Sheller M, 2004, "Mobile publics: beyond the network perspective" Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 22(1) 39 – 52
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Mobile publics: beyond the network perspective
Received 14 February 2002; in revised form 11 November 2002
Abstract. As practices of social coordination and connectivity shift in contemporary urban spaces, in part because of the increasing hybridisations of technologies and infrastructures of communication and transportation, public life is being reconfigured and respatialised. In this paper I argue that models of 'publicity' have paid insufficient attention to the ways in which publics are deeply embedded in social and machinic complexes involving the mobilities of people, objects, and information. The first half offers an overview of how the converging technologies of mobility and communication have created new temporalities and spatialities for public participation. In the second half I turn to a theoretical programme for rethinking public connectivity and disconnectivity not in terms of the conventional imagery of networks, but as more fluid and contingent social structures that Harrison White has described in terms of coupling and decoupling. Publics are becoming more 'mobile' in two ways: first, there is an increasing tendency to slip between private and public modes of interaction, as a result of the new forms of fluid connectivity enabled by mobile communication technologies; and, second, there are opportunities for new kinds of publics to assemble or gel momentarily (and then just as quickly dissolve) as a result of newly emerging places and arenas for communication.
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