Visual Analysis of Gender Smart Mobility
This report gives three examples on how to approach digital images in analyses of transport and mobility. It includes an analysis of a) Bike-Sharing Schemes, b) Female Entrepreneurs and gendered innovation within Biking, and c) Rollers as Gendered and Social Innovation. The images are collected on Danish webpages, as this is a biking nation and a country where rollers are widespread, and offered to needy for free by authorities. The three analyses have in each their way shown that available digital images are never neutral, but represents stories and conceptions that its viewers can respond to. In the analysis of Bike-Sharing Schemes, and in the analysis of Female Entrepreneurs, images as data material were both approached quantitatively (distant) and qualitatively (close), by questioning who were represented, how were they represented, and importantly: who were not represented (Spiering ). These questions of diversity help us to map, perhaps not acknowledged excluded groups, and challenge areas to include bodies that are not slim, young, and abled, but also fat bodies, older persons, and persons who travel with a dependent. The report too includes an analysis of Rollers as gendered and social innovation, and here we suggested yet another approach to use digital images as starting point for analysis. Where the two first analyses pick out images illustrating a company’s overall representation, the third analysis examines potential users’ responses and associations to images of commonly known persons, who can illustrate barriers for the roller as innovation, as well as challenge the narrative of a roller user on a larger scale.
We find in the case of bike-sharing scheme companies Voi, Lime, Donkey Republic and Nextbike that overall more women were represented in graphics that the companies varied in their representation of non-white persons, and that young adults dominated the representation of bike users. This means that some of the excluded groups in the representation of imagined bike tours are elderly persons, or people travelling with a depended. A qualitative interpretation of selected images showed that the represented users at LIME, Donkey Republic, and NextBike often were young, slim, and enabled. This representation of bodies was challenged by VOI that included spacious graphics of bodies, including the fat body to be a healthy, biking body too. Especially LIME, but also Donkey Republic and VOI appealed to amusement, youth, and freedom, and though this may be attractive, the service may not reach its full potential, as it is still being marketed towards early adopters, who have freedom of choice. Transport is not a spontaneous idea for all, but requires planning for example reasoned to different family constellations (Breengaard, Henriksson, and Wallsten 2021:9, forthcomming).
In the case of female entrepreneurs, we see that Hövding, Safe+Sound, and Påhoj all contribute to gender smart mobility through social innovation. All three cases of female entrepreneurship have developed innovative solutions to everyday challenges, including a high degree of safety in traffic. These innovative solutions strengthen mobility and smart transportation – especially for women and mothers – and illustrate a greater focus on diversity when it comes to navigating easily in traffic. Traffic and transportation are commonly associated as a masculine domain but are within all three cases challenged on this assumption through the innovative contribution from women and through the inclusion of female consumers within the design and images. Despite the greater degree of inclusion, our visual analysis did show a tendency to neglect representations of elderly and non-white users. Only few images depicted such, indicating an inclusion gap and potential for greater diversity representation in the future. In general, the images illustrate great diversity when it comes to gender; both in terms of consumption, use, and safety.
In the case of rollers, we argue that smart is not always digital, as rollers be understood as gendered and social innovation. Still rollers are not a sexy or cutting-edge research topic, not even when it comes to studies of elderly and mobility of those conducted in fields of design and assistive technologies (Christensen 2021). By using the theoretical notion of scripts in combination with visual analysis and interviews, it is demonstrated how rollers, and their users are intertwined in everyday practices and how these relationships intersect with notions of age and social welfare provision (see Christensen 2021). One can argue that the roller can be seen as a simple, disruptive innovation emerging from the bottom up with contradictory scripts of gender and age. Still users understand the roller both negatively per se for example not feeling elegant, as related to norms of being a correct roller user with an upright/ rank figure, or as positively related to private socializing.
Overall digital images provide a huge amount of material for the researcher to investigate, and we encourage with these three different visual analysis researchers to use the many available images, as they are suitable for especially examining representation, dominating narratives, imagined realities and to engage with what implications certain representation may have. The images are at the same time representing and recreating conceptions and narratives, and therefore hold a great potential for change. The analyses shown in this report have further examined cases that contribute to sustainable and effective mobility solutions, and thereby contribute to understand who is included and excluded.