institut pour la ville en mouvement

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The Meanings of Movement
Modernity and Mobilities in Contemporary Urban Societies

Syvain Allemand
François Ascher,
Jacques Lévy
Editions Belin, 2005

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Movement, mobility... what precisely is meant by these apparently ordinary words that are so characteristic of modernity?
Depending on whether one’s viewpoint is sociological, economic, geographical, urbanistic, artistic or political, movement and mobility relate to different questions and issues.
The proceedings shown here seek to reflect the wide spectrum of questions and societal challenges raised by the issue of movement in contemporary societies, with a particular focus on urban mobilities, which are analysed in their social, economic, political, urbanistic and environmental dimensions.
Here, then, questions are asked about the “senses of movement”, but not necessarily with the aim of consensus, and sometimes even in the acceptance of contradiction.
At a time of “generalised mobility”, it is important to pay attention to the multiplicity of existing mobilities.

International colloquium organised by the city on the move institute and the cerisy-la- salle international cultural centre, 13-18 june 2003

13-18 June 2003

Colloquium organisers:
Sylvain Allemand, François Ascher, Jacques Lévy
Scientific committee: Sylvain Allemand, François Ascher, Alain Bourdin, Jacques Lévy, Michel Lussault, Michel Savy, John Urry

Modernity confronts societies with an ever wider exposure to movement: social movement, which changes the places and roles of individuals and groups, previously fixed by immutable rules; movement of ideas, which replaces traditions by opinions and choices constructed out of an increasing diversity of experience; movement of timescales, which places the planning process at the heart both of personal and organisational life; movement of sciences and technology, which makes innovation a key element in the dynamics of exchange; movement of information and knowledge, which allows near-instantaneous connection between every point of the planet; movement of goods, which seems almost emancipated from geographical distance by advances in transport techniques; movement of capitals, which “float” electronically from one continent to the next; movement of families, which are composed and recomposed in ever more complex ways; movement of people, who at any age and almost any time, travel ever larger distances.

The economy seems to play an important role in this modern exposure to movement. Performance models are very largely constructed on a division of labour and specialisations which, through advances in telecommunications and transport technologies, are organised at increasingly larger scales. Markets expand in step with processes of production.

The changes in lifestyles that accompany and drive these economic dynamics are also characterised by movement. Indeed, this movement is essential as modern individuals seek ever more autonomy, wishing to choose what they do, where they do it, when they do it, and require more and more power to decide what should change in their lives and what should not change.

This ubiquitous and ever-increasing mobility is an attribute of modernity. Inevitably, however, it also brings problems.
Firstly, it seems to make it harder to implement the principle of sustainable development, the quest for an acceptable compromise between the requirements of economic development, social justice and the protection of natural and cultural resources. The environmental impact of transport is often poorly controlled (both locally and globally); the economic and cultural resources of mobility are unequally divided, while travel is increasingly indispensable to modern urban societies; the growing mobility of people, information and goods, contributes to the costs of development.

Secondly, this generalised mobility transforms the relations between individuals, between individuals and social groupings, between people and places. For how can individuals who are constantly on the move form interest groups, build solidarity, situate themselves in
relation to others, maintain shared relations with a place? Does not this multi-mobility modernity also give rise to inward-looking and traditionalist local reactions among those forced into movement against their will, and conversely among those excluded from movement? Or else, is it not movement that itself becomes that which produces and articulates the global and the local, in a diversified and changing “glocality”?

How do different societies react when confronted with this multi-mobility modernity? To what extent do they adopt the same solutions or, alternatively, different solutions marked by the perpetuation of different cultural and social traits? Do not different cultural models conflict in the confrontation of mobilities?

These are the central questions that inspire the seminar being organised by the City on the Move Institute at Cerisy-la-Salle in June 2003. Obviously, the issues are huge. It is not the aim of the seminar to provide simple answers to such large and complex questions. Rather, the objective is to help construct a framework of thought and action for the City on the Move Institute and all those:
- who are working to make urban mobility a generic right, since it has come to govern access to work, the housing, to the family, to education, and leisure;
- who are seeking to make transport a thing of quality, in its resources, its places and its times.
A meeting between men and women of culture and of science from every continent, with economic and political figures from varied bodies and institutions, in so prestigious a place as the international centre of Cerisy-la-Salle, should give rise to rich debate, highlight the common problems created by the new mobilities in different societies, and provide a learning experience for all, whether founded in answers of a specific or general nature.
This seminar is not an end in itself. Indeed, it aims to be the first episode, perhaps the founding act, in a collegiate form of debate on the evolution of our societies and the way they manage the challenges arising out of the development of mobilities.

Synthesis of the colloquium at the Cerisy International Conference Center : “The meanings of movement. Modernity and mobilities in contemporary urban societies”
Download the program