Full project title: Virtual mobility: Implications for accessibility, social exclusion and travel
Sponsor: EPSRC (Future Integrated Transport LINK Programme - Feasibility Study)
Principal investigator: Professor Glenn Lyons
Co-investigator: Jackie Rafferty
Principal researcher: Susan Kenyon
Start date: February 2001
Finish date: March 2002
Technology pervades our everyday lives and increasingly we are communicating and communicating more using electronic means alongside or instead of face-to-face communication that usually requires physical mobility to take place. A recent government study concluded that socially excluded people need more physical mobility if they are to be able to participate more fully in society. This project stemmed from a contention that this may not be altogether true and that virtual mobility (use of electronic media to access goods, services and communities), if affordable, available, accessible and acceptable might offer opportunities for improved social inclusion with greater accessibility and participation in society without the need for more physical (motorised) mobility.
The project has begun to explore a 'triangle of influence' between Internet use, personal travel and social participation which is now being taken forward by a larger scale EPSRC-funded follow-on project.
The project has consulted with experts, practitioners and groups of individuals vulnerable to social exclusion to better understand mobility-related exclusion, current uses of the Internet and the potential consequences of Internet use for personal travel.
A tentative conclusion from this feasibility study is that virtual mobility is being used to supplement rather than substitute for existing physical mobility. In so doing it is probable that virtual mobility could be used in place of an increase in physical mobility, for some activities, for some people.