COVID-19 Now and Then: Reflections on mobile communication and the pandemic

de Souza e Silva, A., & Xiong-Gum, M. N. (2023). COVID-19 Now and Then: Reflections on mobile communication and the pandemic. Mobile Media & Communication, 11 (2). DOI: 10.1177/205015792311638.

Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic may soon be coming to its end, but COVID-19 still kills thousands of people every single day (at time of writing). Even if COVID-19 now represents less of a health risk, and less disruption to our personal lives, we know this won’t be the last pandemic. Preparing for the next pandemic includes understanding the past and planning for the future. It includes rethinking “normal” ways of interacting with others, our technologies, and the spaces in which we live. In this introduction, we show how the pandemic has challenged the role of mobile communication in our everyday lives, making us rethink the very meaning of mobile communication—from simply communicating while on the move, to a networked resource that supports emotional and personal connections. During the pandemic, mobile communication practices and the development of new mobile technologies, such as contact-tracing apps and mobile mapping, was strongly tied to the infrastructural politics that took place through government and private companies’ interventions. In addition, mobile technologies became a primary source of support for those who became immobile, or were forced to move. However, mobile communication is not only enabled by end devices; it happens at the intersection of both end devices and the infrastructures that enable them to work. The articles in this special issue reflect some of these themes, and address how the pandemic has shaped and rearranged our mobile communication, sociability, and networked urban mobility practices around the world. Although each article engages with the challenges of the pandemic in its unique and original way, in this introduction we highlight some overlapping topics and methodologies that run across multiple articles, namely historical perspectives on the pandemic, urban and transnational networked mobilities, the use of mobile apps and interfaces for community and self-care, pandemic context in the Global South, and networks and infrastructures.