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Abstract

It seems that a new paradigm is being formed within the social sciences, the ‘new mobilities’ paradigm. Some recent contributions to forming and stabilising this new paradigm include work from anthropology, cultural studies, geography, migration studies, science and technology studies, tourism and transport studies, and sociology. In this paper we draw out some characteristics, properties, and implications of this emergent paradigm, especially documenting some novel mobile theories and methods. We reflect on how far this paradigm has developed and thereby to extend and develop the ‘mobility turn’ within the social sciences.
Introduction
All the world seems to be on the move. Asylum seekers, international students, terrorists,
members of diasporas, holidaymakers, business people, sports stars, refugees, backpackers,
commuters, the early retired, young mobile professionals, prostitutes, armed forces
ö
these
and many others fill the world's airports, buses, ships, and trains. The scale of this
travelling is immense. Internationally there are over 700 million legal passenger arrivals
each year (compared with 25 million in 1950) with a predicted 1 billion by 2010; there are
4 million air passengers each day; 31 million refugees are displaced from their homes;
and there is one car for every 8.6 people. These diverse yet intersecting mobilities have
many consequences for different peoples and places that are located in the fast and
slow lanes across the globe. There are new places and technologies that enhance the
mobility of some peoples and places and heighten the immobility of others, especially
as they try to cross borders (Graham and Wood, forthcoming; Verstraete 2004). Many
different bodies are on the move [and it is often through their movements and proximities
that bodies are marked as `different' in the first place (Ahmed, 2000)] and this movement
shows relatively little sign of substantially abating in the longer term. This is so even after
September 11, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), multiple suicide bombings of
transport networks, and other global catastrophes, and the fact that many grand projects
in transport do not at first generate the scale of anticipated traffic.
Simultaneously the Internet has grown more rapidly than any previous technology,
with significant impacts throughout much of the world (soon to be 1 billion users
worldwide). New forms of `virtual' and `imaginative' travel are emerging, and being
combined in unexpected ways with physical travel (see Germann Molz, this issue).
Mobile telephony based on many societies jumping direct to such a new technology
seems especially to involve new ways of interacting and communicating on the move,
of being in a sense present while apparently absent (see papers in Brown et al, 2002;
Callon et al, 2004). The growth of such information and communication technologies
is allowing new forms of coordination of people, meetings, and events to emerge (see
Bu
«scher, 2006; Jain, forthcoming).
And materials too are on the move, often carried by these moving bodies whether
openly, clandestinely, or inadvertently. Also the multinational sourcing of different com-
ponents of manufactured products involves just-in-time delivery from around the world.
The new mobilities paradigm
Mimi Sheller, John Urry
Department of Sociology, Lancaster University, Lancaster LA1 4YD, England;
e-mail: m.sheller@lancaster.ac.uk, j.urry@lancaster.ac.uk
Received 10 August 2004; in revised form 18 January 2005
Environment and Planning A 2006, volume 38, pages 207 ^ 226
Abstract. It seems that a new paradigm is being formed within the social sciences, the `new mobilities'
paradigm. Some recent contributions to forming and stabilising this new paradigm include work from
anthropology, cultural studies, geography, migration studies, science and technology studies, tourism
and transport studies, and sociology. In this paper we draw out some characteristics, properties, and
implications of this emergent paradigm, especially documenting some novel mobile theories
and methods. We reflect on how far this paradigm has developed and thereby to extend and develop
the `mobility turn' within the social sciences.
DOI:10.1068/a37268
The `cosmopolitanisation' of taste means that consumers in the `North' expect fresh
materials from around the world `air freighted' to their table, while consumers in the
`South' often find more roundabout ways to access consumer goods from the North
ö
carried by small-scale informal importers, packed into containers for relatives`back home',
or simply smuggled. And there are massive flows of illegal if very valuable other materials,
including drugs, guns, cigarettes, alcohol, and counterfeit and pirated products. Mass
media itself has a materiality as videos, DVDs, radios, televisions, camcorders, and mobile
phones get passed from hand to hand (Schein, 2002; Spitulnik 2002).
Issues of movement, of too little movement or too much, or of the wrong sort or
at the wrong time, are central to many lives and many organisations. From SARS
to train crashes, from airport expansion controversies to SMS (short message service)
texting on the move, from congestion charging to global terrorism, from obesity caused
by `fast food' to oil wars in the Middle East, issues of `mobility' are centre stage. And
partly as an effect a `mobility turn' is spreading into and transforming the social sciences,
transcending the dichotomy between transport research and social research, putting social
relations into travel and connecting different forms of transport with complex patterns
of social experience conducted through communications at-a-distance. It seems that a
new paradigm is being formed within the social sciences, the `new mobilities' paradigm.
Some recent contributions to forming and stabilising this new paradigm include con-
tributions from anthropology, cultural studies, geography, migration studies, science
and technology studies, tourism and transport studies, and sociology (Ahmed et al,
2003; Amin and Thrift, 2002; Appadurai,1996; Clifford, 1997; Coleman and Crang, 2002;
Cresswell, 2001; Crouch and Lu
«bbren, 2003; Degen and Hetherington, 2001; Ginsburg
et al, 2002; Kaplan, 1996; Kaufmann, 2002; Mol and Law, 1994; Pascoe, 2001; Riles, 2001;
Serres,1995; Sheller, 2003; Urry, 2000; Verstraete and Cresswell, 2002; Virilio, 1997, as well
as most papers in this theme issue).
In this paper we draw out some characteristics, properties, and implications of this
emergent paradigm, to reflect on how far we have come and to extend and develop the
`mobility turn' within the social sciences.
Social science as static
Social science has largely ignored or trivialised the importance of the systematic move-
ments of people for work and family life, for leisure and pleasure, and for politics and
protest. 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, account-
ing for mobilities in the fullest sense challenges social science to change both the
objects of its inquiries and the methodologies for research.
The emergent mobilities paradigm problematises two sets of extant theory. First, it
undermines sedentarist theories present in many studies in geography, anthropology,
and sociology. Sedentarism treats as normal stability, meaning, and place, and treats as
abnormal distance, change, and placelessness. Sedentarism is often derived loosely
from Heidegger, for whom dwelling (or wohnen) means to reside or to stay, to dwell
at peace, to be content or at home in a place. It is the manner in which humans
should inhabit the earth. He talks of dwelling places (Heidegger, 2002). Such sedentar-
ism locates bounded and authentic places or regions or nations as the fundamental
208 M Sheller, J Urry
basis of human identity and experience and as the basic units of social research
(Cresswell, 2002, pages 12 ^15). It rests on forms of territorial nationalism and their
associated technologies of mapping and visualisation which emerged out of the
Enlightenment `cosmic view' of the world (see Kaplan, this issue).
The way that social science is often sedentarist can be seen in one very mundane
yet obvious example: its failure to examine the significance of the car (Sheller and
Urry, 2000). It was in the modern city that the founders of sociology and urban
studies first envisioned the contraction of social space, the density of transactions,
the increased `metabolism', and the compression of `social distance' that comprised
modernity. Yet sociology's view of urban life failed to consider the overwhelming
impact of the automobile in transforming the time^ space `scapes' of the modern
urban/suburban dweller. Industrial sociology, consumption studies, transportation
studies and urban analyses have each been largely static (although see Hawkins,
1986; Lynch, 1993; Lynd and Lynd, 1937) failing to consider how the car recon-
figures urban life, with novel ways of dwelling, travelling, and socialising in,
and through, an automobilised time^ space [although see Pooley et al (this issue),
who argue that the rich have always had access to analogously individualised
mobilities].
Automobility impacts not only on local public spaces and opportunities for coming
together, but also on the formation of gendered subjectivities, familial and social
networks, spatially segregated urban neighbourhoods, national images and aspirations
to modernity, and global relations ranging from transnational migration to terrorism
and oil wars (Sheller, 2004a). This sociotechnical system is not only a key form of
contemporary mobility, but is furthermore interconnected with other mobile systems
that organise flows of information, population, petroleum oil, risks and disasters,
images and dreams [see Normark (this issue) on how these flows encounter each other
in the `petrol station']. The car is perhaps an obvious candidate for application of
a more mobile perspective, but what if we were to open up all sites, places, and
materialities to the mobilities that are always already coursing through them?
The mobilities paradigm indeed emphasises that all places are tied into at least thin
networks of connections that stretch beyond each such place and mean that nowhere
can be an `island', as Braudel (1992) showed in the case of the complex trading and
travel routes that constituted the Mediterranean world over many centuries. From
the ships, sea routes, and interconnectivity of the Black Atlantic (Gilroy, 1993) to the
complex mobilities of diasporas and transnational migrants in the modern world
(Cohen, 1997), multiple interacting mobilities have long been significant. The claim to
a `new mobilities paradigm' is not simply an assertion of the novelty of mobility in the
world today, although the speed and intensity of various flows are greater than before
(but see Pooley et al, this issue), nor is it simply a claim that nation-state sovereignty
has been replaced by a single system of mobile power, of `empire': a `smooth world',
deterritorialised and decentred, without a centre of power, with no fixed boundaries
or barriers (Hardt and Negri, 2000, page 136). It is rather part of a broader theoretical
project aimed at going beyond the imagery of `terrains' as spatially fixed geograph-
ical containers for social processes, and calling into question scalar logics such as
local/global as descriptors of regional extent [see Tsing (2002, page 472) on tracking
`rhetorics of scale' and what counts as relevant scales]. Law (this issue) shows
the complex interconnections between the various barriers and material flows
that were implicated in the unpredicted spreading of foot and mouth disease in the
United Kingdom in 2001, and how these could be tracked even further beyond
the United Kingdom.
The new mobilities paradigm 209
Second, our critique of `static' social science also departs from those that concentrate
on postnational deterritorialisation processes and the end of states as containers for
societies. Theories of a `liquid modernity' (Bauman, 2000) usefully redirect research
away from static structures of the modern world to see how social entities comprise
people, machines, and information/images in systems of movement. There is a shift
from modernity seen as heavy and solid to one that is light and liquid and in which
speed of movement of people, money, images, and information is paramount (Bauman,
2000). However, a research agenda addressing such mobilities need not embrace them
as a supposed form of freedom or liberation from space and place. Specifically
nomadic theory celebrates the opposite of sedentarism, namely, metaphors of travel
and flight. These metaphors celebrate mobilities that progressively move beyond
both geographical borders and also beyond disciplinary boundaries (Braidotti, 1994;
Cresswell 2002, pages 15 ^ 18; Urry, 2000, chapter 2).
Although we call for a`sociology beyond societies' (Urry, 2000), we do not insist on
a new `grand narrative' of mobility, fluidity, or liquidity. The new mobilities paradigm
suggests a set of questions, theories, and methodologies rather than a totalising or
reductive description of the contemporary world. Indeed, as other analysts of global
networks argue, the increase in cross-border transactions and of ``capabilities for
enormous geographical dispersal and mobility'' go hand in hand with ``pronounced
territorial concentrations of resources necessary for the management and servicing of
that dispersal and mobility'' (Sassen, 2002, page 2). Thus the new paradigm attempts to
account for not only the quickening of liquidity within some realms but also the
concomitant patterns of concentration that create zones of connectivity, centrality,
and empowerment in some cases, and of disconnection, social exclusion, and inaudi-
bility in other cases (Graham and Marvin 2001). Rights to travel are highly uneven and
skewed even between a pair of countries [as Gogia (this issue) shows in the case of
travel between Mexico and Canada]. The acceptance of ``circulation rhetoric'' often
entails ``the endorsement of multicultural enrichment, freedom, mobility, communica-
tion and creative hybridity'', argues Tsing; but this need not prevent us from also
examining ``the material and institutional infrastructure of movement and pay[ing]
special attention to the economic coercions and political guarantees that limit or
promote circulation'' (2002, pages 462 ^ 463).
The forms of detachment or `deterritorialisation' associated with `liquid modernity'
(Bauman 2000) are accompanied by attachments and reterritorialisations of various
kinds (Sheller, 2004a). The new paradigm emphasises how all mobilities entail specific
often highly embedded and immobile infrastructures [Graham and Marvin (2001) and
Sassen (2002); see also Marvin and Medd (this issue) on the material impacts of fat
flowing in and under the city]. The petrol station (Normark, this issue) is a fixed entity
that presupposes the emergent mobilities of the car. More generally there are inter-
dependent systems of `immobile' material worlds and especially some exceptionally
immobile platforms (transmitters, roads, garages, stations, aerials, airports, docks).
Mobility is always located and materialised, and occurs through mobilisations of local-
ity and rearrangements of the materiality of places (Sheller, 2004a). The complex
character of such systems stems from the multiple fixities or moorings often on a
substantial physical scale that enable the fluidities of liquid modernity. Thus `mobile
machines', mobile phones, cars, aircraft, trains, and computer connections, all presume
overlapping and varied time^ space immobilities (see Graham and Marvin, 2001; Urry,
2003a, chapter 7). There is no linear increase in fluidity without extensive systems of
immobility (Sassen, 2002). Such immobilities include wire and coaxial cable systems,
the distribution of satellites for radio and television, the fibre-optic cabling carrying
telephone, television, and computer signals, the mobile phone masts that enable
210 M Sheller, J Urry
microwave channels to carry mobile phone messages (with new mobile phones now
more common in the world than conventional land-line phones), and the massive
infrastructures that organise the physical movement of people and goods (see Graham
and Marvin, 2001).
Moreover, many feminist theorists have argued that nomadic theory rests on a
``romantic reading of mobility'', and that ``certain ways of seeing [arise] as a result
of this privileging of cosmopolitan mobility'' (Kaplan, this issue). Ahmed critiques
mobile forms of subjectivity and argues that the ``idealisation of movement, or trans-
formation of movement into a fetish, depends upon the exclusion of others who are
already positioned as not free in the same way '' (2004, page 152). Skeggs further argues
that the mobility paradigm can be linked to a ``bourgeois masculine subjectivity'' that
describes itself as ``cosmopolitan''; she points out that ``mobility and fixity are figured
differently depending on national spaces and historical periods'' (2004, page 48). Yet
the new mobilities paradigm, as we argue here, moves on from this kind of disavowal
of power, and fundamentally affirms the kind of analysis in which ``Mobility and
control over mobility both reflect and reinforce power. Mobility is a resource to which
not everyone has an equal relationship'' (Skeggs, 2004, page 49; Morley, 2000). It is not
a question of privileging a `mobile subjectivity', but rather of tracking the power of
discourses and practices of mobility in creating both movement and stasis. A new
mobilities paradigm delineates the context in which both sedentary and nomadic accounts
of the social world operate, and it questions how that context is itself mobilised, or
performed, through ongoing sociotechnical practices, of intermittently mobile material
worlds [as Law (this issue) describes in the case of pigs, sheep, farmers, airborne disease,
foodstuffs, people, and so on].
Indeed, the interest in theorising nomadism and deterritorialisation in the social
sciences can in one direction be traced back to the critique of the colonial modes of
ordering and knowing that informed many 20th-century human sciences (Bhabha,
1994; Clifford, 1992; 1997; Clifford and Dhareshwar, 1989; Hall 1990). Studies of
migration, diasporas, and transnational citizenship offered trenchant critiques of the
bounded and static categories of nation, ethnicity, community, place, and state within
much social science (Basch et al, 1994; Brah, 1996; Gilroy, 1993; Ifekwunigwe, 1999;
Joseph, 1999; Ong, 1999; Ong and Nonini, 1997; Van der Veer, 1995). These works,
drawn not only from the social sciences but also from literary and cultural studies,
highlight dislocation, displacement, disjuncture, and dialogism as widespread condi-
tions of migrant subjectivity in the world today [and indeed in the past as in
19th-century Singapore (Wong, this issue)]. At the same time, they also foreground
acts of `homing' (Brah, 1996; Fortier, 2000) and `regrounding' (Ahmed et al, 2003)
which point toward the complex interrelation between travel and dwelling, home and
not-home. In leaving a place migrants often carry parts of it with them which are
reassembled in the material form of souvenirs, textures, foods, colours, scents, and
sounds
ö
reconfiguring the place of arrival both figuratively and imaginatively
(Tolia-Kelly, this issue).
Although some critics argue that there is no analytical purchase in bringing
together so broad a field
ö
encompassing studies of exile, migration, immigration,
migrant citizenship, transnationalism, and tourism
ö
we argue that the project needs
to be developed further. Especially valuable here are feminist transnational studies
which examine how migrants reconstitute belonging and mobilise place-based identi-
ties across geopolitical borders (Fortier, 2000; Joseph, 1999; Tolia-Kelly, this issue).
This approach highlights the relation between local and global `power-geometries'
(Massey, 1993), between the movements of people and of material belongings, and
between the physical and symbolic dimensions of cultures of mobility (Sheller, 2003).
The new mobilities paradigm 211
Gogia (this issue) shows the importance of various structures such as North American
Free Trade Agreement or the EU that specifically facilitate and produce movement,
producing symbolic and practical imbalances between what Mexicans and Canadians
are able to do as people both on the move.
Yet these critical approaches have still had little effect in terms of how mainstream
social science constitutes its object of inquiry. The new mobilities paradigm must be
brought to bear not only on questions of globalisation and the deterritorialisation of
nation-states, identities, and belonging, but more fundamentally on questions of what
are the appropriate subjects and objects of social inquiry. Rifkin notes that contemporary
`science' no longer sees anything ``as static, fixed and given'' (2000, pages 191 ^193); rather,
apparent hard and fast entities are always comprised of rapid movement and
there is no structure separate from process. 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?
Multiple mobilities
Social science has thus been static in its theory and research. It has not sufficiently
examined how, enhanced by various objects and technologies, people move. But also it
has not seen how images and communications are also intermittently on the move and
those actual and potential movements organise and structure social life. Mobilities in
this paradigm is thus used in a broad-ranging generic sense, embracing physical move-
ment such as walking and climbing to movement enhanced by technologies, bikes and
buses, cars and trains, ships and planes [see Pooley et al (this issue) for a historical
examination of their changing significance within everyday mobilities in 20th-century
Britain].
Mobilities also includes movements of images and information on local, national,
and global media. The concept embraces one-to-one communications such as the
telegraph, fax, telephone, mobile phone, as well as many-to-many communications
effected through networked and increasingly embedded computers. The study of mobi-
lity also involves those immobile infrastructures that organise the intermittent flow of
people, information, and image, as well as the borders or `gates' that limit, channel,
and regulate movement or anticipated movement. And it involves examining how the
transporting of people and the communicating of messages, information, and images
increasingly converge and overlap through recent digitisation and extension of wireless
infrastructures [as Germann Molz (this issue) examines in the case of round-the world
travellers]. Studies of human mobility at the global level must be brought together with
more `local' concerns about everyday transportation, material cultures, and spatial
relations of mobility and immobility, as well as with more `technological' concerns
about mobile information and communication technologies and emerging infrastruc-
tures of security and surveillance, including a kind of self-surveillance (Germann Molz,
this issue).
Thus mobilities need to be examined in their fluid interdependence and not in
their separate spheres (such as driving, travelling virtually, writing letters, flying, and
walking). Transport researchers, for example, take the `demand' for transport as
largely given, as a black box not needing much further investigation, or as derived
from the level of a society's income. They tend to examine simple categories of travel,
such as commuting, leisure, or business as if these were separate and self-contained.
212 M Sheller, J Urry
What is unusual is to begin from the complex patterning of people's varied and
changing social activities. The developing and fulfilling of such activities then mean
that travel is necessary for social life, enabling complex connections to be made, often
as a matter of social (or political) obligation. Understanding such connections should
not begin with the types and forms of transport [see Lassen (this issue) who focuses not
on air transport but on the more general processes of `aeromobility']. And the ways in
which physical movement pertains to upward and downward social mobility is also
central here. Moving between places physically or virtually can be a source of status
and power [such as round-the world travellers (Germann Molz, this issue)]; or where
movement is coerced it can be generate deprivation and untold suffering [as with
economic migrants to Europe from Fujian province in China or to Canada from
Mexico (see Gogia, this issue)]. Analysing mobilities involves examining many con-
sequences for different peoples and places located in what we might call the fast and
slow lanes of social life. There is the proliferation of places, technologies, and `gates'
that enhance the mobilities of some while reinforcing the immobilities of others,
including those of children (see Pooley et al, this issue).
The significance of such fluid interdependence can be seen in Wittel's ethnography
of `network sociality' for some of those in the fast lane [and see Lassen (this issue) for
the `aeromobile' elite]. This he says involves: ``cars, trains, buses and the underground,
of airplanes, taxis and hotels, and it is based on phones, faxes, answering machines,
voicemail, video-conferencing, mobiles, email, chat rooms, discussion forums, mailing
lists and web sites'' (Wittel, 2001, page 69). Axhausen (2002) notes the array of tools
now necessary for successful `networking': a car or the budget for taxis, budget and
access for long-distance travel, location-free contact points (answering service, e-mail,
website), and sufficient time or assistance to manage these components especially when
one or other `fails' (Shove, 2002, page 4). Indeed, the greater the proliferation of such
`tools' and hence the greater the networking possible, so the more that access to such tools
is obligatory in order to participate fully in a `networked society'. There is therefore a
set of feedback mechanisms, a complex adaptive system, that extend the mobility
burden as the range of `network tools' expands and heightens the range, extent, and
heterogeneity of social networks [Shove (2002); see Kesselring (this issue) on various
mobility pioneers]. These networks can often be `international' and this heightens the
significance of such networking tools (see Lassen, this issue).
Social life thus seems full of multiple and extended connections often across long
distances, but these are organised through certain nodes. Mobilities thus entail distinct
social spaces that orchestrate new forms of social life around such nodes, for example,
stations, hotels, motorways, resorts, airports, leisure complexes, cosmopolitan cities,
beaches, galleries, and roadside parks. These are places of intermittent movement
constituting for some at least relatively smooth `corridors', according to Lassen (this issue).
Or connections might be enacted through less privileged spaces, on the street
corners, subway stations, buses, public plazas, and back alleys where the less privileged
might use pay-phones, beepers, or more recently short-text messaging to organise illicit
exchanges, meetings, political demonstrations, or `underground' social gatherings, what
Rheingold (2002) terms `smart mobs'. But as Law (this issue) points out, we are not
dealing with a single network, but with complex intersections of `endless regimes of
flow', which move at different speeds, scales, and viscosities.
Also contra much transport research the time spent traveling is not dead time that
people always seek to minimise. Whereas the transport literature tends to distinguish
travel from activities, the new mobilities paradigm posits that activities occur while
on the move, that being on the move can involve sets of `occasioned' activities (Lyons
and Urry, 2005). Research within the new mobilities paradigm examines the embodied
The new mobilities paradigm 213
nature and experience of different modes of travel, seeing them in part as forms of
material and sociable dwelling-in-motion, places of and for various activities (on cars,
see Featherstone et al, 2004). These `activities' can include specific forms of talk, work,
or information gathering, but may involve simply being connected, maintaining a
moving presence with others that holds the potential for many different convergences
or divergences of physical presence [see Wong (this issue) on the affordances of
different means of movement in 19th-century Singapore]. Not only does a mobilities
perspective lead us to discard our usual notions of spatiality and scale, but it also
undermines existing linear assumptions about temporality and timing, which often
assume that actors are able to do only one thing at a time, and that events follow
each other in a linear order [see Callon et al (2004) on how the apparently absent can
yetineffectbepresent].
Furthermore, a clear distinction is often drawn between places and those travelling
to such places. Places are seen as pushing or pulling people to visit. Places are
presumed to be relatively fixed, given, and separate from those visiting. The new
mobility paradigm argues against this ontology of distinct `places' and `people'. Rather,
there is a complex relationality of places and persons connected through performances
[see Bu
«scher (this issue), as well as papers in Sheller and Urry (2004)]. Thus activities
are not separate from the places that happen contingently to be visited. Indeed, the
places travelled to depend in part upon what is practised within them, as Gogia
(this issue) shows in the paradoxically interconnected cases of Mexico and Canada.
Moreover, many such performances are intermittently mobile `within' the destination
place itself; travel is not just a question of getting to the destination (see B×renholdt,
2004; Sheller and Urry 2004).
Thus there are hybrid systems, `materialities and mobilities', that combine objects,
technologies, and socialities, and out of those distinct places are produced and repro-
duced. This is so even where they are places of `movement', such as places developed
for North American backpackers in Mexico (Gogia, this issue), or the iconic motel
(Morris, 1988). Places are thus not so much fixed as implicated within complex
networks by which hosts, guests, buildings, objects, and machines are contingently
brought together to produce certain performances in certain places at certain times.
Places are indeed dynamic
ö
`places of movement' according to Hetherington
[(1997); and see Wong (this issue) on 19th-century Singapore]. Places are like ships,
moving around and not necessarily staying in one location. In the new mobilities
paradigm, places themselves are seen as travelling, slow or fast, greater or shorter
distances, within networks of human and nonhuman agents. Places are about relation-
ships, about the placing of peoples, materials, images, and the systems of difference
that they perform [see Wong (this issue) on the enormous complexity of traversing an
apparently single place]. We understand `where' we are through ``vision in motion''
(Bu
«scher, this issue) practised through the alignment of material objects, maps, images,
and a moving gaze (see also Kaplan, this issue).
And at the same time as places are dynamic, they are also about proximities, about
the bodily copresence of people who happen to be in that place at that time, doing
activities together, moments of physical proximity between people that make travel
desirable or even obligatory for some (see Germann Molz, this issue; Urry, 2003b).
Theoretical resources for mobilities research
Drawing on theoretical resources within a postdisciplinary field that is converging around
studies of space, place, boundaries, and movement, the new mobilities paradigm moves
beyond sedentarist and nomadic conceptualisations of place and movement. In order to
develop these notions six bodies of theory need to be enrolled within mobilities research.
214 M Sheller, J Urry
We begin with Simmel, who established a broad agenda for the analysis of
mobilities. He describes the human ``will to connection'' by contrast with animals
that do not demonstrate such a will. Humans are able to impress ``into the surface
of the earth'', generating a ``freezing movement in a solid structure'' (1997, page 171).
This produces paths as well as ``the miracle of the road'' (page 171). This achievement
of connection reaches its zenith with a bridge that connects two places; it ``symbolizes
the extension of our volitional sphere over space'' (page 171). Thus Simmel sets an
agenda that connects mobilities and materialities in a way that more recent theorists
are continuing to pursue.
Crucial to his understanding of urbanism is the notion of ``tempo'', the pulse of city
life which drives not only its social, economic, and infrastructural formations, but also
the psychic forms of the urban dweller. Simmel describes the modern city as charac-
terised by the ``unexpectedness of onrushing impressions ... .With each crossing of
the street, with the tempo and multiplicity of economic, occupational and social life, the
city sets up a deep contrast with small town and rural life'' (1997, page 175). And
because of the richness of stimuli because of these multiple mobilities, people learn
to develop an attitude of reserve and insensitivity to feeling. The urban personality is
reserved, detached, and blase
¨.
Moreover, a new precision is necessary in city life. Agreements and arrangements
need to demonstrate unambiguousness in timing and location. Life in the mobile
onrushing city demands punctuality and this is demonstrated by the ``universal diffu-
sion of pocket watches'' (Simmel, 1997, page 177). Simmel argues that the ``relationships
and affairs of the typical metropolitan usually are so varied and complex that without
the strictest punctuality in promises and services the whole structure would break
down into an inextricable chaos... this necessity is brought about by the aggregation
of so many people with such differentiated interests who must integrate their relations
and activities into a highly complex organism'' (page 177). So the forming of a complex
system of relationships means that meetings and activities have to be punctual, time-
tabled, rational, a system or ``structure of the highest impersonality'' (page 178). But
because of so much mobility in the metropolis there is a ``brevity and scarcity of
inter-human contacts'' [(page 183); now even further advanced with round-the-world
travelers and those who follow such travelings (Germann Molz, this issue)]. Simmel
further argues that people are now attracted to each other simply for ``free-playing
sociability'', for forms of social interaction freed from content, substance, and ulterior
end. Copresent conversations can happen in and for themselves, a kind of ``pure inter-
action'', an end in itself [Simmel (1997, pages 9 ^10); see Gogia (this issue) on Canadian
backpackers in Mexico].
If Simmel provides a key theoretical antecedent, the second body of theory we
enlist is a more recent attempt to redescribe the taken-for-granted conditions of
contemporary sociality. Science and technology studies show how ``what we call the
social is materially heterogeneous: talk, bodies, texts, machines, architectures, all of
these and many more are implicated in and perform the social'' (Law, 1994, page 2;
this issue). Mobile sociotechnical systems should be analysed as hybrids, including even
sewage systems in the contemporary city (Marvin and Medd, this issue). Mobilities
involve complex ``hybrid geographies'' (Whatmore, 2002) of humans and nonhumans
that contingently enable people and materials to move and to hold their shape as they
move across various regions, such as the spread of the car system (Normark, this
issue). Such analyses of hybrids also bring out that technologies do not necessarily
produce effects and indeed new transport technologies are often very slow in their
uptake (see Pooley, et al, this issue). Networks are on occasions tightly coupled
with complex, enduring, and predictable connections between peoples, objects, and
The new mobilities paradigm 215
technologies across multiple and distant spaces and times (Law, 1994, page 24;
Murdoch 1995, page 745). Things are made close through these networked relations.
Such assemblages extend not only to physical movement but to new forms of surveil-
lances, what has been termed the `surveillant assemblage' (see Germann Molz, this issue)
or the `cosmic gaze' (see Kaplan, this issue).
A third theoretical contribution to the new paradigm involves mobilising the
`spatial turn' in the social sciences. Although it began to be recognised that spatiality
mattered in the 1980s (Soja, 1989), there is now a growing interest in the ways in which
material `stuff ' makes up places, and such stuff is always in motion, being assembled
and reassembled in changing configurations [assemblages that require various kinds
of labour, as Law (this issue), Bu
«scher (this issue), and Tolia-Kelly (this issue) show].
Theorists of `relationality' and circulation are able to track `partial connections'
(Strathern, 1991) that disturb bipolar logics of the local and the global, or the mobile
and the immobile, and suggest the coconstitution of embodiments, landscapes, and
systems of local and global mobility (Maurer, 1997; Sheller, 2004b). A more relational
approach to the classic problem of agency and structure brings to the fore the move-
ments implicit in identifications, grammars, economies, intensities, and orientations;
as people, capital, and things move they form and reform space itself (as well as the
subjectivities through which individuals inhabit spaces) through their attachments and
detachments, their slippages and `stickiness' (Ahmed, 2004).
The fourth theoretical influence we draw on concerns the recentring of the corporeal
body as an affective vehicle through which we sense place and movement, and construct
emotional geographies. Various analyses show how means of travel are not only ways of
getting as quickly as possible from A to B. Each means provides different experiences,
performances, and affordances.The growth of the railway in the late 19th-century provided
new ways of moving, socialising, and seeing [Schivelbusch (1986); seeWong (this issue) on
the rickshaw]. The car too is increasingly revealed through studies as a place of `dwelling'
or corporeal inhabitation. It is experienced through a combination of senses and sensed
through multiple registers of motion and emotion (Featherstone et al, 2004). There is a
complex sensuous relationality between the means of travel and the traveller. Such
sensuous geographies are not only located within individual bodies, but extend to familial
spaces, neighbourhoods, regions, national cultures, and leisure spaces with particular
kinaesthetic dispositions (Edensor, 2002; Sheller, 2004a).
It is also necessary to draw upon a fifth body of research that examines various
topologies of social networks and especially the patterns of weak ties that may generate
`small worlds' amongst those apparently unconnected (Buchanan, 2002; Granovetter,
1983; Urry, 2004a; Watts, 1999; 2003). The natures of extensive weak ties stretching
across time and space are important for examining putative global connections, as
social life appears to move to a more networked model and where there is less like-
lihood of chance meetings (Axhausen, 2002). Lassen (this issue) shows the significance
of `aeromobility' in developing and extending such networked connections within
various realms of professional work (Bu
«scher, this issue). Sometimes, though, the
analysis of mobilities suggests that we need to move beyond network topologies,
to consider also topologies that may be more fluid, gel like, or even flickering like
fire (Law, 2004; this issue; Mol and Law, 1994; Sheller, 2004c). Theorising how such
complex patterns form and change will be crucial to future mobilities research as it
intersects with scientific research into dynamical systems.
Finally, mobilities seem to involve the analysis of complex systems that are neither
perfectly ordered nor anarchic (Capra, 2002; Urry, 2003a).There is an `orderly disorder'
present within dynamic or complex adaptive systems as analysed in recent formula-
tions (Abbott, 2001; Byrne, 1998; Hayles, 1991; 1999; Prigogine, 1997; Urry 2003b).
216 M Sheller, J Urry
Dynamic systems possess emergent properties. They develop over time so that national
economies, corporations, and households are locked into stable `path-dependent' prac-
tices [such as the steel-and-petroleum car (Urry, 2004b)]. Law (this issue) shows the
side effects of increased abattoir hygiene which generated increased pig and sheep
movements around Britain, and how this spread foot and mouth disease much more
quickly. Systems are so tightly coupled that efforts logistically to separate control
systems over flows of animals, meat products, immigrants, and diseases break down
in the face of unpredictable formations such as those that might allow suspect meat in
airport containers to reach swine feed, or prions in cow tissue to reach human brains.
Disaster is one trigger for systemic change. But systems can also change through the
accumulation of small repetitions reaching a `tipping point' as with the explosive
growth of mobile phone use or communications between offices using faxes (Gladwell,
2000), or the small causes that could conceivably tip the car system into a postcar
system (Urry 2004b).
Thus far we have suggested an array of theoretical resources that can develop and
enhance some early formulations of a mobility take present within some of Simmel's
essays. In the next section we consider some novel methods and exemplars of research.
Research methods will need to be `on the move', in effect to simulate intermittent
mobility. We now mention some such `mobile methods' (see B×renholdt et al, 2004).
Methods for mobilities research
Mobilities research is concerned first with the patterning, timing, and causation of
face-to-face copresence. What brings person to person? When? How often? One way to
ascertain this is through the `observation' of people's movement, of bodies strolling,
driving, leaning, running, climbing, lying on the ground, or as in the case of Normark's
research (this issue), visiting a petrol station. This involves observing directly or in
digitally enhanced forms mobile bodies undergoing various performances of travel,
work, and play. Especially significant is the observation of how people effect a face-
to-face relationship with places, with events and with people. Simmel placed particular
emphasis upon the eye as a ``unique sociological achievement'' (1997, page 111). The eye
effects the connection and interaction of individuals, it is the ``most direct and purest
interaction that exists'' (page 111). People cannot avoid taking through the eye without
at the same time giving. The eye produces ``the most complete reciprocity; of person to
person, face to face'' (page 112). The expressive meaning of the face provides a special
kind of knowing. The face tells others about it, it reveals that which has been deposited
over the years [see Lassen (this issue) on how aeromobility makes such contacts seem
necessary]. Mobilities especially involve occasioned, intermittent face-to-face conversa-
tions and meetings within certain places at certain moments that seem obligatory for
the sustaining of families, friendship, workgroups, businesses, and leisure organisations
(Amin and Thrift, 2002). Thus it is necessary to draw upon interactional, conversa-
tional, and biological analyses of how people read and interpret the face (Goffman,
1963; 1971; 1972; Hutchby, 2001; as well as Simmel, 1997).
Second, there are several emerging forms of `mobile ethnography', which involve
participation in patterns of movement while conducting ethnographic research.
Schein employs a method she calls `itinerant ethnography', which is ``in spirit siteless,
a recognition of the deterritorialized character'' of contemporary diasporic commu-
nities; here research encounters might be ``mobile
ö
such as those with videos, video
producers, and returned migrants to homeland sites
ö
and hence require the tracking
of movements'' (2002, page 231). Such a mobilised ethnography could involve `walking
with' people as a form of deep engagement in their worldview (Morris, 2004), or
following objects such as radios through their ``individual and group mobilization
The new mobilities paradigm 217
(use, placement, circulation)'' as small mobile machines (Spitulnik, 2002). Through
what we might call `copresent immersion' the researcher can be copresent within
modes of movement and then employ a range of observation, interviewing, and record-
ing techniques (Laurier, 2002). Or it could involve `participation-while-interviewing'
(B×renholdt et al, 2004), in which the ethnographer first participates in patterns of
movement, and then interviews people, individually or in focus groups, as to how
their diverse mobilities constitute their patterning of everyday life (for an example,
see Bu
«scher, this issue).
Third, there is the keeping of `time ^space diaries', in which respondents record
what they were doing and where, and how they moved during those periods. Pooley
et al (this issue) examine a single diary to recreate an account of 19th-century mobil-
ities. Such a diary enables researchers to plot how the household, and indeed different
household members, move through time^ space and perform activities often on the
move. The diary could be textual, pictorial, or digital. In a reflexive move one might
also call for a more transparent accounting and accountability of the researcher's
trajectories of travel and affordances for mobile research production. The vocabulary
(and practices) of `research' and `findings', `publication', and `curriculum vitae' carries
within it its own implicit infrastructures of inclusion and exclusion, mobility and
immobility.
Fourth, there are varied methods of `cyber-research' that explore the imaginative
and virtual mobilities of people via their websites, multiuser discussion groups or
listserves, as well as through the use of computer simulations. Germann Molz (this
issue), for example, uses `cyberethnography' to explore the interplay between round-the-
world travel and round-the-world travelers' websites through a method combining
web-surfing, in-person and e-mail interviewing, and interaction in interactive sites
and discussion groups. Bu
«scher (this issue) shows how computer simulations inform
landscape design and how social research might potentially intervene in such design
processes. Simulations are also used to model traffic flows through spaces such as
congestion-charging zones or airport terminals, and such simulations can inform
mobilities research (Adey and Bevan, forthcoming).
Fifth, there is imaginative travel normally involving experiencing or anticipating in
one's imagination the `atmosphere of place'. This necessitates novel research because
atmosphere is neither reducible to the material infrastructures nor to the discourses of
representation. It would involve multimedia methods (Halgreen, 2004). The atmos-
phere or `feeling' of particular kinds of movement is often a concern in the poetry
and literature of exile and displacement, and is central to practices of commemoration
of traumatic events such as the Middle Passage during the slave trade. Social research
needs to be more attentive to researching the affective dimension both of its subjects of
research, and of its own performances (see Tolia-Kelly, this issue; Wong, this issue).
Sixth, much travel and communication involve the active development and perfor-
mances of `memory'. This necessitates research methods that simulate the active
employment of photographs, letters, images, souvenirs, and objects. Lury (1997) has
theorised different kinds of `travelling objects', and cultural geographers often examine
the kinds of pictures and objects that people carry with them and use to reassemble
memories, practices, and even landscapes in their varied sites of dwelling (Tolia-Kelly,
this issue). However, as much of this is familial or private there is a major challenge
to get inside such private worlds and to excavate `family secrets'especially about places
of loss or desire (Kuhn, 1995). Ahmed considers how ``emotions can move through
the movement or circula-tion of objects. Such objects become sticky, or saturated
with affect, as sites of personal and social tension... [;] attachment takes place through
movement'' (2004, page 11).
218 M Sheller, J Urry
Seventh, much mobilities research will need to examine multiple `transfer points'
(Kesselring, this issue), `places of in-between-ness' involved in being mobile but immo-
bilised in lounges, waiting rooms, cafe
¨s, amusement arcades, parks, hotels, airports,
stations, motels, harbours. These transfer points necessitate a significant immobile
network so that others can be on the move. They also entail new forms of `interspace'
(Hulme, forthcoming) or connected presence in which various kinds of meeting-ness
are held in play while on-the-move. Material objects too move through such transfer
points and they too need to be tracked in order for research to proceed. Law (this
issue) notes the 2.5 million containers that enter the United Kingdom each year, many
containing imported food that was the apparent source that culminated in the complex
system effect of widespread foot and mouth disease in 2001.
To illustrate some elements of this new mobilities paradigm we turn briefly to the
strange if iconic space of the new world order, the airport.
Airport spaces
Contemporary airports have historically developed from military airports. They emerge
from the significance of air power and the huge military advantage that is accorded to
those who control the air. As Kaplan (this issue) shows, movement through the air and
the `bird's eye' or cosmic view across land that air accords introduces a new and
massively effective form of mobile power.
This sociotechnical system has been turned into a form of mass mobility. The
contemporary carrying machine, the aeroplane, requires an exceptionally extensive
and immobile place, the airport-city with tens of thousands of workers orchestrating
the 4 million air journeys taking place each day (see Pascoe, 2001). This airport space
is a place of transmission of people (and objects) into global relationships, what
Gottdiener calls a ``space of transition'' that facilitates the shrinkage of the globe and
the transcendence of time and space (2001, pages 10 ^11). Air travel is one `space of
flows' that increasingly moves people apparently (though never actually) seamlessly
around the world especially connecting various hub airports located in major `global'
cities (Urry, 2000). This emphasises the system of airports that links together places,
forming networks that bring connected places closer together, while distancing those
places that are not so connected. It is the system of airports that is key to many global
processes, permitting travellers to encounter many people and places from around the
world, face to face (see Gogia, this issue; Lassen, this issue).
Moreover, contrary to the Auge
¨'s ``cultural critique of placelessness'' associated with
analysis of nonplaces ``where people coexist or cohabit without living together'' (1995,
page 110), airports do in fact possess a specific contingent materiality. They seem
places of material organisation and considerable social complexity. Airports are places
of ``the boring, everyday, routine, but essential operations, processes, systems, and
technologies, that enable global mobility to occur'' (Parker, 2002, page 16). Airports
are places of work for often tens of thousands of workers located within airport-cities.
Various nonhuman actants, combined with rule-following humans, enable, for example,
air traffic control systems to effect high levels of safe take-off and landings.
Airports are also a place of `cybermobilities' (Adey and Bevan, forthcoming) in
which software keeps the airport system functioning smoothly and transforms it into a
kind of `code/space' (Dodge and Kitchin, 2004). Wood and Graham (forthcoming)
further suggest that automated software for sorting travellers as they pass through
automated surveillance systems (such as iris-recognition systems) is increasingly pro-
ducing a `kinetic elite' whose ease of mobility differentiates them from the low-speed,
low-mobility majority. Software also enables the tight coupling of distinctive airport
systems
ö
from the baggage X-ray and passenger surveillance systems to air traffic
The new mobilities paradigm 219
control and mechanical systems, passenger ticketing and ground transportation, and
human resource systems that manage flight crews, ground workers, and security staff
ö
such that breakdowns in one component of an airport system often have knock-on
effects which can cause lengthy delays.
Certain airports like Schiphol are being redesigned to make them destination
places in their own right: ``the implosive articulation of a many-purposed pedestrian
crowd creates a critical mass of social density, much like the busy downtown district
of a large central city. With enough interacting people, the scene itself emerges as
a distinct feature of place'' (Gottdiener, 2001, pages 21 ^22). As a consequence there
is increasing `dwelltime' in places of transit. In such places: ``[I]nstead of experiencing
waiting time as wasted time... the urban traveller is invited to use transit time to
accumulate useful experiences of leisure and work'' (Lloyd, 2003, page 94). Other
travellers may be inadvertently forced to live in airports, like the character Viktor
Navorski played by Tom Hanks in Stephen Spielberg's film The Terminal. For those
detained, there are few ways to use transit time, as they experience a disconnection not
only from physical arrival, but also from means of communication such as mobile
telephones or Internet access.
And increasingly air terminals are becoming like cities (Gottdiener 2001; Pascoe 2001)
but also in what has been called the frisk society, cities are becoming like airports.The use
of technologies such as detention centres, closed-circuit television (CCTV), Internet cafes,
GPS (Global Positioning System), iris-recognition security, WiFi hotspots, and intermodal
traffic interchanges are first trialed within airports before moving out as mundane
characteristics of cities. And daily flows through airports contribute immensely to the
production of contemporary urbanism, including diasporic cultural communities, `ethnic'
restaurants and neighbourhoods, distant families and cosmopolitan identities, and
exclusive zones and corridors of connectivity for the fast-tracked kinetic elite.
The systems of airports are part of the process through which time and space are
dramatically bent, as graphically seen in the events of September 11. Time^ space is
`curved' into new complex configurations as the `whole world' is brought dramatically
closer (see Urry, 2002). Systems of interconnected material worlds produce new moments
of unintended and dangerous copresence. The `gates' designed to prevent networks from
colliding (and the narratives of security that underwrote the building of those gatekeeping
processes) are less sustainable as flows of terrorists slip under, over, and through various
borders, eliminating the invisibilities and screens that kept networks apart.
More generally, the mobilities of money laundering, the drug trade, sewage and
waste, infections, urban crime, asylum seeking, arms trading, people smuggling, slave
trading, and urban terrorism, all make visible the already existing chaotic juxtaposition
of different spaces and networks. Thus global diseases rapidly move: ``The world has
rapidly become much more vulnerable to the eruption and, more critically, to the wide-
spread and even global spread of both new and old infectious diseases... the dramatic
increase in worldwide movement of people, goods and ideas is the driving force ... .
A person harbouring a life-threatening microbe can easily board a jet plane and be on
another continent when the symptoms of illness strike. The jet plane itself, and its cargo,
can carry insects and infectious agents into new ecologic settings'' (Mann, cited in
Buchanan, 2002, page 172). Time ^ space is thus `curved' into new complex configurations.
Only a few long-range transport connections are necessary to generate epidemics, such as
SARS that occurred within the very mobile Chinese diaspora in 2003 [especially between
south China, Hong Kong, and Toronto (Sum, 2004)], and thousands of apparently
inconsequential movements of sheep combined with various transnational movements
of meat and airplanes produced the rapid spread of foot and mouth disease during the
UK outbreak of 2001 (Law, this issue).
220 M Sheller, J Urry
New mobilities
These last points lead us on to consider what the new mobilities paradigm might say
about some recent changes in mobilities. We briefly mention a few such developments.
First, material changes seem to be `dematerialising' connections, as people,
machines, images, information, power, money, ideas, and dangers are `on the move',
making and remaking networks at increasingly rapid speed across the world. Social
networks are underpinned by technologies based upon timeframes transcending human
consciousness. Computers make decisions in nanosecond time, producing instantane-
ous and simultaneous effects. Pervasive computing produces a switching and mobility
between different self-reproducing systems, such as the Internet with its massive search
engines, databases of information storage and retrieval, world money flows (especially
through the ubiquitous `spreadsheet culture'), intelligent transport systems, robotic
vision machines under the oceans, and vision machines more generally (Kaplan, this
issue; Thrift 2001).
Further, the 21st century will be organised around new `machines'enabling `people'
to be more individually mobile through space, forming small world connections `on the
go'. `Persons' will occur as various nodes in multiple machines of inhabitation and
mobility. The 21st century will be the century of machines inhabited by individuals or
very small groups of individuals. Through inhabiting (or internalising) such machines
humans come to `life'. Such machines are miniaturised, privatised, digitised and mobi-
lised; they include walkmans, I-pods, mobile phones, the individual television, the
networked computer/Internet, the individualised smart car/bike, virtual reality `travel',
tele-immersion sites, laptops, personal organisers, wireless connections, helicopters,
smart small aircraft, and many others yet to emerge. Such machines are closely inter-
woven with the corporeal [see Bull (2000), on the Sony Walkman; and see Callon et al,
(2004)].
There is increasing convergence between transport and communication, `mobilis-
ing' the requirements and characteristics of copresence. And yet at the same time this
dependence upon machines for movement means that life is increasingly sedentary
even if people are on the go. Marvin and Medd (this issue) show how this results in
increasing worldwide obesity, the more mobile the city, the greater it seems the surplus
of `fatty' bodies.
These `mobility systems' are developing new characteristics. They are simply much
more complicated, made up of very many elements and based upon specialised and
arcane forms of expertise. Mobilities have always involved expert systems but these are
now highly specialised, many based upon entire university degree programmes (such as
BAs in golf course management) and specialised consultancy companies. Moreover,
such systems are much more interdependent with each other so that individual journeys or
pieces of communication depend upon multiple systems, all needing to function and
interface successfully with each other. Indeed, since the 1970s, systems have been much
more dependent upon computers and software. Software, we might say, writes mobility.
There has been a huge generation of specific software systems that again need to speak
effectively to each other in order that particular mobilities take place. And finally, these
systems have become vulnerable, especially to what Perrow (1999) terms`normal accidents'
that are almost built in, almost certain to occur from time to time given the tightly
locked-in nature of such systems, as Law (this issue) shows in the case of agriculture
or water control systems.
And we cannot do without such systems. As daily and weekly time ^ space patterns
in the richer parts of the world are desynchronised from historical communities and
place, so systems provide the means by which to schedule work and social life.
Organising `copresence' with key others (workmates, family, significant others, friends)
The new mobilities paradigm 221
becomes more demanding, with this loss of collective coordination within each day,
week, year, and so on. `Clusters' dissolve into more personal forms of networks, what
Haythornthwaite and Wellman term `personalised networking' (2002; Hampton and
Wellman, 2001). With such desynchronisation the use of scheduling becomes more
necessary. `Personalised networking' entails a person-to-person connectivity, most
visible with machines that enable immediate, mobile connectivity. There is an increas-
ingly `do-it-yourself ' scheduling society commonplace in at least large cities across
the world (Southerton et al, 2001). Thus the greater the personalisation of networks, the
more important are systems to facilitate that personalisation. There is a spiralling,
adaptive relationship effected through `scheduling systems', while of course much of the
world's population are unable to participate in a life on the move and are even more
socially excluded.
Furthermore, as richer people move around developing their individual life projects
they extend their personal networks and appear to exert increased `agency'. But as they
exert such `agency' so much about them gets left behind in traces on countless com-
puters: mobile phone records, use of automatic teller machines, creditworthiness
ratings, CCTV images, differentiated insurance rates through GIS software, hotel
bookings, GPS data, fingerprints, travel itineraries, bibliometric data, and so on.These
have the effect of reconfiguring humans as bits of scattered informational traces
resulting from various `systems'of which most are unaware (Germann Molz, this issue;
Kaplan, this issue).
Thus many individuals increasingly exist beyond their private bodies. They leave
traces of their selves in informational space, as they are mobile through space because
of `self-retrieval'at the other end of a network. People are able to `plug into' systems of
information through which they can `do' things and `talk' to people without being
present in a particular place. Illocutionary acts used to require copresence and utter-
ances in public; they now require a click on `OK'. Much of what was once `private'
already exists outside of the physical body and outside we might say the `self'. The self
is thus spread out or made mobile as a series of traces in cyberspace, even, or in fact
especially, those who seek to get away from it all as round-the world travellers
(Germann Molz, this issue).
Various sorting systems, in an effort to determine entry and exit, deploy detection
systems and cyberimagery of `strangers' and `familiars' to simulate community on
multiple screens in the workplace, home, car, airport, shopping centre, post office,
bar, store, garage, train, aircraft, and so on (generally here see Graham, 2002).
This set of changes thus produces novel and `flickering' combinations of presence
and absence of peoples, enemies and friends. New mobilities are bringing into being
new surprising combinations of presence and absence as the new century chaotically
unfolds. Methods and theories will need to be ever on the move to keep up with these
new forms of mobilities, new systems of scheduling and monitoring, and new pervasive
modes of mobilised social inclusion/exclusion, as the various papers in this theme issue
richly document.
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... Getting a phone call might transport a user to another residence, even when directed in a very public or crowd place. Also, the "new mobilities paradigm" (Sheller and Urry, 2006) places social networks and the drive of "people, objects, ideas and information center stage". ...
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