420 years of mobility: ICT-enabled mobile interdependencies in London hackney cab work

Silvia Elaluf-Calderwood*, Carsten Sørensen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapterResearchpeer-review


For 420 years it has been possible to hire someone to drive you around London by simply going to a cab rank or hailing one on the streets. The mobile workers conducting this activity have since 1622 been recognized as licensed hackney carriage drivers. Since 1851, drivers have been required to study for a licence called ‘The Knowledge’, for which they intensively study over 300 routes covering 25,000 roads and destinations in central London. The solitary mobile working of London cabbies has traditionally also been highly individual work where drivers themselves decide where and when they work. However, the advent of mobile phones, Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and computer-cab dispatch technology, along with increased competition from unlicensed minicab companies, has resulted in emerging interdependencies between drivers and the companies they obtain work from, as well as among drivers, in some cases as small associated communities sharing such work. The aim of this chapter is to illustrate how work that has traditionally been both highly mobile and independent is increasingly conducted in contexts of emerging mutual interdependencies. The advent of mobile Information and Communication Technologies (mICT) plays a central role in establishing these interdependencies. The chapter documents dramatic changes where mICT almost serve the opposite purpose from that of traditional settings, where the purpose of mobilizing interaction through mobile phones and devices such as the BlackBerry is to allow flexible choices of context within existing boundaries of mutual interdependencies. Cabbies have always moved for work but can now negotiate interdependencies, a difference from office workers, who have always negotiated interdependencies, but can now physically move when mediated by the use of mobile technology.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMobility and Technology in the Workplace
EditorsDonald Hislop
Number of pages16
Place of PublicationAbingdon
Publication date2008
ISBN (Print)0203894359, 9780203894354
ISBN (Electronic)9780429239830
Publication statusPublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes
SeriesRoutledge Studies in Innovation, Organizations and Technology

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