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.
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