-by Johannes Starkbaum, CAS, Institute for Advanced Studies, Vienna

Official curfew is on in Vienna. People are told to keep distance, especially the elderly. The streets in the periphery neighborhoods have been quite empty already during the last days. People go out for walking and running, yet not as many as usual for these spring days. The situation might be different in the inner parts of Vienna. I read a lot about current developments in newspapers and through micro-blogging. Several people go out for work or shopping, others seem to enjoy the fresh air. Social distancing does not comply well with public transport. In Social Media bubbles, biking is discussed as safe and sustainable way for arranging mobility. At the same time, I imagine other bubbles discussing the car as safe haven, where the driver and its companions are shielded inside. Either way, people seek distance.Solidarity is discussed as a key component of the current policies for reducing an exponential growth of infections. The younger population usually shows mild symptoms whereas older people and those with preconditions suffer far often from complications. People online tell each other to #staythefuckathome no matter if she/he is part of an at-risk group in order to reduce infections and thus to avoid a collapse of the health system. Solidarity is a concept also used in bioethics debates on data sharing for medical research, where larger populations give data for the benefits of others or future generations, stored in large and increasingly connected repositories called biobanks (Prainsack and Buyx 2012). Finally, today, newspapers announced that Austria’s major telecom company, A1, unleashed anonymous mobility data of citizens in order to track infection routes. Extraordinary events have caused such secondary use of data in the past – also in the field of biobanks. We have seen this in cases of serial crimes and in the 2004 Tsunami in the Indian ocean. Such extraordinary events trigger change and enable things that would have been impossible a few weeks before – ranging from people stop shaking hands to new types of data usage. I am wondering how the current situation will impact our mobility practices and our social life beyond this recent crisis. 

Prainsack, Barbara, and Alena Buyx. “Solidarity in contemporary bioethics–towards a new approach.”Bioethics 26.7 (2012): 343-350.

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