A Sociology research project exploring infrastructural pathways to sustainable lifestyles

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About the project

The Urban Infrastructure Innovation and Sustainable Lifestyles project investigates how innovative infrastructures in cities can facilitate more sustainable lifestyles, with a particular focus on transport and mobility.

The project is part of a major five-year Strategic Research Programme on Sustainable Consumption and Production by Japan’s Ministry of the Environment (June 2016 - March 2021) and is a collaboration with the National Institute for Environmental Studies (NIES).

Employing a systemic network perspective that embraces a diversity of individuals and organisations and including social aspects of technological systems, this project examines the views and roles of individual and organisational stakeholders in transition processes.

Exploring pathways to sustainable transition, we have so far conducted two case studies: the first studied transport infrastructures based on hydrogen energy in Japan, and the second community transport in ageing communities in Kashiwa City, Japan. The project team have just started the third and final case study of the process of building integrate transport systems in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

The first case study of a transport system based on hydrogen energy has identified two parallel strategies on hydrogen production within the Japanese government and industries. Based on stakeholder interviews, we have drawn maps of socio-technical networks to explore the relationships between stakeholders and thus to illuminate the dynamics of sustainable transition.

The second case study on community transport examined two types of community transport services and resident perceptions on mobility in two districts with a high proportion of older residents. We rode on those transport services and carried out an ethnographic study, identifying the importance of micro-transit services to improve people’s quality of life.

In our third and final case study, we will be investigating the effort by the ‘Chiang Mai Smart Mobility Alliance Network’ (Chiang Mai University, Chiang Mai municipal government, and transport service providers, e.g. city buses, mini-vans, Songthaews, Tuku-Tuku and Grabs) to build an integrated mobility system. We will interview both service providers and users to identify the advantages, disadvantages and trade-offs of the system. This will be done not only from the GHG emission reduction viewpoint, but also from the standpoint of residents’ quality of life.

In collaboration with the National Institute for Environmental Studies (NIES), Saitama Prefecture* and Honda. Funded by the Japanese Environment Ministry through NIES.

*A prefecture in Japan is the equivalent of a county in the UK.

Principal Investigator: Dr Ritsuko Ozaki, Lecturer in Sociology, Department of Politics and Society.