Research Group
Main content

Mobility and transport pose major challenges to societies today. The automobile is no longer considered the source of happiness and professional advancement that it represented for many years, although autonomous mobility and the freedom of individual movement remain among the key features of modern society.

The old model of mobility as the basis for affluent democratic societies is eroding. It was originally designed to maximize the movement of goods and persons and minimize spatial barriers to allow for freedom and prosperity, but it is no longer working. The automotive industry is locked in path-dependency: the new types of engines and automated assistance systems do not offer alternatives that are both sustainable and economically viable. Ecologically speaking, they are too resource-intensive and, they do not reduce the problem of traffic jams and commuter traffic.

Alternative models of life and work beyond mass-motorization are nevertheless beginning to emerge. So, what does a socially just and climate-neutral ‘post-automotive society’ look like? What are the obstacles to this transformation?

The program of the research group “Digital Mobility and Social Differentiation” focuses on three core tasks:

  • Empirical assessments of the social process of parting with private automobiles: How far has it progressed and what role do digital platforms play? How do life plans and mobility practices develop in rural areas in contrast to urban ones? How does digitalization influence the dialectic of spatial and social mobility?
  • Interventions in the political regulation of traffic and public spaces: How can the path-dependency of the dominant governance structures in this area be interrupted so that spaces for experimenting with new practices are opened? How can policymakers be persuaded to try out new rules?
  • Consolidation of the theoretical framework for a sociology of transformation: The sociology of technology has so far generated a profound knowledge about technological inscriptions of social dynamics, yet it knows very little about how basic technological structures start to erode. The research will address this deficit and contribute to a better understanding of the dynamics of technical and social transformations.