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International Sociological Association

The mobile interface and social change. Embodied spaces and locative technologies
Mid term conference 2010–2014
ISA RC54 The Body in the Social Sciences
“Sapienza”, University of Rome, Italy
December 5-6, 2012
Abstracts submission: October 15, 2012

Throughout history, when a medium that was once understood as geographically fixed becomes mobile, a cultural shift accompanies this transformation. A similar cultural shift has been taking place as computing technologies are continually moving from their static location at the home or office computer and becoming mobile. The embodied nature of mobile devices renders old binaries of real/virtual obsolete. Since embodiment and space are indelibly linked together, it is important to develop a strong understanding of our usage of the term “mobile media space–time”. Such an understanding is undoubtedly linked to the various ways space is built up by mobile devices, and to the community that comes into existence by virtue of interacting within the all-pervasive computing space.

One can never “inhabit” space because such an ontological condition would imply entering a preexisting field that our bodies simply fill. Rather, space is always “constructed simultaneously with our sense of embodiment”. Part of this is cultural, but part is also biological because space arises from the interplay between our conscious mind and its surrounding structures. Second, embodiment is relational. We construct our sense of space by tuning-in and tuning-out different parts of the world, similar to how we perceive our body by focusing on select sensations or areas instead of “taking everything in” at once. As such, the way we read our bodies and the world is always selective and never complete: “full, embodied presence is always being deferred”. Third, the mobile technologies reconfigure the ways their users can embody space, specifically in how they allow the Internet to dislodge itself from the PC and move into everyday environments. In this new embodied environment, social actors locate themselves in digital space and material space simultaneously, with each shaping perceptions of the other.

The new transdisciplinary field of mobilities research encompasses research on the spatial mobility of humans, nonhumans and objects; the circulation of information, images and capital; as well as the study of the physical means for movement such as infrastructures, vehicles and software systems that enable travel and communication to take place. Thus it brings together some of the more purely ‘social’ concerns of sociology (inequality, power, hierarchies, social memory) with the ‘spatial’ concerns of geography (territory, borders, scale) and the ‘cultural’ concerns of anthropology and media studies. Furthermore, mobilities theory also builds on a range of philosophical perspectives that enable more radical rethinking of the relation between bodies, movement and space. It draws on phenomenology to reconsider embodied practices and the production of being–in–motion as a relational affordance between the senses, objects and kinesthetic accomplishments. Sociologists are only just beginning to explore what the notion of "mobility" might mean when mediated through computing and communications technologies, and so far, the sociological treatment has been largely theoretical.

In order to define the various ways time/space is produced in our mobile media era, the aim of this 2–days Conference is to highlight, by the body, the emerging methodologies and applications in the study of mobile media time–space and with particular attention to: [1] understand locative media in terms of embodied experience; [2] draw the context in which methods are used as well as the tacit assumptions that shape research questions; [3] focus on case studies illustrating how individuals, groups, and institutions have used mobile media to toy with or alter their physical surroundings. We want to explore how, in everyday life, a number of dimensions of time and space are being newly reconstructed through the use of mobile communications technologies. The conference should be a starting point of long-term grounded research on the Socio-Technical Shaping of Mobile Multimedia Communications. This research should involve ethnographic field-work conducted in a variety of locales and with a number of groups and institutions. Therefore, it should constitute a resource to explore how mobile communications technologies mediate time in relation to mobile spaces. The conference will offer a review and critique of some of the major sociological approaches to understanding time and space. This review entails a discussion of how social practices and institutions are maintained and/or transformed via mobile technologies. Ethnographic data will be used to explore emerging mobile temporalities. Three inter-connected domains in mobile time are proposed: 1. rhythms of mobile use; 2. rhythms of mobile use in everyday life; 3.rhythms of mobility and institutional change (discourses, representations, schemas). Each entails a relational ontology of the constitution of social actors, spaces and meanings.

Theoretical as well as empirical presentations are welcome, especially work relating to micro-interactional research on the sociology of embodiment. Specifically, papers. power point presentations, and work in progress are invited on the following topics:

1. Embodied Spaces and Locative Technologies;

2. The Sensory Inscribed Body;

3. Mobility Capital and Performed Movement-Space;

4. Synchronous and Asynchronous Maps of the Mobile Interface;

5. The Rhythms of Mobile Use;

6. The Rhythms of Mobile Use in Everyday Life;

7. The Rhythms of Mobility and Institutional Change;

8. The Contours of Contemporary Media and Culture.

Abstract–Paper Format and Language: The organizers invite papers on the above topics.

Please send them to:

A special consideration will be given to empirically grounded papers, either comparative or area–based. The language of the Conference will be English, French, and Italian. Abstracts should be about 250 words, specifying the name(s) of the Author(s), his/her/their affiliation(s) and e-mail.

Conference fees: TBA

Scientific Committee [in alphabetic order]:

1. Pierre BOUVIER

2. Roberto CIPRIANI

3. Paolo DE NARDIS


5. Bianca Maria PIRANI

6. Thomas S.SMITH

7. Ivan VARGA

Organizing Committee [in alphabetic order]:


2. Luigi FRUDA

3. Orazio GIANCOLA


5. Bianca Maria PIRANI

6. Luciano ZANI

International Sociological Association