Are we living in a culture that places a premium on mobility and constant connection? If so, then what are its contours, shapes, and manifestations? What new practices arise, what is transformed and what persists? How are such transformations experienced?
“Mobile Cultures” examines the intersections between culture and mobility, an intersection that is articulated in at least three ways.
The papers speak to a number of key issues in the study of mobile communications. They are pilot projects, all, but they resonate with several key themes in the literature on mobilities and mobile media studies. In the first instance, they address the contingent place of the cellphone within the analysis of mobile culture, as well as advocating an approach to mobile technology that stresses that they are cultural artifacts. As Goggin (2006) notes in Cell Phone Culture, “the cell phone has become much more than a device for phone calls: “it has become a central cultural technology in its own right.” (p.2). With the introduction of wireless portable devices for interpersonal communication as a new dominant social technology, a whole new set of cultural practices and values are introduced: texting and sexting, reading the paper on the phone, staying in contact new forms of remote parenting, mobile commerce, locating people, posting to a variety of ‘social media.’ As cultural technologies they are part and parcel of a cultural shift where we have the expectation of being constantly connected, while we are on the move- a culture of mobility.
As mentioned, the title cultures of mobility suggests that we are always already capable of being networked with each other. As we roam the physical world of our everyday environment, walking down the street, taking a bus, or a tram, riding a car, we find ways to be virtually connected. In her classic text on mobile communication, Adriana de Souza Silva (2006) suggests that these are “hybrid spaces,” which she defines as “networked social spaces defined by the use of portable interfaces as the nodes of the network. ” (p. 11) Hybrid spaces are not constructed only by, through or with mobile technologies. They are, as she says, “built by the connection of mobility and communication and materialized by social networks developed simultaneously in physical and digital spaces.” (de Souza Silva , 2006, p.10) Such mobile communications are also part of active, vibrant culture milieus that may also influence and affect the terms of sociality within a particular location. In this respect, it is worth mentioning that the pieces for this issue were written from within the context of Québec, before the student strikes of the spring of 2012. While the research for these peer-reviewed papers pre-dates the strikes, the contributors to this issue are nevertheless attentive to the social, cultural and political dimensions of mobile communications in this moment in this place.
We thank all of our contributors for their patience in the production of this issue as well as those who provided feedback to the writers at the Mobile Cultures, Wireless Communications symposium held at Concordia University in the Spring 2011: Darin Barney, Leslie Shade, Stephen High, Chantal Francoeur.
Giuliana Cucinelli, Concordia University
Line Grenier, Université de Montréal
Kim Sawchuk, Concordia University
de Souza e Silva, A. (2006). From cyber to hybrid: mobile technologies as interfaces of hybrid spaces. Space & Culture, 9 (3), 261-278. Retrieved November 5, 2012 at http://repository.lib.ncsu.edu/publications/bitstream/1840.2/80/1/SpaceandCulture_011806pre.pdf
Goggin, G. (2006). Cell Phone Culture: Mobile Technology in Everyday Life. New York: Routledge.