Kombinować - Recognize and Activate Networks Potentials 2013
When we move through urban space, we are often unaware that we are tangent to complex structures, which are not immediately obvious. Contexts and backgrounds only become clear upon closer inspection. This often reveals a much more complex structure of actors and relationships than previously assumed. But how can such complex compounds be made tangible and comprehendible — especially for the purpose of research? Where can new relationships be established, so that pre-existing potentials can be revealed and activated?
The present task deals with the phenomenon of the “wild” camping, mainly Polish truck drivers on Hamburg's Elbe islands. These truck drivers are known for resting on side roads with little traffic until their cargo is ready for pickup, rather than in designated trucker parking lots. This situation was noted project in Urban Design I and has formed the basis for this Urban Design II project. After an inventory of the phenomenon was conducted in the first semester, we will now examine the network encompassing the truck drivers and unveil its potential.
The phenomenon of “wild” camping truck drivers was initially approached through observations in the field and interviews with truck drivers and snack stands and gas station attendants. This is how we found the first actors and correlations. Further research, interviews, and detailed monitoring of rest stops led to even more actors, practices, and objects of study.
The actor-network theory (ANT) appeared in the course of this work as the appropriate method, as it allows, “(...) in a way one to discover things for oneself, as they remain obstructed to the observer, who assumes conventional distinctions” (Schulz-Schaefer 2000, p 195). Accordingly, not only human actors are now to be related, but also non-human actors, called actants (cf.. Latour 2002, p 372). The ANT can insofar be applied using the performances of the truckers as key actors and the recognized actors and actants, because now correlations between the groups can be drawn, described, and analyzed. The ANT thus served as a presentation tool, which discloses the relationship between objects and the people involved.
The findings after applying this method revealed the extent to which the lives of the truck drivers, in addition to driving the vehicle, are subject to determining forces. Since they cannot afford to pay for a parking space, the truck drivers make use of a variety of practices that help them deal with the situation. The “wild” rest stops are as much a part of this as is cooking with gas cookers or building homemade alarm systems to protect their cargo on the darkest side roads. We will examine this practice more closely in the second phase of our research. The point of departure for is the well-known practice of these truck drivers, which is called “kombinowanie” in Polish.
“Kombinowac” means to activate your network to compensate for the lack of, for instance, a certain commodity. It refers to a particular form of improvisation skills. Many references were made to this practice in observations of and interviews with the “wild” camping truck drivers.
By means of the ANT, the correlations between the actors and actants in the truck drivers’ network could be disclosed and thus examined as to whether and how new potentials in the kombinowac practice might be revealed and activated.
Urban Design Project 2
Latour, B. (2002): Die Hoffnung der Pandora: Untersuchungen zur Wirklichkeit der Wissenschaft. Suhrkamp Verlag. Frankfurt a.M.