Accepted Paper:

Mobile and Material Semiotics of Post-Soviet Mobilities: Opportunities and Inequalities in Flexible Urban Public Transport (case of Volgograd)  


Andrey Kuznetsov (Volgograd State University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper combines material semiotics (B. Latour) and mobile semiotics (O. Jensen) approaches to account for sociotechnical dynamics of fexible public transport in post-Soviet Russia and to show how different patterns of delegation generate various level of uncertainty within the scenarious of use.

Paper long abstract:

It goes without saying that post-Soviet cities have dramatically changed in last 25 years. Although the changes have affected literaly all areas of city life, the most visible and obvious they are in urban transport systems. On the one hand rapid automobilisation radically transformed urban spaces and mobile practices in post-Soviet cities traditionally oriented towards public urban transportation (PUT). On the other hand PUT itself have vastly transformed in post-Soviet era.

State owned and formalized PUT modes were supplemented and in many cases substituted with marshrutkas - privately owned and in many ways informal PUT. Marshrutkas are the form of urban paratransit that is a PUT mode which shows flexibility in respect of route and/or timetable, and/or fare, in contrast to convetional modes (such as bus or rail) which are usually inflexible in all three aspects. However, flexibilty of paratransit brings with itself a high level of uncertainty in the usage of PUT. Drawing on the material semiotics approach (B. Latour) I will reconstruct the sociotechnical dynamics of post-Soviet marshrutkas in Volgograd and show how different patterns of delegation generate various level of uncertainty within the scenarious of use of PUT. Drawing on mobile semiotic approach (O. Jensen) I will also show how different users manage and use these uncertainties in trying to understand «what is going on around here». In conclusion I will think about how these two approaches could benefit from each other in studying old and new opportunities, constraints and inequalities in post-socialist urban assemblages (I. Farias).

Panel T108
Urban STS and Post-Socialist Cities