Thursday, January 8, 2009

Ethereal Places

I just finished reading an essay in Critical Studies in Media Communication by Serena Hashimoto and Scott Campbell, entitled "The occupation of ethereal locations: Indications of mobile data." It's an interesting piece that employs a psychoanalytical view (with a bit of symbolic interactionism) to explore the ways in which mobile technologies (with a particular emphasis in texting) change our relationships to people and places. The article discusses a notion of ethereal place that aligns in useful ways with my own journeys through placeless enclaves. Here's a decent summary of the authors' concept from the piece: "The space is a product of fantasies of pure communication, of perpetual contact, and of the other being present here now, without any of the distances and difficulties enhanced by discerning vision" (p. 546).

Here are a few representative quotations:

On the historical nature of communication technologies: "[C]ommunication technologies were developed in order to overcome the barriers that stand between self and other, such as time, space, and flesh" (p. 542).

On one purpose of texting: "Young people are particularly known for their expressive use of the technology in an effort to remove otherness through demonstration of social network membership" (p. 543).

On the large number of "nonsense messages" supposedly sent by youthful texters: "Oftentimes it is the symbolic nature of these characters and not the actual content of their message that carry meaning" (p. 544).

On the "blindness" created by mobile telephony: "The loss of the primacy of vision in telephonic interplay engenders the telephone slipping away 'as a sensory object.'" (p. 545).

On the ways in which mobile devices lose their meaning as objects: "As the user walks freely, hands empty, talking to the other in a thing, an ethereal place has been entered" (p. 546).

On the diminishing value of place: "Mobile data have no concreteness of place, no rapport with location. Their structure is based on ongoing permeability and flux" (p. 549).

On the changing values and fashions associated with mobile technologies: "Mobile telephony has aided in the creation of new 'places' which demand a new aesthetic in order that they be entered" (p. 550).

Quoting Manuel Castells, who coined the phrase mass self-communication: These are communications that are "self-generated in content, self-directed in emission, and self-selected in reception by many that communicate with many" (p. 552).

Hashimoto, S. & Campbell, S. (2008). The occupation of ethereal locations: Indications of mobile media. Critical Studies in Media Communication, 25(5), 537-558.

Learn More

Manuel Castells,

Center for Mobile Communication Studies Publications of Interest


detroit dog said...

duh (a lightbulb just went off in my head).

It just occurred to me that you might like one of my favorite books, "The Poetics of Space," by Gaston Bachelard. Of course, you've probably read it already, but just in case you haven't, I think you might find it interesting.

Happy New Year!

Andrew Wood said...

Actually, I've heard of it but have not read it. :-(

Inspired by your recommendation, I just bought The Poetics of Space - just *now* - through Amazon.

I'll try to post some comments once I get a chance to read it!

Thanks for the tip...