Project Manager: Shannon Wheatley Hartman
Where’s my flying car? According to the futurists of the 1960s, we were all supposed to own flying cars by now. Perhaps the promises of bubble cars, moving sidewalks, jetpacks, and robotic contraptions are part of a future utopia yet to come. Or, perhaps not. What might the future hold in store for the mobility of our society?
This project explores the public policy possibilities surrounding the issue of mobility. We examine how the function of mobility shapes our society, our sense of self, our capacities to work, and our sense of home. The various dimensions of mobility include, but are not limited to, imagining the literal and physical concerns surrounding mobility, the future of connectivity and virtual mobility, the intersection of environmental and energy concerns, the impact that new technologies and increased mobility might have on democratic participation in society as well as individual identity and liberty.
In this project we explore the types of needs we might have as a mobile society. We imagine the role that public policy might play in addressing these needs. Do we want more mobility, less mobility, or more of certain kinds and less of others? What purposes or policy goals might guide our societal decisions about mobility? Our decisions about mobility have far ranging impacts. Mobility affects where and how we live, the kinds of neighborhoods we live in, the kind of environment we have around us, and the kinds of economic development we achieve. Mobility also affects how we feel about ourselves and how we connect with others. So what kinds of choices might we make when it comes to thinking about policies surrounding mobility?
This project offers this opportunity to explore these difficult questions and consider multiple, alternative responses. For example—
- When we think of “mobility” as a concept, what comes to mind? What do we mean by “mobility”? What might be the different kinds of mobility in our society?
- What are some of the different kinds of public concerns we might have about mobility? What different parts of our lives are impacted by mobility? What aspects of mobility could or should be regulated by government policy?
- What might mobility look like in the future? How might technology impact the mobility of our society? What side effects might they have on different dimensions of our lives, as individuals and as a society? For example, how might they impact our health, our environment, our culture, our participation, our economy, or our sense of who we are?
- What does all of this mobility, connectivity, and changing importance of place mean for the future of our society?
- Is mobility a good thing? What kinds of benefits or drawbacks might there be for mobility?
- What kinds of national security, public safety, public health, or community development concerns might we have about mobility?
- What kinds of rights might we have or want when it comes to mobility?
- How does mobility appear in different social settings or as our society changes? For example, what concerns about mobility and youth or mobility and aging might we have? How might all these concerns differ if we’re talking about physical mobility or virtual mobility?
- What kinds of needs might we have as a society for mobility? What public purposes or goals might we have? What values, whether ethical, cultural, economic, environmental, and so on, might shape our thinking about mobility?
- In what ways might mobility become the object of greater social control in the future? In what ways might mobility be more democratized—more generally accessible or more the object of individual choice?
- What impacts might our societal choices about mobility have on the family? How might the future of mobility impact other forms of social organization? How might alternative approaches to mobility change the way we think about the family or other social units?
The project panel discussions began in May 2012 and were completed within about one year. For more information about the project see ifdemocracy.tumblr.com or send me an email.
Project Update: The panels’ discussions, followed by test discussions, have culminated in a published discussion guide, On the Move: The Future Mobility of People, Products, and Ideas, which is available both online, by clicking on the cover image above, or as a pdf download (40 pages/1.7 MB) by clicking on the blue button in the bar to the right.