(Re)civilizing the Young Driver: Technization and Emotive Automobility

  • Published: Mobilities, 10,36-54., 2015
  • Authors: Lumsden, K
  • Date Added: 12 Jan 2018
  • Last Update: 12 Jan 2018
  • Format: html


The study aimed to provide an understanding of young drivers’ car culture and the rituals of modifying car and illegal racing.


Ethnographic research consisting of semi-structured interviews with young drivers who were recruited in the city of Aberdeen from those who were regularly meeting with Grampian Police and observations of this group at car shows, events, in local garages, accessory stores and scrap yards. Researchers spent in total 150 hours with this group. There were also interviews with police of?cers, a local councillor, Member of Parliament, Member of the Scottish Parliament, three journalists, two council of?cials, two residents and a group interview with four residents present.

Media reports which focused on the culture were subjected to content analysis. Over 200 articles were collected and analysed between August 2003 and September 2008 from daily local newspapers: the Press & Journal and the Evening Express; and two free newspapers distributed weekly across Aberdeen: The Independent and The Citizen. Relevant articles from national media outlets such as BBC News online, The Times, The Guardian and The Scotsman were also analysed.

Key Findings:

  • Car modifying, including the usage of symbols, aesthetics, technical and/or mechanical modifications appropriating rituals and altering standard car settings served to create and sustain individual and collective identity of young drivers.

  • Challenging and inverting norms of mainstream car culture was also a way of expressing lack of self-regulation of young people.

  • Over time, car alterations were resulting in their need to keep up with new developments and in applications of various “patches” and “techno-fixes”, since the authorities’ reaction had been new policies and limitations on car alterations.