In On the Move: Mobility in the Modern Western World, Tim Cresswell explores mobility – which he defines as “meaningful movement” – at a variety of scales and in a variety of places in the (mostly anglophone) West. Pulling from case studies that range from Frederick Taylor’s time and motion studies to British ballroom dancing to the LA Bus Riders’ Union, Cresswell argues that mobility is “both center and margin – the lifeblood of modernity and the virus that threatens to hasten its downfall.” While the “mobility turn” had been taking the humanities by storm since 1996, this book is the first to interrogate what mobility is rather than defining it against what it isn’t (place, boundedness, foundations, stability.)
For Cresswell, mobility is actually three mobilities that mutually constitute one another.
- Empirical mobility is the actual movement of people, things, birds, etc.; it is the closest to actual movement and thus the most abstract (because it traces displacement, not necessarily the meaning of displacement.)
- Representations of mobility are the photos, literature, philosophy, etc., that capture mobility and try to make sense of it, usually in ways that are ideological. They might link mobility to freedom, transgression, creativity, life and so on. They reproduce mobility and interpret it according to a particular worldview.
- Experienced mobilities are mobilities that are practiced, embodied, ways of being in the world, as well as how we experience and feel about mobility.