chapter  13
3 Pages

Conclusion

WithSUSAN ROBERTSON

Our contributions to the burgeoning dialogues on mobilities have explored ways that help us to establish the significance of relationality, age and lifecourse. Asking questions of what is meant by generation and intergeneration, as applied to mobilities, has opened up different ways of examining interdependencies that position the work as moving on from careful analysis and into the realm of the propositional, exploring different ways that perceptions and conceptions of the lifecourse may be understood. The authors of the chapters included in this book take diverse approaches to these considerations and together provide a rich and multilayered understanding of the impacts of intergenerational mobilities, in terms of perception, anticipation and the materialities of engaging in the desires and limitations that arise. Our contention is that generations shape mobilities and mobilities shape generations and that neither of these shapings are even, steady or necessarily one-way. It has become clear that to look at age as a generational definition is not adequate; generation as a concept is fluid, relational, intersectional and co-productive of dynamic interdependencies. First we examine how authors have questioned the notion of ‘generation’ as

a distinct stage of the lifecourse, which becomes apparent through mobilities. In Chapter 7, Dubucs, Pfirsch and Schmoll study the experiences of recent Italian immigrants, for whom ‘generation’ has become a label that identifies a group of those in early adulthood who have left their country of birth for better opportunities, and recognition of their value, elsewhere. Their understanding of this stage of lifecourse relates predominantly to their educational achievements (most being highly educated) and their engagement with employment that they judge as appropriate to their qualifications and aptitude. In this analysis it would seem that there is a mismatch between the expectations and frustrations of those seeking to enter into another generation, not specifically defined by age but also defined differently by those identified in this or an adjacent generation. Ricci, in Chapter 10, discusses the mobilities of a generation of young people who live on an estate in Bristol who feel labelled and disadvantaged by not being old enough to claim benefits but still having to pay adult bus fares. Stratford, in Chapter 2, describes the anticipations of those in one stage of life and how they are expected to behave and the

responsibilities that are perceived as defining a phase of life such as adulthood, suggesting that stages of the lifecourse are sought after and can only be achieved successfully within specific parameters of how to flourish within each stage. For each of these authors it seems that the thresholds of generations and stages of the lifecourse are not fixed, and it is not unusual to experience different stages simultaneously, by remembering, anticipating and acknowledging how others perceive a generational identity. Second, and related to the fluidity of generation, is the tendency to associate

particular mobile activities with particular generations or lifecourse stages. In Chapter 6 Harley critically examines mobile phone use according to bands of ages that are more or less accepted in social science as suggestive of stages of the lifecourse. However, Harley challenges these normative assumptions, indicating that attitudes to communication technologies cannot be simply categorised according to age. Similarly, Sayago et al. show, in Chapter 5, that there is a willingness, a desire and even a necessity for older people to engage in technologies, more commonly considered to be the preserve of much younger people. These are required in order not only to enable continued communication with multi-generational families but also to provide the opportunity to communicate with others, which is relished as a way of opening up broader social networks. Third, the collection helps explicate the relationality of generation, mobilities

and immobilities. The question of generation in Fisker’s Chapter 11 arises in a ‘mobile with’ situation that allows Mimi, in an iron lung, to be moved to the window to see her young child playing in the courtyard outside the hospital ward. Fisker makes the case that there are useful lessons to be learned from the potential of mobilities that are enabled by family, or others, that may inform future planning for less mobile older people living in situations where the interaction with family and others is altered. Both Klinger (Chapter 9) and Gilroy et al. (Chapter 3) are concerned with the circular affects of transitions on older people and their mobilities. Transitions may occur as a result of aging (for example hearing loss or stopping child care) and have an affect on mobilities (Gilroy et al.). The key life events that Klinger discusses may be the result of decisions taken in anticipation of limitations to mobilities in older age. On the other hand the limitations to mobilities that returning immigrants experience, according to Kalaw in Chapter 12, seem to come as something of a surprise and certainly a disappointment: Filipino males who have spent many years working abroad and providing for family back home in the Philippines, return home to find that they are less able to pick up previous (generally physical) occupations due to diminished physical fitness as these occupations have not been practised for a long time. Fourth is the co-constitution of generational mobilities and urban space.

Over a 24-hour period of observing a ‘shared space’ in Brighton, Murray and Robertson (Chapter 8) found a shifting of generationally identified dominance: the maximum diversity of generations was observed in the middle of the day but at night time groups of young adults were dominant. The effect of the

changes in generational diversity had a marked impact on the spatial practices of the shared street space, and this effect appeared to be self-perpetuating: the narrower range of generations dominating the space had a negative impact on encouraging a broader range of generations to share the space. Meanwhile Johnson in Chapter 4 describes how the relationships between mothers (and other relatives) and daughters apply pressures that move street-connected girls in Nairobi in and out of education and working on the streets. Intergenerational cultures of mobilities, in this collection, are defined in various ways: here most clearly identified in the expectations, anticipations and perceptions of those interviewed as participants of the research. These are cultures that are experienced rather than assumed or observed by others; they are immersive, and we have drawn attention to the mobilities within and around the edges of these cultures, as they change within and across generations. Effects of speed on mobilities as an aspect of culture are seen in Murray and Robertson, and elucidated in Harley’s detailed examination of the modes of travel that different generations engage in while using a mobile phone. Both of these studies were made in the same ‘shared space’, clearly demonstrating how the slowed down nature of the space allows for a different kind of scrutiny. A pervading theme throughout is the embodiment of age – how the body

feels and moves and feels as it moves – becomes a far more complex concept when taken to stages of the lifecourse and generation. The evidence and perceptions of injustices that are captured in the chapters here are material, embodied; they are felt and affect the day-to-day lives of those identified as ‘different’. Reaction and rejection and an understanding of tolerance and friction on the basis of perceived differences of mobilities expand through the focus of intergenerationality, with a number of adjacent themes emerging from the chapters, including the intersections of gender, the specific nature of relationships and networks whether inter-or extra-familial, the significance of economic, educational and health-related profiles, and the use of technologies. Journeys through time and space are both real and imagined, and the

sharing of these experiences is important in identifying where and when injustices occur so that we can take pre-emptive actions. The stories recounted in this collection draw attention to the spatial significance of mobilities, in terms of scope, scale, frequency and distance. Just as ‘age’ has become an increasingly ambiguous, mutable term, we contend that perceptions of the relationship between age, space and place have become very much more potent as characteristics of the lifecourse.