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September 13, 2006

empyre discussion: Luis Silva + Joanna Callaghan


Mobile Media

Hello everyone,

I am very happy to be able to be part of this month's discussion. Having studied Social Sciences and personally interested in how they can share some insights over our relation to technology, Mobile Media is such an interesting subject to be discussing. Mobile media changed the way we interact with technology, with physical (i won't be using the term real) space and with each other. The term here is ubiquity, no longer nomadism. These devices have been shaping a new kind of public space that is no longer the utopian cyberspace of the ninetees, but a new one that still relates to a certain extent to Habermas's definition and has , by means of its own mobility, a strong relation to the physical space in which we lead our daily routines. It is public, but is is also private, it is dependent of the physical environment but only to deny its specificity and minimize the importance of local references and context.

A good example of this new kind of public space, not dependent on the geography but on connections, that can also serve as a good starting point to this debate is the project "As if we were alone" by the artistic duo Empfangshalle. This project adresses the mobile phone user and how he or she creates mobile "private spheres" while communicating over the phone. They have concluded that "whoever uses his cell phone in public dissociates himself from his surroundings via real or virtual spaces".

The core of the project lies in this process of dissociating oneself from the physical space through mobile media. One departs from the geographically defined public space of the streets, the squares, or public transportation to join a (semi) public space defined by the amount and variety of connections.

So my point here is, are these two public spaces ontologically different, despite overlaping? Is this mobile media space truely a public space, or a new version of the concept of private sphere, but once again with no physical references?

Luis [posted on empyre]

From: "Joanna Callaghan"
Subject: RE: [-empyre-] mobile media
To: empyre@lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au

Hi Luis and everyone else,

Thanks for inviting me Paula to be part of this months list.

I think Luis' comments are a really good starting point. They also happen to be directly related to some work I did recently called Mobile Dream Telling, was part of the Sydney Design Festival. (http://mobiledreamtelling.blogspot.com/)

What might be useful to discuss is whether the concept of 'space' is relevant to the notion of mobility. Perhaps what we are dealing with is different ways of being within time. Are mobile phones changing how we are to ourselves and to others? Do they influence our sense of self? Is the mobility that is at the heart of the mobile phone creating mobile, mulitple ‘egos’ or ‘selves’? Who or what is the remote ‘other’?

Theorist Sadie Plant believes that mobile phones have created a new form of functioning of peoples minds which she refers to as bi-psyche. This double psyche is required to attend simultaneously to the real world that physically surrounds the speaker and the virtual world that is opened up through the phone he or she is holding. She raises questions around the effects of what can be seen as a schizophrenic existence or bi-psyche, that is a divorce between what one says verbally and what one does with one’s body.

Following on, Jose Luis Pinillos has coined the phrase The Present Extensive as a way of living in time that emerges as linked to the modern city or urban psychopathology. ‘…with its incessant mobility and rapidity of its changes, the city situates its inhabitants in a permanent here and now, where references to yesterday and tomorrow vanish. Precisely because of this provisional character that prevails and because urban existence accentuates the ephemeral nature of all events, the technified city produces in those who live there a form of living in time that has been called the ‘present extensive’ (Pinillos 1977:239)

So what does this mean in terms of the self? If mobile phones allow us to manage multiple identities simultaneously what does that mean for our relationships? Can we collate these identities to create an enduring or permanent sense of self that I think, is necessary to live and make sense of ones life? If mobile phones connect us to particular, remote others, do they close us off consequently from the spontaneous, unexpected contact with strangers that can be so important in opening our experiences and minds to our fellow human beings?

These are purposefully philosophical questions since my own interest in mobile media is not about the technology but about the sociological and psychological effects, affects, consequences, influences and creative product that can be derived from these fascinating little machines.


Posted by jo at September 13, 2006 12:42 PM