Changing mobility practices. Can meta-ethnography inform transferable and policy-relevant theory?
Social science & medicine (1982) 2023 ; 337: 116253.
PubMed ID : 37857239
Social practice theories have attracted attention for their potential insights into how to change transport systems towards "healthier" states. However, most evidence is from small-scale qualitative case studies. We explored whether a synthesis of qualitative evidence on mobility practices in one country, informed by meta-ethnography and a Bourdieusian approach to practice, could produce theory that is of sufficient abstraction to be transferable, yet also capable of informing intervention planning. The synthesis identified three third order constructs: mobility practices result from habitus plus capital in fields; specific configurations of local mobility practices are shaped, but not determined, by material infrastructures and social structures; and changes in practice happen across a number of scales and temporalities. This body of evidence as a whole was then interpreted as an integrative "storyline": Mobility systems are complex, in that outcomes from interventions are neither unilinear nor necessarily predictable from aggregations of individual practice changes. Infrastructure changes may be a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for change. Moving systems towards "healthier" states requires changing habitus such that "healthier" practices align with fields, and that interventions take sufficient account of the power relations that materially and symbolically constrain or enable attachments to and changes in mobility practices. Meta-ethnography is a useful approach for integrating qualitative evidence for informing policy.