Cities and Mobilities Seminar Series #6 Staging and Designing Mobilities with Ole B. Jensen

When: 13.45 -17.00, 16 March, 2018

Where: Roeterseiland Campus

13.45-15.10 bldg G room 1.11
15.30-17.00 bldg J/K room 1.05

The aim of this seminar series is to develop a conversation on how mobilities shape cities as well as to foster exchange and collaboration between scholars from different disciplines and practitioners working on urban mobilities at UvA and beyond.

In the sixth seminar, we’ll focus on how mobilities are ‘designed’ and discuss the very fabric of mobile cities as well as the methods of studying it.

Guest speaker Ole B. Jensen (Aalborg University, Denmark) will provide a talk on:

 Staging and Designing Mobilities

This lecture takes point of departure in the latest material shift of attention within the ‘new mobilities turn’. Notions of non-human agencies, actor-network-theories, assemblages, and post-human perspectives have drawn new and interesting boundaries up in many different research areas. At the same time there has been a turn towards design and architecture within the ‘new mobilities turn’. The lecture presents the contours of this new map emerging between the existing mobilities research over the new material turns toward the interest in design. In the presentation the positioning of ‘material pragmatism’ will be explored as a viable platform for integrating these perspectives. In particular, the ‘situational’ perspective of everyday life mobilities will be addressed and it will connect these to the micro-details of material designs (curbs, asphalt, transit spaces etc.) as well to larger scales of ‘systemness’ (socio-technical networks, infrastructures, design protocols etc.). I will end with some pointers for future Mobilities design research.

Ole B. Jensen

Ole B. Jensen is Professor of Urban Theory at the Department of Architecture, Design and Media Technology, Aalborg University (Denmark). He holds a BA in Political Science, an MA in Sociology, a PhD in Planning, and a Dr. Techn in Mobilities. He is deputy director, co-founder and board member at the Centre for Mobilities and Urban Studies (C-MUS), and Director of the research cluster in ‘Mobility and Tracking Technology’ (MoTT). Ole B. Jensen is board member at the Center for Strategisk Byforskning (CSB), PhD Program Coordnator at the Media, Architecture and Design Doctoral Program, and Editorial Board Member on the Journal Applied Mobilities.His main research interests are within Urban Mobilities, Mobilities Design, and Networked Technologies. He is the co-author of Making European Space. Mobility, Power and Territorial Identity, Routledge, 2004 (with Tim Richardson), and author of Staging Mobilities, Routledge, 2013, and Designing Mobilities, 2014, Aalborg University Press, the Editor of the four-volume collection Mobilities, Routledge, 2015, and author (with Ditte Bendix Lanng) of Urban Mobilities Design. Urban Designs for Mobile Situations, 2017, Routledge.



13.45 – 13.50    Opening by Anna Nikolaeva (CUS, organizer of the seminar series)

13.50 – 15.10    Presentations

George Liu, Technical University Eindhoven

Evaluating Urban Design from the Cycling Perspective using Virtual Reality and 360-degree Video

 Michael O’Regan, Bournemouth University, the UK

Friction/Frictionless in the City

15.10-15.30     Coffee break

15.30-17.00     Staging and Designing Mobilities by Ole B. Jensen

Comments and discussion

Discussant: Marco te Brömmelstroet, Associate Professor in Urban Planning (CUS/UvA) and academic director of Urban Cycling Institute

17.00               Drinks at Café Crea

Seminar is free and open to anyone. Please let us know if you are coming by sending an e-mail to


Abstracts of presentations:

George Liu
Evaluating Urban Design from the Cycling Perspective using Virtual Reality and 360-degree Video

The experience of cycling has been studied by mobilities researchers through the application of mobile methods including videos, images, and ride-along interviews. (Latham and Wood, 2015). The field of mobilities offers methods for exploring the user perspective of cyclists in real-time, and these methods reveals cyclists’ strategies for interacting with various aspects of infrastructure and the urban design of their environment. Law & Urry (2004) argues that “existing stationary methods have difficulty dealing with the sensory – that which is subject to vision, sound, taste, smell; with the emotional – time-space compressed outbursts of anger, pain, rage, pleasure, desire, or the spiritual.” The mobilities scholarship offers urban designers the framework for understanding cycling through movement, as opposed to the static interpretation of the experiential and aesthetic aspects of a city that is more common among urban designers. Modern computer technology enables the use of new methods that bridge the gap between the laboratory and the outside world: On the one hand, computers enables higher fidelity representation of the real world in a laboratory environment; on the other hand, computers allow more precise recording of data in real-world environments. This paper explores how using 360 degree video, such as Google Cardboard, can be used to simulate new urban designs and to evaluate existing urban environments from the perspective of the cyclist. On the flip side, technologies such GPS and video recording can track and observe how cyclists behave in real environments. This paper examines how virtual reality and 360 degree videos can be used in conjunction with mobile methods to evaluate urban design concepts for the Tilburg-Walwijk bicycle path as part of the CHIPS (Cycle Highways Innovation for smarter People Transport and Spatial Planning) project.

George Liu


Friction/Frictionless in the City

Michael O’Regan, Bournemouth University

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.

Michael O’Regan


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