Room for one more inside? Negotiating the Situated Practice of Organised Ride-sharing

Goddard, Iain and Walker, Gordon and Faulconbridge, James (2022) Room for one more inside? Negotiating the Situated Practice of Organised Ride-sharing. PhD thesis, Lancaster University.

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This thesis examines organised ride-sharing: the coming together of two or more people, otherwise unacquainted, in sharing a car journey for the fulfilment of their individual mobility needs. I use both online and offline ethnographic data to develop a situated, practice-based understanding of the social, cultural, and affective aspects of ride-sharing in the UK. In policy-focused discourse, ride-sharing is often talked about in terms of surplus or excess, the notion being that empty seats represent an untapped resource to be utilised in efforts to reduce energy demand. Yet, my research demonstrates that giving up an empty seat in their car does not only involve giving up otherwise empty space, but– for both drivers and passengers – involves taking on a range of obligations inherent in the relational practice of ride-sharing. Negotiation of these obligations is subject to the physical circumstances of enactment, which the introduction of smartphone has substantially reconfigured. Digital platforms, which match drivers and passengers who have similar temporal and spatial configurations of mobility needs, have become integral to the communication infrastructure that enables this negotiation. At the same time, procedural and relational complexities of practice enactments directly challenge or highlight the gaps in the scheme’s governance. For a majority of practitioners, organised ride-sharing is an infrequent undertaking, and an engagement that doesn’t persist past a handful of trips. For a committed minority, however, the practice of ride-sharing is one that has become incorporated into their wider mobility practices, and their lives more generally. In this thesis, I have explored the practice as it is enacted by practitioners at either end of this spectrum, and points in between. In the process, I reveal how the existence of both standardisation and flexibility in forms of practice, and in situated notions of virtue, enables organised ride-sharing to perpetuate.

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Thesis (PhD)
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08 Apr 2022 15:35
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05 Jun 2024 23:44