Stories of the future: Personal mobility innovation in the United Kingdom

Journal Article

This paper looks at personal transport futures in the context of greenhouse gas emissions reduction, as portrayed in documents from various stakeholders in the transport sector. It analyses the role of frames and narratives in constructing stories of the future, through the lens of two innovations: electric vehicles (EVs) and car clubs. Most of the documents draw on technological progress to tell stories of a future similar to the present but with EVs or other low-carbon vehicles, while car club focused documents stress broader notions of sustainability. A number of economic, technological and political-related frames are identified, which are used in constructing and justifying these stories. Some frames, such as ‘economic growth’, are nearly ubiquitous. Narratives support and are sometimes actively supported by the stories, such as ‘technology neutrality’. Frames and narratives play a key role in creating stories of the future, and help create and maintain expectations and legitimacy of innovations. Frame analysis helps unpick and challenge unrealistic expectations that might leave us unprepared for the future.