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Using crowdsourced public transport databases for a decolonial perspective on mobility transitions

Authors: Wladimir Sgibnev*,
Topics: Transportation Geography, Eurasia, Geographic Information Science and Systems
Keywords: crowdsourcing, transport, mobility, decolonial theories
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In view of carbon-free futures, mobility transitions substantially unsettle spatial and socio-economic orders. Their unsuccessful implementation is often attributed to the latency of political decisions or conflations with industrial interests. An alternative vision, however, ties the failure to a pervasive reliance on technological fixes, eurocentrism, and simplistic understandings of power relations. Building on this strand, the contribution proposes to reconceptualise mobility transitions by adopting a decolonial lens . Coloniality is argued to last far beyond the historical experience of colonialism, and expresses itself in the production and distribution of knowledge.
With this in mind, digital data provides the potential for identifying and discussing self-racialisation and self-orientalising practices which have marked multiple colonised spaces in the fields of mobility productions “from below”. Public transport enthusiasts throughout the globe oftentimes exhibit “sustainable”, apolitical, infrastructure-heavy worldviews, rely on imported best practices and reject presumably “backward” “indigenous” transport options. Critical perspectives are scarce, but emerging. Even if trainspotters lack political representation in their local contexts, they are at the forefront of debates on possible mobility futures.
To understand which ideologies, assumptions and knowledge inequalities are at stake, the paper delves into crowdsourced public transport photo repositories (e.g. old-bus-photos.co.uk), rolling stock databases (e.g. transphoto.ru) and mapping projects (e.g. www.openrailwaymap.org), and provides a qualitative and quantitative analysis on contributing practices, biographies, and discourses. This builds on recent critical discussions on crowdsourced digital data such as OpenStreetMap, Wikimapia, or Wikipedia which have revealed underlying gender and regional biases, yet have left mobility concerns and decolonial perspectives unconsidere

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