Cities for everyone : new vulnerabilities and governance methods

A different approach is needed in place of traditional spatial segregation studies that differentiated territories by their local infrastructure equipment rates (Massot, 2010). Although this type of approach is still valid when we are comparing two countries – developing countries, emerging countries, poorer countries (which harks back to point A) or even a comparison between different regions in certain extremely diverse countries such as China  – it no longer works on a more micro level. The quality of urban life is increasingly defined by individual access to services, goods and resources (Korsu and Wenglenski, 2010). Such accessibility is based around physical mobility access, the cognitive ability to use relatively complex computerised interfaces and technical processes, or the possibility of mobilising spatially disseminated social networks on an as-needed basis (Kaufmann et al., 2004). So, while unequal access is partly economic (due to the cost of a good or service), we can also see that it is largely systemic and driven by a wide range of sometimes mutually-reinforcing factors.

For example, research focusing on “spatial mismatch” (Kain, 1968) shows that the access difficulties of the least qualified sections of the population are exacerbated by the significant distances between their homes and places of employment within large cities and by their meagre travel resources.

The fact that accessibility is largely mobility-based - and based around auto-mobility in many cases - points up both the acute conflicts that lie ahead with regard to the carbon footprint of these forms of mobility and the entire swaths of social spaces that will be jeopardized by any increase in the cost of mobility. The question of urban morphology and its origins is a key issue here: the transition from cities configured by “auto-mobility” towards cities that are better equipped for public transport is a good illustration of one important aspect (Bertolini and Spit, 1998; Cervero, 1998; Maupu, 2006).

This shows the strategic nature of attempts to model, simulate and represent mobility, regardless of whether the aim is to promote inter-modality, analyse interactions between planning choices, volume and the modal split of this mobility (Leurent 2006), or enhance passenger information. But if they are to flourish, such attempts need to construct a dual interface with both the many different modelling approaches we referred to in point A, and with the public policy specialists who analyse the predominant bases of preparation,  discussion, concertation and decision-making in the urban sphere.

This also highlights the importance of having a good grasp of user action strategies in order to understand what drives potential social innovations (Monnet and Staszak, 2008), to facilitate recourse to more economic solutions (distance services, group mobility for people or goods, etc.) and to come up with interfaces based around the principle of universal design (accessible to all, Preiser, 2001). This notion of universal design assumes special importance in countries with  greying populations and rising numbers of people suffering from a whole host of day-to-day problems. But we are still a long way from the levels of integration achieved between technical approaches and approaches to use achieved by the sociology of uses of NICTs (Jouet, 2000, Proulx 2005). The description of the processes of new technology domestication (Haddon, 2006) and take up should generate urban research that factors in richer, more complex user strategies.

The production and political regulation of these “cities for everyone” represents a formidable challenge. The definition of living together in La métropole des individus (Bourdin, 2005) needs to reexamined from scratch. Even though they are frequently referred to, traditional, local social or cultural structures play a diminishing role in this process. However, the increasing importance of individual usages implies a renewed basis for building forms of solidarity within a territory organized around processes (organizations, services, events, etc.) that cannot exist without a high level of management. Bargaining and governance methods need to incorporate increasingly eclectic types of expertise (Callon et al., 2001) including "profane" user expertise. Factoring in new types of vulnerability implies focusing attention on the supply of services for people who are excluded from, or have poor access to urban resources (jobs, various types of consumption, social life, etc.) due in particular to their poor mobility. This involves managing access to these urban resources and organising mobility on vast scale that includes periurban spaces.