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Intro: Cultural Studies of Mobilities


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Intro to Cultural Studies of Mobilities course, SWPS Warsaw 2011

Intro to Cultural Studies of Mobilities course, SWPS Warsaw 2011

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  • 1. An Introduction to Mobilities Studies Cultural Studies of Mobilites, SWPS, 2011
  • 2. Agenda
    • Introduction to Urry and Sheller’s Mobilities Paradigm
    • Discussion: sharing your mobile culture
  • 3. An introduction...
  • 4. What is Mobilities Studies?
  • 5. The problem
      • What is ‘nearness’?
      • Where are our ‘responsibilities’ to those around us? How does movement absolve us with certain responsibilies and endow us with others?
      • Are the societies we are living in creating new, individualized, ‘spatial imperatives’ by which we ruin our more traditional, local bonds (or potential to create these bonds)?
  • 6. Mobilities Discourses Nigel Thrift Tim Cresswell Georg Simmel John Urry Zigmunt Baumann Barry Wellman Marshall McLuhan Heardt + Negri Some Examples… Sociology Human Geography Philosophy
  • 7. Why mobilities?
    • there are hybrid systems, `materialities and mobilities', that combine objects, technologies, and socialities, and out of those distinct places are produced and reproduced.
  • 8. What types of mobilities?
    • There are five highly interdependent ‘mobilities’:
    • corporeal travel of people for work, leisure, family life, pleasure, migration and escape
    • physical movement of objects delivered to producers, consumers and retailers
    • imaginative travel elsewhere through images of places and peoples upon TV (1 billion worldwide)
    • virtual travel often in real time on the internet so transcending geographical and social distance; as Microsoft asks: ‘where do you want to go today?’
    • * communicative travel through person-to-person messages via letters, telephone, fax and mobile
  • 9. What is the impact of mobilities?
    • There are some immense movements involved here (see Urry 2000). People in Britain are now physically travelling five times further than in the 1950s. There are 700m international journeys every year, a figure soon to pass 1 billion. There are 4 million air passengers each day. ‘Travel and tourism’ is the largest industry accounting for 11.7% of world GDP, 8% of world exports and 8% of employment.
    • Tens of millions of refugees and asylum seekers roam the globe, with 3 billion people receiving the same income as the richest, mobile 300. Physical mobilities are environmentally costly, with transport accounting for one-third of CO2 emissions.
    • World car travel is predicted to triple between 1990-2050, there are over half-a-billion cars roaming the globe, and many new countries, such as China, are developing an ‘automobile culture’. By 2030 there may be 1 billion cars worldwide (Motavalli 2000: 20-1).
  • 10. The mobility paradigm...   The paradigm challenges the ways in which much social science research has been `a-mobile'. Even while it has increasingly introduced spatial analysis the social sciences have still failed to examine how the spatialities of social life presuppose (and frequently involve conflict over) both the actual and the imagined movement of people from place to place, person to person, event to event. Travel has been for the social sciences seen as a black box, a neutral set of technologies and processes predominantly permitting forms of economic, social, and political life that are seen as explicable in terms of other, more causally powerful processes. As we shall argue, however, accounting for mobilities in the fullest sense challenges social science to change both the objects of its inquiries and the methodologies for research.
  • 11. Urry and Sheller’s Questions:
    • What are the appropriate subjects and objects of social inquiry?
    • How do we frame questions and what methods are appropriate to social research in a context in which durable `entities' of many kinds are shifting, morphing, and mobile?
    • Is there (or should there be) a new relation between `materialities' and `mobilities' in the social sciences?
    • And how are our very modes of `knowing' being transformed by the very `mobile' processes that we wish to study?
  • 12. Mobility Fact Moment... Five of the ten bestselling novels in Japan last year were written on mobile phones. (Economist, April, 2008)
  • 13.  
  • 14. Time to share your mobile culture…
  • 15. Next Week’s Reading: Week 2: Mobile Methods: How to study mobilities? Buscher, M. Urry, J. 2009. Mobile Methods and the Empirical. European Journal of Social Theory 12 (1):99-116. photographs by Krzysiek Adamczyk