Distance And Proximity

Authored by: Jonas Larsen

The Routledge Handbook of Mobilities

Print publication date:  December  2013
Online publication date:  January  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415667715
eBook ISBN: 9781315857572
Adobe ISBN: 9781317934134


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This chapter discusses how various forms of mobility have reconfigured everyday experiences of distance and proximity, as well as the spatial orderings of social networks. It treats physical distances, transport and new media technologies, and the complex mix of presence and absence that they entail, as hugely important for understanding historical, contemporary and future spatialities of social life and networks. Social life is increasingly lived ‘at-adistance.’ It is conducted through occasional trips to meet or visit significant others and frequent messages, calls and chats enacted by a plethora of internet and mobile phone platforms that swarm much of the world today. This also means that ordinary people are fully dependent upon, or locked into, such technologies and resources such as electricity, and especially oil. We may say that distances have never meant so little andso much, with the world getting smaller andlarger at the very same time. While innovations in transport and communications constantly compress distances, people have to deal with spatially dispersed friends and family members, traveling and socializing on screens ‘at-a-distance,’ as their social lives, we might say, ‘sprawl’ over great distances and become ‘translocal.’ They connect and separate at the same moment; communications and mobility are both the curse andthe medicine. This chapter demonstrates that social life has become increasingly distanciated over time, and it outlines the roles that transport and media have had in this process and are likely to have in the future. The chapter is equally concerned with giving qualitative examples of how distanciated and networked life is accomplished in practice as part of people’s everyday life.

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