Environmental Philosophy

Volume 15, Issue 1, Spring 2018

Environmental Hermeneutics: In Memory of W. S. K. “Scott” Cameron

Jonathan Maskit
Pages 43-58

Urban Mobility—Urban Discovery
A Phenomenological Aesthetics for Urban Environments

In this paper I investigate how different modes of urban transportation shape our experience of the urban environment. My goal is to argue that how we move through a space is not merely a question of convenience or efficiency. Rather, our transportation technologies can fundamentally shift how we experience where we are. I propose a framework for considering mobility from the standpoint of phenomenological everyday aesthetics considering the social, somatic, temporal-epistemic, and affective characteristics of experience. I then suggest a typology of different forms of urban mobility distinguishing between private and public forms of transportation as well as between faster and slower modes. I next suggest a trio of factors—speed, ability to survey one’s surroundings, and ease of interruption—that play into how we experience an urban environment while discovering it by means of mobility. By applying the framework of experience and the trio of factors to the typology of transportation modes I show how each of them can foster or hinder an aesthetic experience of the urban environment. I conclude by reflecting on some further issues for investigation including the role of power in urban space, questions concerning mobility and difference (class, race, dis/ability, etc.), the place of technological mediation in urban mobility, and the role of spatial planning.