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Robin Kellermann (Associate fellow)


Center for Metropolitan Studies
TU Berlin
Hardenbergstraße 16-18
10623 Berlin    


Emergence, Organization and Representation of Waiting for Public Transportation

Waiting for transport
Waiting is one of the most significant and yet overlooked experiences of everyday life. Among the many fields enforcing temporal pausing, transportation is one of the most prominent generators of waiting times. Transportation systems permanently produce spatial, temporal, and organizational constraints that cause travellers to be stilled momentarily in the unique spatio-temporal realms of platforms or departure lounges.

Despite their omnipresence and crucial relevance for everyday life, temporalities of transport-induced waiting times paradoxically lack explicit historical examination, and thus remain an unchallenged and trivialized aspect of the passenger experience, particularly within history of transport and mobility. Concealed by a predominant attention for movements or technical devices, and masked by a modernist passion for the concepts of high-speed and tempo, passengers’ waiting experiences as well as the material and technological evolution of waiting landscapes at stations, stops, or departure lounges have remained largely unexplored.

In order to address this lacunae, this cultural-historic dissertation asks: to what extent do transport-induced waiting situations underlie historical transformation processes regarding both physical environments as well as cultural representations and social practices? Recognizing waiting as a key mobility practice, I argue that perceptions and landscapes of waiting are the result of a long-standing sociotechnical co-evolution of spaces and behaviours.

Research questions

1) Theorizing waiting
First, how can waiting times be framed theoretically in the wider context of transport-related modernization processes? Drawing on theoretical concepts regarding to the dialectics of mobility and immobility (Adey 2006, Cresswell 2011, Sheller & Urry 2006), this research path seeks to substantiate the relational interplay of waiting and accelerated movement as an inseparable correlation. Therefore, the term systemic waiting is introduced in order to 1) conceptualize waiting times as an inevitable organizational, yet psychologically detested, precondition for the provision of speed and modern mass transportation, and 2) re-qualify transport-induced waiting experiences since the mid-nineteenth century in relation to pre-modern waiting experiences.

2) Waiting spaces
Second, how did architects, engineers, and transport operators organized and engaged with the waiting passenger over the course of the last two centuries? Therefore, a diachronic analysis of structural milestone developments of waiting rooms in two different transport modes (rail, airplane), including the  evolution of designs and interiors, will highlight material, technological, and organizational answers to the problem of waiting. This path of investigation will enable us to retrace the shifting conceptions of waiting from the perspective of those who sought to address this organizational and planning problem.

3) Waiting practices
Third, what social practices were performed collectively and individually while waiting in these designated environments? And, how did cultural representations of transport-induced waiting times alter regarding their acceptability? Moreover, who had to wait and for how long? How did people equip themselves to wait and how did the arrival of information technologies transform the waiting experience? Focusing explicitly on the passengers’ perspective, this second path of inquiry traces the socio-cultural dimension of waiting and thereby tackles the phenomenon’s (implicit) means of structuring (and representing) power relations, social order, class, and gender.

The dissertation investigates the transformations of waiting spaces and waiting practices through an intermodal and comparative analysis from late-nineteenth to the late-twenty century. Focusing on stations and airports in Berlin as a paradigmatic case for the phenomenon’s suspense-packed quality of spatio-temporal clashes in the metropolis, this study analyzes a wide collection of primary and secondary sources ranging from floor plans, illustrations, photos, political and administrative directives to novels, travel diaries, paintings, and books of complaint. In order to cope with the time-span, and in order to narrow the focus of archival investigation, the study will scrutinize the analysis of waiting in four paradigmatic time phases (the golden age of rail industries, the time of wars, the rise of civil aviation industries, and the rise of information age) and will concentrate on “pre-process” waiting before boarding transportation systems.

Goals: Towards a history of waiting
Seeking to move beyond the tendency of modernity in privileging movement over stasis, this dissertation will present a cultural history of temporal immobility in the transport context. It advocates for a reinterpretation of modernity through the lens of the era’s unintended and yet significantly present moments of pause. Building on the two hypotheses that 1) waiting is inherent to movement as a precondition for organizing speed, and 2) waiting underlies historical transformations regarding organization and passenger performance, the dissertation uncovers the experiential and perceptional cycles of this most influential temporal phenomena. While on a theoretical level, this research aims to highlight the relational character of movement and stasis, on an empirical level, it aims to achieve the first profound historical understanding of waiting from the perspective of both engineers and passengers. Consequently, the dissertation argues for the accommodation of seemingly trivial transport-related temporalities and rhythmicities in the wider debates surrounding transport history, mobility studies, cultural studies, and urban history.



since 05/2015
DFG Associate Fellow at the International Graduate Research Program Berlin - New York - Toronto, Center for Metropolitan Studies, Technical University of Berlin, Germany

2008 – 2011
Technical University of Berlin, M.A., in Historical Urban Studies (1,1), Master Thesis: „The Hyderabad flyovers: Elevated highways since the 1990s as artefacts of an emerging megacity“

2003 – 2008
University „Otto-von-Guericke“ Magdeburg, B.A., in Kulturwissenschaft, Wissensmanagement, Logistik: „Cultural Engineering“ (1,5), Bachelor Thesis: „The relevance of places in times of globalized space.”


2012 – Present
Research associate and assistant project coordinator in EU-FP7 Research Programs “RACE2050” (Future of European transport industries) and NEAR2 (Euro-Asian railway connections) at TU Berlin

01/2010 – 12/2010
Student research assistant at TU Berlin (Center for Metropolitan Studies)


„Parented waiting: How information technologies reshape and mediate the experience of waiting in mobilities“. In Experiencing Networked Mobilities, Katrine Hartmann-Petersen, Emmy Laura Perez Fjalland and Malene Freudendal-Pedersen (eds.), Springer.

„Didactical functions of dark and bright scenarios: Examples from the European transport industry“, in Envisioning Uncertain Futures. Experiences With Scenarios from a Security Perspective, Roman Peperhove, Karlheinz Steinmüller, Hans-Liudger Dienel (eds.), Springer.

“In the Year 2525. Technikaffinität als Genealogie der Zukunft des Verkehrs“ [In the Year 2525. Technological Rebounds, Genealogy of Transport Futures 1950-2050], Blätter für Technikgeschichte, 75-76, 47-68(19) (with M. Moraglio and H.-L. Dienel)

“Projektbericht RACE2050. Entwicklung einer innovativen und verantwortungsvollen Agenda für die Wettbewerbsfähigkeit der europäischen Transportindustrie bis 2050“ [RACE2050. Responsible innovation Agenda for Competitive European transport industries up to 2050], Zeitschrift für Zukunftsforschung, 3/1, 48-60(22), with M. Moraglio and H.-L. Dienel.

Hyderabad im Umbruch – Risiken einer suburban fokussierten Stadtplanung, in: Future Megacities in Balance, German Academic Exchange Service, Bonn, pp. 271-277.


10th Anniversary Conference of the Cosmobilities Network - Networked Urban Mobilities. (5-7 November 2014), Aalborg University Copenhagen, DK
Paper: Moderated waiting. How new technologies reshape and mediate waiting in mobilities.

11th Annual Conference of the International Association for the History of Transport, Traffic and Mobility (T2M) – Spinoffs of Mobility: Technology, Risk & Innovation. (18-21 September 2014), Drexel University, Philadelphia, USA
Paper: Bus stop, Platform, Departure Gate. Tracing the interrelations of speed and waiting.

56th Annual Meeting of the Society for the History of Technology (10-13 October 2013), Portland/Maine, USA
Paper: Do Infrastructures Talk Politics? Flyovers as Hybrid Agents of Political Legitimation and Urban Change in South Indian Hyderabad.

11th Annual Conference of the International Association for the History of Transport, Traffic and Mobility (T2M) – Transport & Borders (25-28 September 2013), Kouvola, Finnland; 27/28 September, St.Petersburg, Russia
Paper: Bordering and De-Bordering the Continent. How Threat Scenarios Urged to Reshape European Transport Industry 1965-1985. (with M.Moraglio).

6th Plenary Conference of Tensions of Europe – Democracy & Technology, Europe in Tension from the 19th to the 21st Century (19-21 September 2013), Sorbonne University, Paris, France
Paper: The Mobility of the Future ‘believes’ in the past – The iron cage of technology.

Global Conference on Mobility Futures (4-6 September 2013), Lancaster, UK
Paper: Genealogy of the future. 50 years of threat scenarios for the European transport industry (with M. Moraglio, A. Liebender).

22th Annual Meeting of the German Association for the History of Technology – The Senses & Technology (10-12 May 2013), Dresden
Paper: Sinnlichkeit und Sinnstiftung – Die Rolle der Flyovers von Hyderabad im Zuge des Aufstiegs zur indischen Megacity

5th Plenary Conference of Tensions of Europe, Copenhagen, DK
Paper: Dwelling in-between: The role of technology in shaping hyper-mobile Europe (with H.-L. Dienel and M. Moraglio).

9th Annual Conference of the International Association for the History of Transport, Traffic and Mobility (T2M) – Mobility on Display (6-9 October 2011), Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin
Paper: A story of symbols – Hyderabad's Flyovers and the triumph of irrationality


01/2011 – 03/2011
Hyderabad (India)
Field research for Master’s Thesis in the context of the BMBF Megacity-Program „Sustainable Hyderabad“

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