CeMoRe Centre for Mobilities Research Lancaster University
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Social Networks and Future Mobilities

Mobilities, Networks, Geographies

Jonas Larsen, John Urry and Kay Axhausen, Ashgate 2006

A substantially revised version of the report 'Social Networks and Future Mobilities' commissioned by the UK Department of Transport, produced between Oct 2004 and Oct 2005 and submitted early 2006.

  • Researching Networks and Travel: An introduction
  • Social Networks
  • Meetings and Networks
  • Mobilities
  • Research Design
  • Geographies of Networks and Mobilities
  • Travel and Meetings
  • Coordinating Networks and Travel
  • Research and Policy Futures


This project is concerned with establishing a methodology to examine the impacts that the changing spatial patterns of social networks will have upon future travel. It is expected that over the next couple of decades there will be striking changes in the geographical extent and scale of people's social networks. This so far undocumented process will continue due to historically low prices for long-distance travel and communication and historically high levels of migration and economic interaction between countries (e.g. by investment, trade, service provision)

Most groups intermittently meet up to cement their network, to enjoy each other’s company and to carry out certain tasks; these meetings generate travel. Our proposal is for an exploratory project to determine a method for researching the spatial structure of networks and of their meetings, the nature of meetings and the ‘need’ for travel, which we summarise under the concept of meetingness. We will establish the theoretical frame for understanding such changing networks, carry out intensive interviews to determine an appropriate research method, analyse the provisional results, suggest measures, and develop proposals for a large-scale study.

The policy implication of these changing patterns lies not only in the amount of travel consumed, but also in the changed perception of this travel. Where in the past much of this travel could have been classified as leisure and by implication unnecessary, today it is central to the social cohesion of families, friendship groups, professions and firms.


We will explore various ways of researching:

  • how many people do respondents ‘know’
  • are there changes taking place in their sense of ‘knowing’ other people
  • where are those people that they know - are they more far-flung
  • how do they keep ‘in touch’ with them
  • how much do they sense an obligation to meet up from time to time
  • how do they make new contacts, are they ‘networkers’
  • how often do they ‘meet’ up in order to feel that other people are still ‘known’
  • where do meetings take place and who determines location
  • does this cohort have patterns that will continue as they age (grown up with e-communications ready to hand)
  • how much does the existence of ‘cheap/effective connections’, e.g. cheap air tickets, between places make it more difficult to evade meetings
  • what ways of providing measures of the patterns allow comparisons between persons or groups at one point in time or over time

We will conduct lengthy face-to-face interviews with a small sample employing people’s scheduling tools and mementos that they may use to organise meetings and to document and remember them.


The Project is funded by the Dept for Transport. The Research Associate is Dr Jonas Larsen. The Principal Investigators are Profs Kay Axhausen (Zurich) and John Urry (Lancaster)


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