Call for Papers

Temporality and normativity are interwoven with one another: Timings convey norms and normative shifts. Rhythms enforce forms of life, conveying rules and principles. Flows of time fit experience and expectation to one another producing specific versions of past, present and future. The end of time conjures up both utopian and dystopian visions.

Yet, while the plurality of normative orders has emerged as a crucial issue of social theory (Boltanski & Thévenot, 1999), its temporal dynamics have received little attention so far. And while the accelerating dynamics of time (Rosa, 2015; Simmel, 1903; Benjamin, 1999; Virilio, 1997; Wajcman & Dodd, 2017) as well as the plurality of temporal orders have been recognized  (Lefebvre, 2004), implications for theorizing normative orders remain unclear. In social theory, time has been addressed as a social ordering principle  (Zerubavel, 1982) emphasizing the symbolic dimension and the normative aspects of social regularities. Especially with industrialization processes (Adam, 2004) clock time has been naturalized as commodified, compressed, colonized and controlled resource which regulates social relations. Normativity, on the other hand, is typically understood through spatial and static imagery, in terms of already given normative “spheres,” “reach” and “binding force.” The normativity of time, in turn, is commonly backgrounded and kept “still” as a rather unproblematic, uncontested convention guarded by technology. By temporalizing phenomena—e.g. systems of gift exchange (Bourdieu, 1977)—a praxeological perspective questions such static views on normative orders and shows how issues of timing are integral to social practices.

To discuss the nexus of temporal and normative orders in empirical detail and with ethnographic sensibility, we propose to focus on various forms of (traffic and transport) mobility. With real-timing, punctuality and synchronization as its crucial requirements, mobility brings the plurality of temporal orders to the fore. Traffic and transport mobilities rely on and create rhythms as “active producers of realities” (Revill, 2013). Furthermore, mobile practices perform hybrid public spaces where the plurality of temporal and normative orders becomes especially palpable. In these spaces temporal and normative orders are automated, technically embedded and mobilized—increasingly through software and code (Kitchin and Dodge, 2011; Kitchin, in press). Consequently, being mobile and/or mobilizing others makes the plurality of normative and temporal orders an issue: distant spheres have to be linked, gaps to be bridged, connections forged, groups coordinated, timelines met, processes aligned etc.

Through the study of traffic and transport mobilities we direct attention to the intricate relations that multiple temporal and normative orders unfold in practice. Temporal and normative orders overlap and interfere; they support and challenge one another.  We seek to develop both a normative notion of time as well as a dynamic notion of normativity: temporality as a fundamental normative issue, normativity as a temporal phenomenon through and through. In so doing, we aim to reconcile a praxeological account (social order as practical accomplishment) with normative notions of sociality (social order as moral order)—a notion present in proto-praxeological social theory (most prominently, ethnomethodology and interactionism) but absent in most theorizing thereafter, only gaining weight again in current theorizing. With this theoretical interest in traffic and transport mobilities, we propose to expand on recent mobility studies (e.g. Büscher, Urry, & Witchger, 2010; Cresswell, 2006; Krämer & Schindler, 2016; Jensen, 2015; Urry, 2007), for which theoretical and empirical issues are always intertwined.

To explore the nexus of temporal and normative orders, we invite papers that deal empirically and/or conceptually with the relation of normative and temporal orders in the field of mobilities. Possible questions include:

Punctuality: Why is punctuality a norm frequently encountered when dealing with organized traffic and transport? Why is it still upheld despite trains, flights, ferries, cars, and busses often being late? How are different forms of mobilities linked to punctuality? What does it mean to be punctual when driving by car or travelling by plane?

Real-timeness, synchronization, anticipation, prediction/prioritization: How do different forms of temporality occur? How are they arranged and organized?

Rhythm and flow: When is rhythm enforced (rhythm as enforced discipline), when does it become a flow (rhythm as a skillful way of handling time)? Which forms of eurhythmia, arrhythmia and polyrhythmia take place? Through what kind of infrastructures?

Experience: How do experiences of time develop a normative force when we are mobile?

Control: How is the plurality of normative and temporal orders in transport and traffic monitored and regulated? How are temporal gaps and normative splits managed in practice?

Conflict and competing demands of time: When can issues of timing in traffic and transport help settle conflicts, when do they generate and amplify conflict? How do they interfere?

Breakdown of orders: How to keep on track when rhythms fall apart and time estimates become obsolete? What are temporal and normative orders of breakdown and catastrophe?

Scaling: How are norms of traffic uphold over longer periods of time? How do actors scale their actions so that norms become relatively durable? What are the different scales that can be identified when talking about the temporality and normativity of traffic?

If you are interested in presenting a paper, please send an abstract (max. 300 words) to on_time[ÄT] until 15th of February 2018.

To facilitate discussions during the workshop participants will be asked to hand in short papers (approx. 3,000–4,000 words) no later than 15th  of July 2018.

Non-tenured researchers attending the workshop may apply for a refund of their travel and accomodation costs!


Adam, B. (2004). Time, Cambridge, Polity Press.

Benjamin, W. (1999). The Arcades Project, Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

Boltanski, L., & Thévenot, L. (1999). The Sociology of Critical Capacity. European Journal of Social Theory, 2(3), 359–377.

Bourdieu, P. (1977). Outline of a Theory of Practice, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Büscher, M., Urry, J., & Witchger, K. (Eds.) (2010). Mobile Methods. London/New York: Routledge.

Cresswell, T. (2006). On the Move: Mobility in the Modern Western World. London/New York: Routledge.

Kitchin, R. (in press) The Realtimeness of Smart Cities. Tecnoscienza, 8(2).

Kitchin, R. and Dodge, M. (2011). Code/Space: Software and Everyday Life, Cambridge, MIT Press.

Jensen, O. B. (2015). Mobilities. London/New York: Routledge.

Krämer, H., & Schindler, L. (Eds.) (2016). Mobiltät (Special Issue of the Österreichische Zeitschrift für Soziologie 41(1)) Wiesbaden: Springer VS.

Lefebvre, H. (2004). Rhythmanalysis: Space, Time and Everyday Life. London/New York: Continnuum.

Revill, G. (2013). Points of Departure: Listening to Rhythm in the Sonoric Spaces of the Railway Station. The Sociological Review, 61 (S1), 51–68.

Rosa, H. (2015). Social Acceleration. New York: New York University Press.

Simmel, G. (1971). The Metropolis and Mental life. In Donald Levine (Ed.), Simmel: On Individuality and Social Forms (p. 324). Chicago: Chicago University Press.

Urry, J. (2007). Mobilities. Cambridge: Polity.

Virilio, P. (1997). Open Sky, London, Verso.

Wajcman, Judy, & Dodd, Nigel (Eds.) (2017). The Sociology of Speed: Digital, Organizational, and Social Temporalities. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Zerubavel, E. (1982). The Standardization of Time: A Sociohistorical Perspective. American Journal of Sociology, 88(1), 1–23.