Reading the Signals: The meaning of pedestrian crossings in uncertain times

UoM administered thesis: Master's Thesis


This dissertation begins with the observation that contemporary pedestrian crossing use in Manchester is characterised by a ‘normalised incoherence’. I posit that this incoherence could be caused in part by the crossings representing an interruption of ‘publicness’ in routine experiences of pedestrianism that have been increasingly framed by privatised and individualised notions of mobility. I suggest that this recontextualises experiences at pedestrian crossings such that they can seem at odds with contemporary common sense, and that this contributes to a tendency for people to view public-driven solutions to social problems as unrealistic or undesirable. Katharina Manderscheid’s theory of Mobility as Dispositif, is used in conjunction with Andrew Sayer’s theory of Lay Normativity to suggest how actions occurring in scenes of mobility, such as pedestrian crossings, can be related to broader political and social processes of change. A two-stage ethnographic investigation is described, where an initial period of participant observation is complemented by a creative method - ‘Dual-perspective GoPro Ethnography’ - which involves a participant recording their pedestrian journey from their perspective using a body-mounted camera, whilst the researcher accompanies them at a short distance, also wearing a camera, to capture a contextualising recording of the trip. The recordings are edited so both perspectives can be viewed simultaneously and are then screened as a means of elicitation in a discussion of the journey between the researcher and the participant. Findings confirm the value of the technique as an effective means of generating discussion of mobile experiences and go some way to confirming the possibility of linking people’s pedestrian crossing practice to broader social and political processes of change. Through noting the relationship between participants’ ethical sense of how mobility ought to be conducted, to hegemonic notions of mobility, political dimensions of pedestrian practice – and pedestrian infrastructure - can be better understood.


Original languageEnglish
  • Peter Mcmylor (Supervisor)
Award date2019