Construction of winners and losers in the smart mobility innovation policy in the Netherlands

E. Salas Girones, D. Vrscaj

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionAcademic

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Mobility innovations are deeply ingrained in societies, enabling us to perform certain actions and movements, which are essential for participating in the hyper-connected world (Hannam, Sheller, Urry; 2006). These innovations can be considered political as they unevenly allow various means and comfort of access to different societal groups. According to dominant policy frameworks, these groups (target groups) should be equally treated in policy as they share similarities. However, this is not the case according to the social construction and policy design framework. Policy-making (implicitly) differentiates between groups with the same characteristics by distributing to these different burdens and benefits, or wins and losses. This generates normative concerns of democracy, inclusion, and justice.

In this research, we reflect on how social, technological, economic, and environmental wins and losses are distributed among target groups, and how these processes raise questions of the political nature of innovation. Current research on social construction in policy has focused on social policy, specifically in the areas of health and welfare (see Ingram, Schneider, Deleon; 2007). The role of science and technology, however, has been largely ignored. Hence, drawing from the Science and Technology Studies (STS), we demonstrate that considering the way in which specific technological innovations enable actors to perform certain actions within society, is essential for understanding the process of construction of target groups. Furthermore, STS insights enable us to reflect on (implicit) technical and social exclusion of user groups through innovation designs, or non-consideration in innovation policy (see e.g. Wyatt et al., 2002).

We draw on different disciplines to explore a new field of smart mobility, which is arguably reshaping current transport policy domain. Smart mobility is leading to the emergence of mobility target groups, such as drivers of electric vehicles. This also generates new wins and losses for the groups. Furthermore, smart mobility is gaining increasing attention because it comes with great promises about solving societal issues such as congestion and air pollution. However, through the processes of excluding some target groups, smart mobility may fail to solve social challenges in an inclusive way. As an emerging policy domain, smart mobility is confined to a forward-looking policy agenda and we are interested in reflecting on what role STS could play in guiding more inclusive innovation policies. Empirically we focus on Smart Mobility policy in The Netherlands. Specifically, the Beter Benutten program regions of Maastricht and Brabant. This program aims to reduce traffic congestion by 20% and door-to-door travel time by 10%, by optimizing existing infrastructure usage and by improving mobility network interconnections (Tweede Kamer der Staten-Generaal, 2011). Using research methods based on the document analysis and semi-structured interviews, we show how this roadmap distributes wins and losses among (smart) mobility user groups.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 15th Annual STS Conference Graz 2016: Critical Issues in Science, Technology and Society Studies
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2016
EventSTS: 15th Annual STS Conference Graz 2016: Critical Issues in Science, Technology and Society Studies, 9-10 May 2016, Graz, Austria - Hotel Weitzer, Graz, Austria
Duration: 9 May 201610 May 2016
Conference number: 15th


Abbreviated titleSTS Conference Graz 2016
Internet address


  • Innovation policy
  • Smart mobility
  • Target populations
  • Mobility


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