Handling urban overflows

How do people learn to move in a sea of strangers and adapt to new and alien circumstances? What kind of processes of overflow are encountered here? This chapter starts by discussing the refugee crisis in 2015, when large numbers of migrants traveled in search of help and asylum through Europe. This contemporary situation is compared with the emergence of mass travel, new migrations, and urban growth in the late nineteenth century. As new travel technologies and patterns of movement took shape in the industrializing world there was a need to learn how to deal with an overflow or overload of people – faces, movements, gestures, and impressions from strangers – and at a quickening pace. Questions of anonymity, intimacy, and distance came to the fore – a new psychology of handling crowds, but also of new systems for managing and controlling movement and identification. In the comparison of these two eras – a century apart – the focus is on learning new modes of movement and social navigation and unlearning old ones.

in Overwhelmed by overflows?
How people and organizations create and manage excess

This book presents studies of ways in which people and organizations deal with the overflow of information, goods, or choices. The contributors explore two main themes. The first is the emergence of overflows: What is defined as overflow? Here the notion of framing as coined by Michel Callon has guided our approach. There is no overflow until some flow has been framed; framing means defining, and defining means imposing borders. Who does it, how, and why? The answer to these questions necessitates an historical and comparative approach. What one culture defines as necessity, another may see as excess, and these differences can exist even between different levels of the same social hierarchy. The second theme is the management of overflows, in the double meaning of the term: as controlling and as coping. Coping with overflow means learning to live with it; controlling overflow requires various skills and devices. The individual chapters show the management of overflow taking place in various social settings, periods, and political contexts: From the attempts of states to manage future consumption overflow in post-war Eastern European to the contemporary economies of sharing. Other contributions focus on overflow in healthcare administration, overflow problems in mass travel and migration, overflow in digital services, and the overflow that scholars face in dealing with an abundance of research information and publications. This edited volume belongs to the transdisciplinary social sciences, and therefore it should be of interest to sociologists, management scholars, economists, historians, anthropologists, and cultural studies scholars.

Open Access (free)

This volume summarizes seven years of research, drawing and adding to the insights presented in the two earlier books from the project. The first volume, Managing overflow in affluent societies (2012) began by exploring earlier research in the field and then developed a conceptual framework that was put to work in a number of case studies. The second volume, Coping with excess: How organizations, communities and individuals manage overflows (2013), brought another theme to the foreground: the social and moral dimensions of evaluating overflow in terms of positive or negative, as a problem or as a potentiality. We return to the findings of these earlier publications as we reflect upon the cumulative work over the years.

in Overwhelmed by overflows?