Future-forming interdisciplinary research

Mobile Utopia: Pasts, Presents, Futures


2-5 November 2017

The Mobile Utopia Conference brings together 180 researchers from 27 countries (Latin America, North America, Europe, Russia, Taiwan, Kenya, Phillippines). It is interdisciplinary, with researchers from the arts, humanities, social science, design, engineering, architecture, as well as artists, and practitioners in urban planning, policy, and transport.

The intellectual agenda seeks to mobilise utopia for responsible research and innovation. In 1516, Thomas More’s Utopia outlined a new society living in a City of Man, departing from former visions of the City of God as the place for a good life. Five centuries later, 54% of the population live in cities (Worldbank 2015) and one billion will live in cities at risk of catastrophic flooding by 2060 (Christian Aid 2016). Recognising the dystopian global uncertainties of the Anthropocene, we invited critical reflections on ‘mobile utopia’ to explore how societies shape, and have been shaped by, ideas of future im|mobilities: From horse-drawn carriages to driverless cars, from migration to pioneer settlements on Mars, from microbial to big data mobilities. The invitation was to leverage utopia as creative critical method – not to dream up ‘mobile utopia’ as blueprint solutions – but to challenge how utopian and dystopian pasts, presents, and futures are made in our contemporary mobile lives.

This builds on work pioneered at Lancaster with the mobilities paradigm, mobile methods, and social futures by John Urry, Mimi Sheller, Monika Büscher, James Faulconbridge, Anne-Marie Fortier, Lynne Pearce, Jen Southern, David Tyfield, Linda Woodhead and many others. This has inspired a global field of mobilities research that is experiencing strong growth.

Contributions to the conference explore a wide range of themes, from the ethics of automation and datafication to mobility justice, from sleep on the move to sociabilities of sharing, from mobility services to histories of infrastructure, from neighbourhood to interplanetary travel, from vital mobilities to concerns with other species and more-than-human mobilities. A full programme is available at http://wp.lancs.ac.uk/t2mc2c/.

The conference draws together several networks:

It is sponsored by several major publishers (Routledge, Berghahn, Edward Elgar), as well as the Mobile Lives Forum, a mobilities research network based in France.

The conference is preceded by a Bonfire School (29th October -2nd November) on mobilising utopia as method with over 20 junior and senior scholars, featuring a talk on Utopia, Mountains, Walking, Romantic Writers by Professor Simon Bainbridge.

The Mobile Utopia Experiment (1st-2nd November 2017) is a public experiment designed to involve members of the public in co-creating critiques of mobile futures. It will take place in and around Lancaster’s Town Library and on Campus with 12 different experiments.

The Mobile Utopia Art Exhibition accompanies these events. It showcases the work of twelve artists.

The conference committee is chaired by Monika Büscher and Carlos López Galviz.

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