Mobility as agency: perspectives from South Africa, China, and the United States

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dc.contributor.author Bergman, Zinette
dc.date.accessioned 2021-03-30T17:20:33Z
dc.date.available 2021-03-30T17:20:33Z
dc.date.issued 2020
dc.identifier.uri https://hdl.handle.net/10539/30829
dc.description A thesis submitted in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at the University of the Witwatersrand, Department of Psychology, School of Human and Community Development, University of the Witwatersrand, 2020 en_ZA
dc.description.abstract We must develop more sustainable ways to be mobile, yet four main hurdles challenge sustainable mobility. The first is the need for individuals and groups to adopt the fundamentally different attitudes, values, and norms upon which sustainable mobility are premised. The second is the reticence to abandon infrastructures and industries that are clearly unsustainable. The third is about the limits imposed by mono-focal mobility approaches that tend to favour either socio-technical or psychosocial interventions. The fourth is the lack of integration, which prevents the creation of an interdependent mobility system that associates psychosocial, sociocultural, and technological dimensions that would give rise to more sustainable mobility practices. The purpose of this research is to explore the potential contribution psychology can make to developing sustainable mobility solutions that transcend some of these limitations. Psychology has played an important role in addressing societal challenges for many decades. The field has at its disposal extensive knowledge about individuals and their practices, and given that individual practices are the defining feature of mobility, the field is ideally positioned to contribute to sustainable mobility. Our ability to be mobile serves as one of the primary functions through which we realise our personal, professional, and social goals. Thus, our potential as agents in the world is deeply connected to our ability to be mobile. Accordingly, there exists a fundamental connection between personal agency and individual mobility practices. This research exploits this connection by using Albert Bandura’s concept of personal agency and his Model of Triadic Reciprocal Causation to develop a framework known as ‘mobility as agency’. This framework conceptualises different modes of agency (individual, proxy, and collective) as well as the potential of different types of environments (selected, imposed, or constructed) to facilitate or constrain agentive action in relation to mobility intentions and desired outcomes in order to study mobility practices as dynamic and interdependent agentive practices. Conceptualising and studying the interdependence between different psychosocial dimensions and socio-structural environments that define mobility practices in different contexts offers the opportunity to systematically examine the limitations of current sustainable mobility approaches and to explore how these limitations could be overcome. Using a comparative case study approach, mobility as agency is applied empirically in three research sites to study the mobility practices of car users in regions without developed passenger trains in the United States (US), regular train users in Beijing, China, and Metrorail commuters in the Western Cape of South Africa. A mixed methods approach known as Hermeneutic Content Analysis is used to study how agency unfolds in individual mobility practices. The analyses identify various agentive pathways, which function differentially, and which are systematically connected to different environmental dimensions, thereby illustrating how mobility as agency is inherently psychosocial and functionally dependent on technical and socio-structural environmental dimensions. The argument for a more nuanced understanding of agency as distinct and systematic patterns of reciprocal interactions is based on empirically systematising distinct patterns of reciprocal interaction between preferences and behaviours in relation to specific contextual and cultural dynamics of mobility environments. To date, most studies on personal agency focus on individual agency especially in relation to self-efficacy. By transcending conventional unidirectional concepts of agency, this research contributes a framework that expands personal agency in line with the Model of Triadic Reciprocal Causation to include the reciprocal interactions between different psychosocial dimensions and socio-structural environments. Furthermore, these findings contribute to the field of sustainable mobility an approach that addresses some of the limitations imposed by focusing on either technical and socio-structural, or psychosocial interventions. Using mobility as agency to examine the interdependencies and conditionalities of mobility practices, this research intends to contribute to advancing psychological research on the dynamic reciprocal relationship between individuals, culture, and environment. In doing so, it proposes a culture-sensitive and context-specific approach to studying sustainable mobility en_ZA
dc.language.iso en en_ZA
dc.title Mobility as agency: perspectives from South Africa, China, and the United States en_ZA
dc.type Thesis en_ZA
dc.description.librarian CK2021 en_ZA
dc.phd.title PhD en_ZA
dc.faculty Faculty of Humanities en_ZA
dc.school School of Human and Community Development en_ZA


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