The ‘new mobilities’ paradigm outlined by Sheller and Urry (2006) brought movement to the epicenter of the social sciences. The ‘mobility turn’ was marked by research revolving around the interdependent movements of people, information, images and objects. In this regard, to define movement in a network society, is to investigate the circulation of people, information and knowledge in digital and analog space.
Movement allows data flows and data transmissions that determine our everyday lives, our choices, our relations, our habits. The recent strategies and regulations on data movement in the EU reveal a site of conflict in the online world. The Free Movement of Data in the Digital Single Market, called the fifth freedom, complements the existing freedoms on movement of goods, services, capital, and people. Meanwhile, the Directive on Copyright and its most provoking component, Article 13, requires online platforms to filter or remove copyrighted material from their websites. Thus, in digital space, movement is very often enabled or restricted according to flows of capital.
However, movement is also the means of developing alternatives, to question institutional and governance practices. Social movements imply agency and entail collective actions that derive from encounters and conflicts. It is these social movements that urge resistance. Such movements incite conflicts, initiate debates, and thrive in the digital space where, according to Harry Cleaver (1995), the “electronic fabric of struggle” emerges.
Movement is about going beyond borders, demarcation lines, limits and boundaries. It is about questioning technologies of surveillance and policing. Millions of people move around the globe annually. These mobile populations cross borders and settle down, only to start moving again. For those expelled from the west, movement entails a lethal danger and thus movement becomes a powerful management tool.
And when humans seek to enhance transportation, commodity distribution and data transmission, movement becomes a matter of technology. With trains, cars, airplanes, boats, wheels, prosthetic legs, space crafts, and airplanes, we move. Through cables and waves, antennas and satellites, our data move. But apart from feet, wheels, turbines, high speed cables, electromagnetic fields and gravitational forces, ultimately, it is our standpoints and our e-motions that motivate us to move on.
Movement is practiced, experienced, and embodied in different scales and different spaces. Even when we stand still our bodies move; digestion, blood flow, neurotransmitters, our endless heartbeats that operate in hard beats, our e-heartbeats that exist in bytes and bits. Avenues, boulevards, roads, bike lanes, bridges and paths serve movement. Circulation in cities is the grounding precondition for sustaining urban life. Imposing control and order over the city streets imply power over the city itself. In our everyday lives, movements define trajectories, allow transitions. Their primal spaces of reference are analog and digital thresholds.
As Cresswell (2006) and Salazar and Smart (2011) point out, movement and mobility is nowadays the rule rather than the exception. And while research in this field is thriving the challenge now for researchers and scientists is not only to understand and define movement but to enable these passages and thresholds (whether in analog or digital space) that allow the circulation of humans, the sharing of knowledge and the spreading of information.
Author: Vasiliki Makrygianni
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Salazar, N. B. & Smart, A. (2011). Anthropological Takes on (Im)Mobility. Identities, 18(6), pp. 1-9.
Sheller, M. & Urry J. (2006) The new mobilities paradigm. Environment and planning A 38 (2), 207-226.