‘Detroit’, is French for ‘strait’. ‘Le detroit du lac Erie’ means ‘the strait of Lake Erie’. A strait is a specific immutable space with the most important characteristic being the possibility of geographic mobility. A strait is a place for water to flow, ships to travel, bridges to connect, and ideas to pollinate.
Similarly, human beings are a physical constant that allows for mobility. Our identities are the sum of our personal and ancestral movement between geographic locations.
In my case, I am a Moroccan, born and raised in Rabat. As a teenager, I expressed my roots through my father’s. In my cultural bubble, I was from the city of Errachidia.
When I moved to South Africa, it seemed more relevant to map my identity in the space that contrasted against where I was at the time: in the Moroccan context, I was from Errachidia, but in the African context, I was a North African.
A few years later, in the American midwest, my mobility had broadened my sense of place, experience of geography. Therefore, in America, I am an African.
In a nutshell, my identity is the sum of the mobility – or lack thereof – in my own life as well as that of every single person who helped in the making of me. I think of my professors who made it to class. I think of my parents who found each other away from their birth cities. I think of the taco truck owner, my busy dentist, the stranger who almost ran me over, and the person in line before me. In reflecting on mobility, I think of all the ways in which human beings define and are defined by movement.
So, if Mobility is a practice bigger than cars, engines, and their industry; if it is a question of personal identity, what does it mean to design the experience of mobility?