven before entering
‘Camp’ like architectures and security zones e.g. Finance districts in London and Manhattan
In urban streets and malls shift towards security-obsessed ‘Jittery Space’ Moral Panics and Cultures of Fear Boundary Transgressors as Deviants
Conclusion “The city is a gearbox full of speeds” McKenzie Wark, 2001 Far from being the ‘death of distance’ for all, as in the myth of neoliberal globalisation, the new geographies of mobility are being used to slow down or prevent mobilities deemed risky, unprofitable or malign to enhance or add power to those deemed virtuous, risk-free or profitable
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