What did I do?/ Which datasets did I focus on?
To begin with, I really tried to focus on the reading strategies for datasets introduced by Lindsay Poirie: “denotative”, “connotative” and “deconstructive”. However, the contexts of data on e-scooters I found online, were very heterogeneous. I have read newspaper articles, policy papers, studies and more random articles…
One study stood out because it was also cited in a newspaper article. It is a study conducted by The Nunatak Group. The Nunatak Group gathered data about the usage of e-scooters and also new mobility services in general.
I would say that a denotative reading of the data represented by the Nunatak Group in their study implies an investigation of the categories presented and their relation, and also understanding which numbers are given and highlighted. In this case, I would suggest that the “formal semantics” of the study imply a focus on e-scooters. The study itself is presented as focussing on “micro mobility”, but actually in combination with a focus on the new allowance of e-scooters on Germany streets and their potential.
I also started to think that the e-scooters narrative accompanies the Nunatak’s own vision of urban mobility, since this ensures the existence of their business. Thinking about a connotative reading - identifying cultural and political histories, I started to analyse the contexts of the study. One context is a resolution from the Federal Council of Germany that allowed the use of e-scooters in Germany under certain conditions. E-scooters became established and became part of the already available “new mobility services”.
Another context here, and worth noting is that the Nunatak Goup state in the beginning of the study: “Wie so of wird die Veränderung nicht von Städen oder Politk vorangetrieben, sondern durch Start-ups (…) Neue Geschäftsmodelle und Technologien geben das Tempo vor und wir alle sind live dabei, wenn urbane Mobilität auf useren Straßen neu verrechent wird.” This statement gives start-ups great importance, this makes sense since start-ups in this mircro mobility sector are in turn the clients of the Nunak Group, I believe. This makes me think that the original audience of this study are start ups, but since the usage of e-scooters is of general interest, snippets of the study also were taken and put into new contexts (e.g. newspaper).
Another claim they make is: “Daten sind für zukünftige Mobilitätsangebote kein Zugewinn, sondern Voraussetzung. Datengesteuerte Unternehmen und Services gehört die Zukunft. Wer Kunden auch zukünftig befördern möchte, muss wissen, was sie bewegt.”
And who literally knows what ‘moves’ micro mobility service users? The people who will owner data indicating when and where one ‘moves’, leaving aside the privacy of moving around the city unregistered.
More detailed Historical and Political context:
It is interesting to investigate how e-scooters became part of everyday traffic. First of all, a resolution had to be developed and then enacted that e-scooters could find their way to German streets. The Federal Council of Germany allowed the use of e-scooters in May 2019. Most importantly, according to this resolution, e-scooters max speed is 20km/h; they are not allowed to be used on the sidewalks only on the bike path; minimum age is 14. (https://www.bundesrat.de/SharedDocs/drucksachen/2019/0101-0200/158-19(B).pdf?__blob=publicationFile&v=1)
One point of the resolution even says that the rules for parking a bicycle will be the same for e-scooters; implying that it is ok to park e-scooters on the sidewalk.
„(5) Für das Abstellen von Elektrokleinstfahrzeugen gelten die für Fahrräder geltenden Parkvorschriften entsprechend.“
Anders als andere Kraftfahrzeuge sollen Elektrokleinstfahrzeuge ebenso wie Fahrräder vorbehaltlich der Beachtung von § 1 StVO grundsätzlich auch auf Gehwegen geparkt werden dürfen, wenn keine gesonderten Parkflächen für diese Fahrzeugart vorhanden sind.
Controversy on e-scooter’s max speed:
The speed regulation is an interesting and even controversial point insofar as in other countries like Austria the speed limits for e-scooters is higher (max. 25 km/h). This somehow gives Germany a ‘special status’.
E-scooters should be driven on the bike path, however bicycles can easily go faster than 20km/h. And e-scooters have to be build differently than the ones for other countries with different speed limits. Economic reasons? Production in Germany?
Nunatak study cited in the “Tagesspiegel”
I found a study that was cited in a newspaper article from “der Tagesspiegel” (https://www.tagesspiegel.de/wirtschaft/umfrage-zu-elektrorollern-wer-mit-e-scootern-faehrt-und-was-das-den-staedten-bringt/25217982.html) It refers to a study conducted by Nunatak – Digital Growth Advisors. The newspaper article summarises the main points of the study and presents the data gather by the Nunatak Group in a new graph.
The Nuatak Group...
According to Nunatak’s website, their aim is to support companies with respect to digital change issues. Moreover, they announce that they regularly publish update-papers or studies concerning digital trends and developments about up-to-date topics. Among their publications, I found the study cited in the Tagesspiegel newspaper.
Hence, I had a look at the study about micro mobility. Asking what does it actually say? (https://admin.nunatak.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/New-Urban-Mobility_The-Nunatak-Group-2019-1.pdf)
The Nunatak Study:
With their study they want to investigate how established specific mobility services already are. Therefore, they interrogated 1250 people in five cities; Frankfurt/M, Hamburg, München, Berlin and Köln. Particularly interesting here is that the results from the individual cities are taken together and are not presented independently. This means that one could not tell if e-scooters are less used in one specific city. This also disregards an understanding that all data is local/locally produced.
So when thinking about what Poirie in the article “Strategies for interpereting the politics of data signification” states; namely that “categorical judgement of ‘what counts’ underlie the values of all datasets” (Poirie 1), I started to think about the categories presented in this study.
According to the website, for the study 1250 people were asked about their mobility behaviour in general, and their usage of e-scooters.
Hence, the study represents gathered data within different categories.
One category relating to one another is age and usage of new mobility services.
The category of new mobility services entails the following subcategories:
Interestingly, the study presents that among all these mobility services, car-sharing is the one used the most. But the study also highlights that if the mobility service is used more than once a week, the e-scooter is the “winner” and “on top of the scale”. A little bubble on the side reads: “26,2% of all e-scooter user, use it more than once a week – which is more often than with any other mobility service” So what is this highlighted number telling us..? Or is it just re-presenting e-scooters in a marketing context? For whom is this number relevant? Who else is “using” this study?
Another point the study highlights is that most e-scooter users would have used public transportation if there were no e-scooters.
The Tagesspiegel uses this “insight” from the study and re-models the data into a new bar chart. This bar chart is part of the argument of the article that e-scooters do replace public transportation.
With this little exploration it is possible to see how representations of data, although produced locally, ‘operate’ within different contexts.
More generally speaking, I think it is interesting how this “professionally done study” is focussing on e-scooters and how this also directs how to think about them. Within this study the Nunatak Group ‘drops’ their “vision of the future of urban mobility” for 2030 in which e-scooters are part of. The study also includes an interview with Sigrid Dalberg-Krajewski, Head of Marketing and Communications bei Trafi. Tarif is a mobility platform which unites all the mobility services of Vilnius (Litauen). She claims that „Tarif ist he connector and the city needs to be the unifying force for mobility services.“ As a next step the Nunatak Group wonders: „wem gehört die Plattform von morgen?“ „who own’s the platformm of tomorrow?“