Culture of New Mobility Within the Space of Things and Events-2010
Focusing on mobility is one of the latest trends in sociological research practice related to the so-called “spatial turn” in modern social theory. This turn has led to a radical change in the view of the entire social life order. This approach has made sociologists to abandon the traditional understanding of space as a huge container divided by national and administrative boundaries into smaller parts. Moving from person to person, from one place to another, from event to event appeared to be more important. The core of the concept of the mobile social networks, or the social outside the container societies,-- is about the idea of the “network interdependence” of all places, the fluidity, unpredictability and complexity of network routes. The places themselves become mobile and dependent on the configuration of the engaged network parts, the pace of individuals’ movement, information or cash flow, artifacts or epidemics spread, etc.
The Centre for Fundamental Sociology made the first pilot study in 2009, its theoretical platform being a new paradigm of mobility. The study A New Mobility Culture in the Space of Things and Events helped to achieve certain results in understanding what theoretical steps should be made to turn a so far somewhat loose model into a mobility concept that could work in the Russian context and, primarily, in a megalopolis like Moscow.
The objective of this research was determined by the necessity to develop some promising findings achieved in the course of previous research work. The research was designed to demonstrate the multiple phenomena of situational and mobile solidarity encoded within culture. This means, first and foremost, that new mobility is a significant modification of a number of phenomena and trends traditionally important for sociologists, however, the sociology of new mobility still cannot offer a single theoretical and methodological model for tracing those phenomena and trends, which makes us to combine intensive theoretical work with theory-oriented empirical studies that have a primarily illustrative and to some extent restricted empirical value.
The main goals of the research were the following:
- Further operationalization of theoretical apparatus for the figurative analysis of social events considered from the perspective of problems within new mobility studies;
- Theoretical elaboration of the concept of event, which will help to provide a description of situations in terms of the sociology of events;
- Improving the methodology and program of research based on using participant observation and qualitative quasi-experiments (using available works on the development of such experimental plans in the Centre for Fundamental Sociology);
- Setting a number of independent research subprojects joined with this project by the categorical apparatus of the sociology of mobility, the theory of social events and cultural sociology.
The main conclusions are connected with the main hypothesis of the research that the ubiquitous availability and accessibility of new communication technologies result in the blurring of routine path-finding algorithms, a change in space images and narratives used by the layactors, and an increase in everyday uncertainty, which becomes a condition and a basis for the situational solidarity. This hypothesis was received by drawing conclusions from a more general premise that the trends towards embodied and disembodied mobility are antagonistic and represent optional strategies in situations of increasingly effective new means of communication and fights with sudden interruptions and troubles.
It was an attempt to confirm this hypothesis that resulted in shifting attention towards the so-called “non-places” (mobility entities devoid of their own functionality or discernible everyday meaning) and the phenomena of spontaneous order and situational solidarity, given the absence of any functional institutional context.
At the current stage of the project development the researchers had to revise theoretical resources, relevant problematization and description of phenomena inherent in a new mobility culture. As such, they included theories of social systems and new mobility paradigm, and the possibility of using them for the analysis of new forms of mobile solidarity. A special theoretical task was to define a sequence of analytical procedures to turn from the theory of events to the theory of multiple orders as an operational system of mobile solidarity description.
In addition, the study of the use of navigation devices in everyday travel in the city space allowed to establish certain difficulties that a modern car driver faces when he or she turns to navigation devices, originally designed to make a driver’s mobile life easier, to help in getting directions.
This research provides both theoretical findings received during this stage of the project and the results of empirical studies related to the theoretical part. The following theoretical findings can be considered the most valuable: the experience of matching the theory of social systems with the concepts of a new mobility paradigm; identifying the way money affects mobility motivation; analysis of the relationship between mobility and solidarity from the perspective of the theory of social events; reformulation of a general theory of social events as a theory of multiple orders that involves institutionalized contexts localized in space and time; including responsibility and motivation in the description of solidarity.
The main results of empirical studies in this project can be considered to be the following: the development of methodological and methodical foundations for studying mobile forms of solidarity at the example of “non-place” study, as well as defining the principles of narrative analysis relating to mobility, description of a waiting place with eventlessness, intrinsic to it, as a typical “non-place”.
The research strategy of the project can be defined as a movement in two (opposite) directions. On the one hand, this is a strategy of building a theory from data. Main concepts and categories are developed due to a constant process of information collection, seeking addition to a “collection” of stories (the so-called grounded theory). The central rule of a research procedure is that we should explicate data and conclusions from that data to the fullest extent and in a clear manner. On the other hand, this is a strategy of theory-oriented empirical research. The objectives, goals and hypotheses of empirical research are set by the problems formed in the body of the theory and ultimately serve to test theoretical hypotheses and to support / refute a theoretical conclusion.
As a result of this strategy used in the theoretical part of the project, a new theoretical apparatus for mobility studies was developed. Considering the main provisions of a new mobility paradigm, the encoding of the resources was done using, when necessary, the theory of social systems, ethnomethodology, and the original versions of the theory of social events and the sociology of space.
The data received from a series of empirical studies helped not only to confirm but, more importantly, invalidate certain theoretical postulates formulated at the start of the project as not being productive enough, and allowed us to proceed with new hypotheses that can be tested or disproved by further studies.
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