Mobility Infrastructure

Mobility Infrastructure

In facilitating and constraining the movements of people, things, information, and energy, overlapping sociotechnical systems—such as transport and communication networks, the logistics industry, and governmental regulations—constitute a “mobility infrastructure”. Mobility, in turn, functions as an infrastructure for other social activities. The mobility of traders is the basis for the development of marketplaces, for example. And the existence of exit routes is critical for managing conflicts—from domestic violence to ethnic strife. As such, mobility infrastructure forms a central nexus between mobilities and socioeconomic changes.


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With the introduction of growth-oriented urban development in the 1990s, cycling infrastructure in China’s cities became increasingly marginalised. But the new bicycle-sharing schemes, funded by huge injections of venture capital and emboldened by technology, promised to return the bicycle to the city. Dockless bicycles would bring all the benefits of cycling without the hassle of owning and maintaining a bike. This entry shows how these promises have not materialised and concludes that, in low-cycling contexts, shared bikes may not be as environmentally friendly or healthy as one might expect.
Jun Zhang
Published online 7 July 2022

Although e-hailing, also known as ridesharing, promises higher incomes, many taxi drivers in the Chinese city of Xi’an are not switching their jobs. The spatiotemporal arrangement of conventional taxi work enables drivers to build and maintain work-based communities, whereas the top-down algorithmic arrangement of e-hailing impedes community building. The piece argues that these community networks are so treasured by many taxi drivers in Xi’an – most of whom are former state-owned enterprise workers or rural migrants –, that they continue to drive traditional cabs despite the lower income.
Jack Linzhou Xing
Published online 17 June 2022

China has transformed itself from a kingdom of bicycles to a country of cars. From the 1970s to the mid-1990s, bicycle-centric mobility was embedded in “work unit urbanism” with home, work, school and other facilities nearby one another. Since the late 1990s, however, urban infrastructure has focused on accommodating automobiles while the city, and the distances residents travel, has grown. In the process, bicycle travel has gone from a daily necessity to a marker of status in an increasingly stratified society.
Jun Zhang
Published online 4 May 2022

Biodiversity conservation is an increased part of migration governance regimes around the world. This entry uses the framework of ‘resource frontiers’ to examine American-funded conservation programmes for refugees in Guatemala. It considers the entanglement of humans and more-than-humans as resources in the production of political barriers.
Julia C. Morris
Published online 8 April 2022

“Logistical power” is a government’s exertion of dominance over private actors by coordinating the circulation of people, goods, and information. Its immediate sources include states’ logistical provision and logistical intervention. Logistical power extends both the “infrastructural power” (Michael Mann 1984) and political-juridical power of modern states.
Biao Xiang
Published online 10 February 2022

This entry proposes the notion of the ‘short circuit’ to grasp the transnational circulation of stolen contemporary objects of wealth. With a focus on electronics theft in South Africa, short circuits are viewed as violent levelling mechanisms between regions of plenty and scarcity, which bypass social, economic, and logistical conventions to instantly satisfy desires for material wealth.
Brandaan Huigen
Published online 9 November 2021
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