Authored by: Debbie Lisle

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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In analysing the characteristics, contours and limits of contemporary mobility, scholars have been careful to pose the increasingly frenetic movement of modern life against a number of immobilities, ‘moorings’ and forces of rootedness (Adey, 2006, 2010; Cresswell, 2010; Han-nam, Sheller and Urry, 2006; Urry, 2007). They remind us that the ability, freedom and capacity to move are not universally available or applicable, and that the condition of possibil-ity for some people’s movement is the immobility of others. As Adey explains, ‘Mobility, like power, is a relational thing’ (2006: 83). From the start, then, the ‘mobility turn’ has been constituted by a structuring tension between movement and stasis, and while the politics of mobility – its capacity to entrench, rearrange and disperse power – has always been at the forefront of this research agenda, it is only recently that scholars have asked about the political possibilities of stillness (Bissell and Fuller, 2011). Usually framed as some form of stubborn resistance to the rapid changes, speeds and circulations of modern life, stillness is now being understood as something more polyvalent, pluralistic and heterogeneous – a disposition with its own ontology and not the silenced and difficult Other of mobility (Bissell and Fuller, 2011: 3) Building on research that questions the constitutive antagonism between mobility and immobility, and taking seriously the political possibilities embedded in stillness, this chapter uses the photograph – the most still of visual objects – to expand and develop the remit of mobilities research. It explores two registers of mobility with respect to the photograph: the first (and most obvious) is the manner in which photographs physically move between differ-ent contexts, technologies and people, especially within digital cultures via activities such as posting, downloading and file sharing. The second register involves more epistemological questions about the mobility of meaning and the prevailing pathways of interpretation created between photographs and viewers. Certainly it is important to analyse how the digital revo-lution has dramatically expanded the capacity for photographs to be developed, posted, sent, copied, circulated, downloaded and re-circulated. But that only accounts for one aspect of a photograph’s mobility. What needs further examination is whether and how the capacity to circulate photographs so quickly, widely and constantly changes the way viewers interpret and make meaning out of these images. In our increasingly mobile and networked world, how does meaning movebetween photographs and viewers? How is it generated, circulated, re-circulated and fixed? Which established interpretive pathways does it travel along, and which does it refuse? And what happens to issues of meaning when the bounded nature of both material photographs and embodied viewers is challenged?

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