Keightley and Reading, “Mediated Mobilities”

Keightley & Reading, “Mediated mobilities” Media, Culture, & Society 36.3 (Apr. 2014) (16 pgs)

Mediated mobility “examines the relationships between media and mobility in contemporary culture and social life” (286). This area of research goes beyond areas of research looking at mobilizations (i.e. social movements) or mobile devices; rather, it focuses more broadly on “the broad emergent cluster of ways in which different kinds of motilities, including the mobility of people, the mobility of material artefacts and the mobility of data are themselves experienced and articulated through particular historically situated media ecologies” (286).

Keightley and Reading look toward globalization theory and its intersection with theories of mobility, particularly because globalization theories allow us to note the movement of peoples “in the form of economic migration, tourism, and displacement…globalization theory enabled us to account for the movement of cultural imperialism, of cultural flows and networks, the different meanings produced by globalized multicultural active audiences, as well as the power and agency over global cultural products through different cultural organizations at city, state, and interstate levels” (287). However, a focus on mediated mobilities allows us to draw attention to mediate communication and participation through mobile technologies, namely, such a focus looks at the vernacular, everyday uses of communication that mediate these movements. The authors also draw attention to the ways that “these mediated modalities of mobility have to be seen in relation to those elements of media and of social and cultural life…that remain less mobile, or indeed territorially fixed or static” (288). We must draw attention to the ways that static communication infrastructures often tether mobility technologies. And likewise, we must also consider the often immobility of people despite the mobility offered by technologies (see, for instance, the dead in New Orleans after the flooding). They do, however, note that mobile technologies can constitute an “electromagnetic atmosphere” that allows users to access networks across space and time.

Key to the focus on media motilities is the methods we use to study it: “our very notions of proximity and distance have had to be rethought as the fixed relations between time and space have become less stable” (291). As they suggest, taking assemblage as an organizing principle to guide mobile research methods: “methodologies sensitive to the ways in which we move between different dimensions of mediated experience are necessary: one approach we propose to this draws on theories of assemblage to capture the ways in which mobilities are polylogical multidirectional and changeable across space-time” (296). In other words, assemblage allows us to “attend to the constituent elements of mediated experience and the dynamics of their layering” (297). They also offer the concept of intermediacy that attends “to the creative navigation that occurs within and between these mediated constellations” (297). Intermediacy allows us to note trajectory, the intentionality and unevenness in communicative behavior.

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