Speeding up, slowing down, breaking down: an ethnography of software-driven mobility

Item Type Journal paper

The dynamics of software – and thus also of its development – is an inherent part of the story of how mobilities are made and work. Building on this argument, this ethnographic study explains how navigation software development is caught in a constant culture of acceleration through commercial competition and shifting transport conditions, on the one hand, and a logic of routing and navigation based on creating the fastest route possible for its users, on the other hand. Behind this overall process of technological acceleration lies a multiplicity of forces – sometimes accelerating, but at other times slowing down, stuttering, moving in reverse, or completely coming to a halt in breakdown, shifting the pace of such technological progress. Bringing software development practice into the picture of how mobility systems work (or don’t work) allows us to understand the multiple temporal orders of speeding up and slowing down that push and pull at the fabric of our mobile infrastructures. Doing so will help us counter the popular discourse that our networked, seamless digital technologies are invincible. Based on an ethnography at ‘BerlinTech’, a large commercial navigation software company, this paper provides a multilayered understanding about the temporal forces fuelling our software driven mobility infrastructures.

Authors Bialski, Paula
Journal or Publication Title Mobilities
Language English
Keywords Cultures of software development, routing, navigation, ethnography, infrastructure
Subjects computer science
social sciences
HSG Classification contribution to scientific community
HSG Profile Area None
Refereed Yes
Date 5 October 2020
Publisher Routledge
Place of Publication online
Page Range 1-16
Number of Pages 16
ISSN-Digital https://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rmob20
Publisher DOI 10.1080/17450101.2020.1816035
Official URL https://doi.org/10.1080/17450101.2020.1816035
Depositing User B.A. FHS B Miriam Augustine
Date Deposited 12 Oct 2020 15:09
Last Modified 31 Oct 2020 13:17
URI: https://www.alexandria.unisg.ch/publications/261208


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Bialski, Paula (2020) Speeding up, slowing down, breaking down: an ethnography of software-driven mobility. Mobilities, 1-16.


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