Subproject C07 — Safety as a seventh sense
Bild: Verkehrserziehung der Schuljugend durch die Polizei (3. Mai 1961)
With subtle to drastic pedagogy the legendary German television programme "Der 7. Sinn" ("The 7th Sense") sought to embed “cautious” road behaviour in the subconscious of society. In a historical perspective encompassing the whole 20th century, the project will trace how safety was represented and tried to be established on the road. Primary focus is an analysis of the transformations in driver education in Germany and the respective safety-related practices and orders of knowledge against the backdrop of a cultural-historical perspective on road space.
Road traffic is considered a field of social self-observation and of political efforts. Specific communicative processes and institutionalised procedures aim to create a collectively shared suggestion of security and safety in a pluricentric and circulative society. Thus, all measures taken are supposed to help establishing allegations of predictability and reliability and trust in the traffic system. Securitisation by means of driver education is an ongoing and potentially endless task in the sense of “lifelong learning”. This does not just involve theoretical knowledge (of a physical and technical nature, cause-effect relationships, etc.) but also learning of specifically adapted routines of driving behaviour that are internalised and can, in an ideal situation, retrieved intuitively. Every failure of these automatisms that are essential for survival can stimulate new knowledge production and efforts in behaviour control.
Therefore, on the one hand, the project addresses driver education (which pars pro toto stands for all efforts at teaching "cautious" and "risk-competent" behaviour on the road) and its professionalisation. This, for instance, includes the setting-up and expansion of driving schools and driver improvement courses, (pre)school traffic education, training the trainers (regulation of the driving instructor profession, police training) up to public safety campaigns and mass media formats in press, film, radio, and television. On the other hand, the project explores how safety-related expertise and knowledge were generated, accumulated and passed on – sometimes not without controversy. In this regard it also addresses attempts of lobbying, some complementing, some conflicting, as well as various concepts of “safety didactics”.
Apart from experts of education and mass media, actors from almost every functional area of society distinguish themselves as “security elites” and prove traffic safety to be an interdisciplinary issue; however, the state as a regulatory body is of particular importance. In this regard, state bodies such as the national and regional transport ministries and ministries of education draw on the expertise of a wide variety of academic disciplines such as psychology and sociology. The judiciary is prominently involved in traffic law, while industrial companies and their trade associations both perform their own research and are directly involved in the field of driver education. This is actually the given task of road safety organisations and automobile clubs as "Deutsche Verkehrswacht", German Road Safety Council and ADAC. These act as interfaces and transmission belts for traffic safety-specific knowledge. However, central actors are the road users themselves, who are not just objects of traffic safety discourse but also its subjects with a distinct will of their own.
Therefore, the central questions are, how do the "invisible hand" and the "seventh sense" work within a prominent socio-technical infrastructure system and what does this reveal about the self-regulating processes of a highly differentiated and dynamic society? Such a configuration analysis can link a whole range of material, technical, economic, cultural, social and symbolic levels with each other and shed some light on the changing notions of social and political order. With regard to road safety, various negotiation processes take place, such as those concerning the guiding principles of (road) traffic (these are amongst others democracy, welfare and freedom), gender, the relationship between safety and risk, people and technology, concerning the relations between regulation and self-organisation and social and individual morality. Last but not least, the analysis promises insights into the specific dialectics of securitisation and desecuritisation processes and the emergence of spaces of security and safety as well as safety routines.