Doing Office Work on the Motorway
This article takes the motorway seriously as a place where the society of traffic can be found and studied. While many kinds of activities are done by drivers and passengers in parallel with driving on the motorway, such as listening to the radio, eating lunch or caring for, or being, children, I focus here on office work. Empirical material from a video-ethnography of one driver doing paperwork and overtaking a slow-moving vehicle ahead is used to examine in detail some of the practices of combining driving and office-duties in the car while in motion. Drawing on the work of Harvey Sacks, the article examines how this mobile society is naturally organized as an architectural configuration brought to life in the practices of driving in traffic. Overlooked phenomena that are orderly stable features of being mobile are analysed, such as ‘overtaking’, ‘tailgating’ and ‘cruising’. Where other writers have used ‘speed’ to theorize the contemporary period, a brief re-specification is offered in the light of the uses, moral and otherwise, of speed within, and as made apprehensible in relation to, traffic.