Chapter 14: Sociotechnical transition in the transport system
While the notion of sustainability has been around – and contested – for several decades, a new consensus seems to be emerging sparked in part by the imminent crises of global climate change and oil shortage. At least in Europe more and more actors in the corporate world, civic society, science and the media as well as policy-makers and politicians, now accept that fundamental, systemic changes in the flows and circulation of people, goods and energy are required. The term ‘transitions’ is increasingly used to denote such systemic changes and the adjective ‘sociotechnical’ is often added to foreground their comprehensiveness. Indeed, a sociotechnical transition has been defined as a major shift in which the technologies, markets, infrastructures, consumer practices, cultural meanings, policies and regulations, and scientific knowledges that together constitute a sociotechnical system are durably reconfigured (Geels, 2004). Couching the shift towards low carbon mobility as a sociotechnical transition is useful for multiple reasons. Beyond emphasizing the need for changes in the basic architecture of contemporary mobility systems, transition thinking draws attention to a wider range of actors than is common in transport research (Schwanen et al., 2011): not only public authorities, urban planners, transport agencies, vehicle manufacturers and consumers are important, so are venture capital suppliers, insurance companies, designers, material and machine suppliers, lobby organizations, social movements, the media and research institutes.
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