Location-Aware Mobile Media and Urban Sociability

Sutko, D. M., & de Souza e Silva, A. (2011). Location-Aware Mobile Media and Urban Sociability. New Media & Society, 13 (5), 807-823. DOI:10.1177/1461444810385202.

Abstract: Location-aware mobile media allow users to see their locations on a map on their mobile phone screens. These applications either disclose the physical positions of known friends, or represent the locations of groups of unknown people. We call these interfaces eponymous and anonymous, respectively. This article presents our classification of eponymous and anonymous location-aware interfaces by investigating how these applications may require us to rethink our understanding of urban sociability, particularly how we coordinate and communicate in public spaces. We argue that common assumptions made about location-aware mobile media, namely their ability to increase one’s spatial awareness and to encourage one to meet more people in public spaces, might be fallacious due to pre-existing practices of sociability in the city. We explore these issues in the light of three bodies of theory: Goffman’s presentation of self in everyday life, Simmel’s ideas on sociability, and Lehtonen and Mäenpää’s concept of street sociability.