Vehicles are technologies which even in their most basic uses are to some degree cultural artifacts as well as functional ones. He understands the interlinked roles played by designers, manufacturers, operators, and users in the co-construction of the semiotically rich technological spaces in which we move, while not ignoring the structural reality that, both historically and in the present, governments and corporations have the greatest control over transport systems.
Although he focuses for the most part on transport in the rich northern countries, there are neatly framed asides looking at the ways in which southern societies have adopted and adapted industrialized vehicles to their own mobility needs and traditions, emotional as much as functional. The book divides into three main sections, dealing with vehicles designed for land, sea, and air. Although this division follows the traditional modal taxonomy, each part covers a wide range of vehicles, from the most utilitarian to the luxurious.
The emphasis is very much on passenger transport, although some military developments are included, particularly when these are relevant to understanding either the subsequent trajectory of vehicular design in the civil sphere or the wider evolution of transport systems. And Votolato is good at bringing out both the continuities and fractures between the design practices of different modes—as, for example, with the heavy, luxurious finishes applied to interwar aircraft, emulating the comforts of contemporary railway carriages, interiors which eventually gave way to the stripped-down, modernist spaces of the highflying jet.
The part played by technological innovation of a more traditional kind is constantly woven into the fabric of such stories, with new materials and devices opening up possibilities which designers, operators, and manufacturers exploited in their efforts to encourage still higher levels of mobility among the increasing numbers who could afford it.
Ranging across more than two centuries and a wide variety of transport systems, Votolato occasionally slips up at the level of detail, but his fundamental theses concerning the trajectory of mass mobility are surely correct. First, growing the market for discretionary mobility has produced a near constant tension between the need to make transport a desirable experience and the need to make it affordable. But the citizens of the rich north now expect practically unlimited mobility, an expectation which is almost Project MUSE promotes the creation and dissemination of essential humanities and social science resources through collaboration with libraries, publishers, and scholars worldwide.
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Transport Design: A Travel History - Gregory Votolato - Google книги
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