Dr Dan Podjed 'Daily commuting by car between boredom and anxiety'

Thursday, April 23, 2015 - 00:00

Thursday 23rd April 2015 4.30pm, Anthropology Seminar Room, Rowan House
War is sometimes described as long periods of boredom punctuated by moments of terror – especially from the perspective of a soldier. We can apply the same analogy to driving and traffic in large cities: from a distance, traffic looks as a constant battlefield and struggle, yet drivers usually perceive driving as a boring activity. This paper presents and analyses everyday commuting by personal car in Ljubljana on fixed or rarely-changing routes that drivers take routinely, which occasionally becomes extremely – even unbearably – exciting. Such extreme situations commonly occur at a particular time of day and week (e.g. during rush hours) or at certain micro-locations (e.g. at crossroads), where different types of vehicles meet. The author presents what happens in such intense situations and how people express their anger and anxiety. He also analyses the boring moments in traffic and explains what people do in vehicles to make their daily commutes more interesting.

The presentation is based on research on driving habits carried out within the applied interdisciplinary project “DriveGreen: Development of an eco-driving application for a transition to a low-carbon society” (www.drivegreen.si). The main research approach in the project is dubbed as “participant driving.” It combines ethnographic research with driving style measurements by telematics devices, video-capturing by dash-board cameras (GoPro), and measurement of body functions by mobile ECG devices and other sensors. Such a “quanlitative” approach provides a comprehensive overview of driving habits, sheds a new light on our practices on the road, and provides possible answers to the question: How can we avoid extreme situations in traffic and keep driving interesting?
About the author:
Dr Dan Podjed is a research fellow at the Scientific Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts (ZRC SAZU), an assistant professor for cultural and social anthropology at the University of Ljubljana (Faculty of Arts, Department of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology) and a researcher in a company CVS Mobile, the leading regional developer of fleet management and telematics solutions for vehicles. His professional activities and research interests are joint within an interdisciplinary applied research project “DriveGreen: Development of an Eco-driving Application for a Transition to a Low-carbon Society” (2014–2017, www.drivegreen.si), in which he is a principal investigator. Dr Podjed is also a coordinator of the Applied Anthropology Network of the European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA) and initiator of the international symposium “Why the world needs anthropologists.”