Narratives and Ethics of Human-Automobile Relationships

By Lauren Hall.

Published by The Sustainability Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Human-automobile relationships are explored to address issues related to environmentalism and material culture regarding comfortable identity narratives favoured for negating the violence and suffering associated with those relationships. Focus is placed on popular ethical positions such as hedonism, egoism, and individualism in relation to narratives presented through automobile commercials. The automobile is a technology that traverses key events in history significant for framing current ideologies such as individualism. These connections point to the powerful bonds we have with technologies; and the discrepancies between the narratives that surround these relationships and the violence that is also a part of them. Donna Haraway’s ethical perspective of “shared suffering” is paralleled with human-automobile relationships as a device for reflecting on popular comfort narratives and associated ethics that are suggested to be a way of diminishing the discomfort of empathy. Comfort narratives are contrasted with Haraway’s call for a direct view to suffering caused in relationality.

Keywords: Cultural Study, Environmentalism, Ethics, Automobile, Automobile Commercials, Identity Narratives

The International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability, Volume 5, Issue 2, pp.333-344. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.166MB).

Lauren Hall

Ph. D. Student, Faculty of Education, Department of Curriculum and Pedagogy, Technology Studies, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

In my previous research I have investigated human-robot interactions among adults and animalized robots. Through ethnography, autoethnography, and design-based research, I asked whether these interactions could alter the perceptions people have of other technologies and how these perceptions have a bearing on learning. My Ph.D. research continues the focus on human-technology relationships and environmental concerns with a theoretical orientation centering on Hannah Arendt.


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