sábado, 1 de septiembre de 2012

Three viewpoints about human mobility (english version)

A road on Tenerife Island

Recently I have read an article in the magazine Ciudades signed by Blanca Rebeca Ramírez Velázquez of the “Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana-Xoichinilco (México)” which refers to the different approaches and dimensions which mobility can have conceptually. In this post I will share some of the ideas put forward in this interesting article, adding nuances and examples which support them.

The “Real Academia de la Lengua Española” (Royal Academy of the Spanish Language) defines mobility as: Quality of moveable, whereas moveable comprises all that is moveable on its own or is capable to move by external impulse. The 13th article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights establishes that all people have the right to circulate freely and to choose their residence within the territory of a state. The “Movilia” survey which is elaborated in Spain, defines mobility as a strategy of the persons to organize their daily activities and which has as its prime objective to achieve the highest efficiency in their use of the different transport infrastructures. The law 9/2003 about mobility of the “Generalitat de Catalunya” defines the latter as the totality of movements of people and goods for labour, training, sanitary, social, cultural or private reasons or any other reason not stated here. Yet another and more simple definition, we find in “El libro verde del Medio Ambiente Urbano (2007)” (The green book of urban environment, 2007), which refers to mobility as a medium of access to goods, services and people.

Blanca R. Ramírez understands mobility as an attribute or a quality regarding the capacity to move, as explains the definition of the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language. The mobility associated with persons and their activities is defined by historical evolution of technology, culture and society itself. Marc Augé introduced the concept of “supermodern mobility” when he talks about the current mobility of human beings, with a degree of complexity that overburdens us with its causes and multiple parameters to be kept in mind when we want to analyse it.

In her article B. R. Ramírez envisions three approximations to the concept of mobility in our society.

In the first place she differentiates between mobilities that are carried out the same day and those with a more permanent character, defined as migrations. This would be the first criterion for differentiation: the permanent or not-permanent character of mobility. The apparition of the various statistic techniques have been narrowing this line between the movements the population undertakes daily and the migrations human beings make. The spacial and temporal scale will determine when we speak of migration and when of mobility. And for this reason they observe the characteristics of the movement (interstate or intrastate, interurban or intraurban...) and their frequency in time.

The second criteria offered by the author of the article is that mobility is an attribute to the persons and their activities and not so much of the places. The delimitation would come with two different concepts: on the one hand there is mobility that actuates on persons (I would also add the goods that the will of persons wants to move) and on the other hand the transport which refers to the media which permit persons and objects to circulate from one place to the other. If we suppose that mobility is an objective with a finality (a right, a necessity, a pleasure), we understand that there are different strategies to carry it out, for example the design of the infrastructures which are built or different tactics for their use with reference to the necessary vectors for their execution, i. e. the transport means. The totality of these strategies and tactics of use will determine the final type of mobility, which generates determinate processes of appropriation, transformation and use of territory and which will change it constantly.

The third approximation to the concept of mobility concentrates on the accessibility and connectivity, which determine the frequency in which the traffic of the different media is generated. To understand the concept of accessibility we view the verbs “enter” and “leave”, as accessibility is an attribute proper to places, defined by the transport means that accede to a building, a district, a town, a region… The diversity, the quality, the frequency of the infrastructures and of the media, will improve or deteriorate the accessibility level of the place. The concept of connectivity we understand better if we view the verb “unite” as connectivity refers to an attribute proper to networks, which in our case is formed by the combination of infrastructures and the transport means. Today mobility in modern societies disposes of a level of connectivity to an extent that it is able to generate interactions between different places without the necessity of a physical accessibility of the same. Telephony, internet and all the telecommunications in general do so. The rural areas are an example for this change or as an extreme case the mountaineers who from the top of a peak they have conquered they call a relative or friend by mobile to tell them that they have arrived. A greater extent of connectivity means a lesser extent of accessibility?

As we have seen, mobility has a polyhedral nature proper to whatever human attribute. The investigators classify and dissect it to better understand this phenomenon. Concepts and attributes that we see change with time and that make themselves more complex. However, we must not forget, that mobility also has ideologies due to its proper finalist nature, but this will be material for another post.

We perceive mobility since ours first games.

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