Tim Cresswell On Turbulence

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Abstract: This paper considers the importance of the notion of turbulence for the theorisation of mobility. Turbulence is the product of friction between different kinds of flow. It can be contrasted with smooth ‘laminar’ flow — where everything is moving ‘correctly’. This paper borrows from physics and mathematics as well as the philosophies of Michel Serres and Manuel Delanda to think about turbulence as a process which makes visible the orderings of infrastructural mobilities. The issue of turbulence — incorrect and unpredictable mobilities — will be at the heart of the paper which will form a discussion of
turbulent mobilities in a number of different instances, illustrated by examples from the vagrants of medieval Europe to the shipping of containers and the infrastructure of the Internet. I will contrast the smooth operation of infrastructural mobilities that are supposed to remain silent and invisible with the dramatic and very visible instances of turbulence, that no system can ever predict or make disappear, which provides an entry point into the ordering of a mobile world.

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