Leaving Europe behind at this particular moment of turmoil feels both peculiar and liberating. Thoughts about âbeing Europeanâ have been on my mind a lot, just like thoughts about borders and boundaries, as for many people these days. In Sydney, I feel that I am getting an outsider perspective of Europe in general and my PhD life in Sweden in particular. Being re-planted from wintery Sweden to the other side of the world during the final stages of my PhD is thus not only providing a welcome increase in daylight, but also changes ways of thinking in truly unexpected ways.
In this sense, the workshop âMobile Research/Researching Mobilityâ held on 25th November 2015 at the University of Western Sydney was truly inspiring and challenging perspectives on âmobilityâ. Here, questions of internationalization, how mobility influences research projects, the creation of knowledge, how communication/collaboration takes place over geographical and disciplinary boundaries were discussed. The input reached from more personal reflections of how PhD students experience the impact of travelling on their own work-life to elaborations on how mobility inspires or affects knowledge production. But mobility here by many was discussed as subjective, in the sense that an understanding of mobility can reach from privilege to constraint.
The question what role processes of digitalization play in a globalizing and mobilizing academia was a question picked up frequently and is also at the heart of my research interest, reflected for example in the workshopâs question of how the aspirations and/or expectations to be constantly on the road affect us as scholars and individuals. As one participant phrased her experience of being a travelling scholar while trying to stay in touch with her children: âSometimes home is where Skype is.â
In this vein, I was presenting my paper on Remediations of Intimacy: Between Work, Home and Far Away in which I was arguing with AndrĂ© Jansson (2013) that current processes of mediatization/digitalization transform geographical key concepts as space, place, territory, borders, movement, and mobility. My point was that consequently also ideas of where intimate spaces (as for example âhomeâ) are is challenged. In its remediated form (Bolter and Grusin 1999) intimacy can be understood as mobile intimacy, in which the geographical and physical space âis overlaid with an electronic position and relational presence, which is emotional and socialâ (Hjorth and Lim 2012, 478). For this paper, I was drawing on autobiographical (poetic) work of Susan Leigh Star (1995) , who described her relationship with ICTs while being an ever travelling scholar, and on Melissa Greggâs findings in Workâs Intimacy (2011), in which she describes how intimacy, work, social relations and technologies come together in the work life of present-day Australian business professionals.
The presentation was well received and I think many of the workshop participants actually found their own experiences reflected in the discussion. Professor Ned Rossiter, a media theorist who is working on network cultures, the politics of cultural labour, logistical media and data politics, acted as a commentator on my presentation. His input on for example the specific properties of digital media on intimacy and affect, the economic exploitation of intimacy or on the geo-mapping of intimacy were highly appreciated and are inspiring for my ongoing thesis writing.Â Additionally, he provided me with a research contact of somebody who is working on a particular, intimate subculture on YouTube, which I am also discussing in one chapter of my dissertation.
After the workshop, some of the organizers and participants joined the book launch of Plastic Water: The Social and Material Life of Bottled Water (Hawkins, Potter, and Race 2015) and a subsequent restaurant dinner which not only changed our perspective on bottled water as a âfast moving consumer goodâ forever, but also offered plenty of opportunities to exchange and network with researchers of ICS and other international researchers. Similarly, later visits to the University of Western Sydney Campus offered exciting insights, for example into âplace makingâ and belonging practices in MarĂa Luisa MĂ©ndezâs seminar on Neighbourhoods as Arenas of Conflict in the Neoliberal City: Practices of Boundary Making Between “Us” and “Them” and last but not least the opportunity to get some own writing done in the spacious and bright campus library.
Bolter, J. D., and Richard Grusin. 1999. Remediation: Understanding new media. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.
Gregg, Melissa. 2011. Work’s intimacy. Cambridge, UK, Malden, MA: Polity.
Hawkins, Gay, Emily Potter, and Kane Race. Plastic water: The social and material life of bottled water.
Hjorth, Larissa, and Sun S. Lim. 2012. âMobile intimacy in an age of affective mobile media.â Feminist Media Stud. 12 (4): 477â84. doi:10.1080/14680777.2012.741860.
Jansson, AndrĂ©. 2013. âMediatization and Social Space: Reconstructing Mediatization for the Transmedia Age.â Communication Theory (Communication Theory) 23 (3): 279â96. doi:10.1111/comt.12015.
Star, Susan L. 1995. Ecologies of knowledge: Work and politics in science and technology. SUNY series in science, technology, and society. Albany: State University of New York Press.