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Nomad Cities: Investigating spatial practices within the fluid network societies of the American RV community
Blekinge Institute of Technology, Faculty of Engineering, Department of Spatial Planning.
2015 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (One Year)), 20 credits / 30 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

A new nomad society is colonizing the desert landscape of the American Southwest. It is a leaderless seasonal swarm, dispersed but densely connected socially, able to form and disband agile urban communities the size of large American cities. It consists of highway bound leisure hunters driving extremely wasteful vehicles that while parked are able form a dense and resilient pioneer society. They are predominantly retired and constructing a new American dream, an informal utopia created from potlucks, social media, satellite dishes and mobile homes.

This frontier society of urban flexibilization, decentralization and total urbanization is a product of the complexity and uncertainties of cities being amplified by technological and social disruption, climate change and economic crises. In a mobile future, informal and temporary uses will be important drivers of development and the urban periphery a breeding ground for new forms of urbanism. How do we govern, plan for and understand this development?

The nomad cities are poorly documented and understood, especially in academia. With this thesis I aim to change that. I have conducted extensive field studies, including both quantitative mapping and semi-structured qualitative interviews. The data has been analyzed using a theoretical framework consisting of network theory of Castells, spatial analysis ideas of Lefebvre, Venturi, Friedman, Deleuze and Guattari, and social theories of Bourdieu, Foucault and Standing among others.

The basic building block of the nomad city are recreational vehicles (RVs); trailers, motorhomes and camper vans. The RV is in itself a hybrid phenomenon that embodies conflicting ideals of the American society: total freedom of movement, the reinvention of the self on the frontier and the American dream. It is both individualistic and community based, and it’s urban forms are highly adaptable to societal changes, mirroring society’s development as well as the changing landscape it inhabits. It recreates itself and revises its citizens’ common habitus with every iteration. The RV world contains multiple layers of meaning for our increasingly urbanized society. It is a frontier for the expansion of exurbia and a physical manifestations of the network society. It creates small initiatives that create ripple effects and thereby a transformation of the urban fabric.

To encourage these practices the role of planning needs to be revised. It should not primarily be to decide what is built but to enable the emerging practices that are there. Instead of presenting a grand plan we should allow a multitude of bottom up processes to lead development. In the words of Cedric Price: “The primary aim of planning is not to specify an ideal state but to open up to new possibilities”.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2015. , 98 p.
Keyword [en]
Nomads, nomad cities, RV, trailer, motorhome, mobile home, mobility, desert, American dream, swarm, exurbia, decentralization, freedom, network, Instagram, Quartzsite, leisure, multitude, urban catalyst, California, Arizona, America, flexibilization, camper, trailer, trailer park
Keyword [sv]
husvagn, husbil, camping, campingplats, mobilitet, migration, nomader, Amerika, USA, öken
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:bth-798OAI: diva2:818023
Subject / course
FM2412 Diploma Work for Master's Degree
Educational program
Master Programme in European Spatial Planning
Available from: 2015-06-16 Created: 2015-06-08 Last updated: 2015-06-16Bibliographically approved

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