Who remembers the Turku trams? New research project investigates people’s experiences of public transport
Åbo Akademi University has been awarded funding for a three-year research project that will explore people’s experiences of public transport in different European cities.
“Public Transport as Public Space in European Cities: Narrating, Experiencing, Contesting” (PUTSPACE) is a major European HERA research project. As well as Åbo Akademi University, participants in the project include researchers based in Estonia, Belgium and Germany.
“Most of the existing research on public transport focuses on technology or economics. We are interested in taking a broader perspective and we view public transport with a more humanities perspective,” says Jason Finch, Principal Investigator for Finland and Assistant Professor of English Language and Literature at Åbo Akademi University.
“Public transport is an important question in city planning. It is important that public transport functions well, but it is also important to understand how the people who use these modes of transport experience them. How do age, gender, social class, ethnicity and language affect the way we use public transport? When do we feel safe or unsafe, comfortable or uncomfortable on public transport?”
A sub-project is going to look specifically at Turku and the city’s public transport history. The researchers here are interested in the role played by public transport in the city’s collective memory. In Turku, for example, the tram hasn’t existed in decades, but it is an important part of public memory.
“What is unique about public transport in Turku? How have transport networks shaped citizens’ lives? Experiences and memories of public transport often include senses of waiting, of hearing and seeing other people. There are images, sounds, smells and feelings. We are interested in all kinds of histories and memories,” says postdoctoral researcher on the project Silja Laine.
PUTSPACE is worth approximately 1 million euros. This is the second HERA project in which Åbo Akademi University has participated.
HERA (Humanities in the European Research Area) is a network of 26 national funding agencies in cooperation with the European Commission. PUTSPACE is part of the research programme HERA Public Spaces: Culture and Integration in Europe (2019-2022).