Mobile media and safety habits: The embodiment of geo-location in dark urban spaces

Authors: Jess Hardley*, Digital Media - Murdoch University, Australia
Topics: Qualitative Research, Communication, Cultural Geography
Keywords: Mobile media, urban space, geo-location, safety, darkness, embodiment
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Roosevelt 4, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper examines how mobile devices are used to manage and negotiate everyday experiences in urban public space, especially at night. Engaging with Merleau-Ponty’s work on habituation and proprioception, I explore how mobile devices have affected the way in which we experience darkness in a geo-spatial sense. This study draws from the analysis of qualitative data collected in Perth and Melbourne from 2015-2017, including surveys, interviews and tracking apps. From this, I discuss embodied metaphors of darkness, and how mobile devices have changed the way we experience dark urban space. This data revealed that darkness effects the way users incorporate mobile devices into their body schema, while mobile user-habits also impact upon the perception of risk in the city at night. In addition to deploying habitual modes of engagement with smartphones to generate a sense of bodily safety (such as pretending to talk on the phone, sharing geo-location or using headphones even when not listening to music), this paper considers the rise of live streaming as a means of engendering a bodily sense of safety. Drawing from Ihde’s work on post phenomenology and Weiss’s development of Merleau-Ponty’s term intercorporeality, I theorise habitual geo-locative practices as significant to our embodied being-in-the-world.

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