Advanced Topics in Communication: Networked Mobilities

DepartmentCommunication, Rhetoric and Digital Media Ph.D. Program
InstitutionNC State University
Term: Spring 2022

The rapid development of information and communication technologies (ICTs) has contributed to the growth and importance of networks. We can now speak of not only communication networks but also of financial, military, social, cultural, and political networks, to name a few. These networks, and the technologies that support them, have a profound impact on institutions, culture, identity formation, social organization, and communication practices. The rate at which new information and communication technologies are developed and the degree to which these technologies are integrated into the practices of modern society ensures the need for a constantly evolving set of theories to articulate and understand these social practices and an equally strong need for the development of new research methods to study these technologically mediated networked environments.

Critical to understand the role of networks in today's society is a focus on how networks unfold in local and global contexts and are intertwined with mobility practices. As such, this course explores networked mobilities, as the type of movement that happens in highly connected (networked) spaces, such as smart cities, intelligent transport systems, etc. We will also study how the lack of movement (immobility) and access to networked technologies shapes cultural, social, and political practices. Rather than trying to understand the networks and technologies' effects on people and institutions, we will develop a comprehensive analysis that understands our movement and our environments as part of networked practices. We will explore and compare a variety of theoretical and methodological approaches for studying networked mobility in local and global spaces.

The course will start with a few key broad definitions of networks and mobilities, to create context for the rest of the semester. Next, we will look at how the intersection of networked and mobile activities can lead to creative practices, and we will explore a few cases of mobile networked creativity in art and game spaces. Next, we will focus on networked urban mobilies, that is, movements that occur in technologically connected cities, with a special focus on micromobilities—and the integration of smart phones with electric bikes and scooters. We finish the course with a look at the power imbalances and uneven mobilities that necessarily arise when we are experiencing networked mobility in our everyday lives. Particular focus will be given to the idea of mobility justice and sustainable urban (networked) environments  and situations where networked mobility emerges from the lack of movement (as in communities living in precarious situations) or forced movement (as is the case of forced migrants).