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Expecting, knowing and believing: Europeans waiting for public transport in the era of ‘smart stations’

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Fluid and busy citizens – passengers, drivers, clients, employees, customers – assume waiting an overhead time investment. Some two decades ago urban dwellers encountered diverse and multi-local practices of waiting – in front of the cash desk at a railway station, on the bench in policlinic, at the market stall with a deficient good. In the age of digitalization, waiting is reduced or even exterminated from many spheres by the growing presence of online-shopping, electronic queues, Internet appointments and GPS real-time tracking software. Nevertheless, urban public transport stops and cabins persist to be places of/for “unproductive” and “useless” time spending.  One could suggest that we would happily give up waiting for transport and never feel sorry. What does such a statement imply and are other perspectives possible?

I am going to briefly review contemporary approaches to waiting in social sciences and mobility studies in particular. After that, I will pose the questions that partly exceed the area of transport research but seem relevant to a broader anthropological/sociological discussion: How can we classify experiences of waiting? What can studies of waiting and its effects tell us about society? How is waiting utilized as resource and tool in everyday life? Why is the passenger an exemplary urban character for these queries? The concluding part of the presentation will deal with the methodology and ethics of field research on waiting. Here I will draw on the project that is now at the doorstep of field data collection and will seek to understand the transformation of passengering experiences in big Russian cities. Particularly, I will share some ideas on the potential of new media tools in informants’ self-observation.