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What is the Future? Professor John Urry. Mobilities Professor John Urry. Consuming Places Professor John Urry. Bloggat om Sociology Beyond Societies. Societies; metaphors; travellings; senses; times; dwellings; citizenships; sociologies. Mobilities have long been a central aspect of both historical and contemporary existence, of urban and of non-urban locales, of Western and non-Western experience. Patterns of mobility are always shifting to support different modes of trade, interaction, urbanization and communication.

To take one specific area of historical sociological research, a mobilities perspective can raise new questions around the emergence of the public sphere and its role in civil society β€” one of the classic problems of Habermasian-inf luenced sociology. Notions of public and private are fundamental to sociological analysis, yet are often oddly lacking a spatial perspective on how the mobilities of people and information shape the formation of publics and counterpublics, or how infrastructures and sorting systems might guide access to and movement between private and public spaces.

Second, although the speed, intensity, and technical channeling of various mobile f lows may be greater than ever before for some people, in some places β€” though certainly not all , mobilities research emphasizes the relation of such mobilities to associated immobilities or moorings, and their ongoing reconfiguration in the past as well as in the present. This brings into view the political projects inherent in the power relations informing processes of globalization and associated claims to globality, fluidity or opening that depend on various kinds of structured practices of mobilities and immobilities.

Third, with an emphasis on the relations between mobilities and immobilities, scapes and moorings, movement and stillness Hannam et al. Issues of uneven motility and of mobility rights, ethics and justice have become crucial to the field of critical mobilities research Cresswell ; Bergmann and Sager ; Uteng and Cresswell , with attention to subaltern mobilities and immobilities as well as recognition of the importance of uprooting, dwelling, homing and grounding Ahmed et al.

Sociology Beyond Societies : Mobilities for the Twenty-First Century - Semantic Scholar

Uneven mobility capital is crucial to processes of globalization, effectively being created by particular forms of demobilizations and remobilizations in the process of ongoing spatial fixes, temporal fixes and spatio-temporal fixes. Mobilities research is therefore highly engaged with debates over globalization, cosmopolitanism, postcolonialism, and emerging forms and histories of urbanism, surveillance and global governance of various kinds of differentiated or uneven mobility, all of which should be central concerns of contemporary sociology.

Mobilities theory departs from classic social theory in part because it builds on a wider range of philosophical perspectives to more radically re-think the relation between bodies, movement and space. In doing so, it treats scale in a different way than most sociology, because it is not limited by a micro vs. First, it draws on phenomenology to reconsider embodied practices and the production of being-in-motion as a relational affordance between the senses, objects, and kinaesthetic accomplishments.

There are active corporeal engagements of human bodies with the sensed world, suggesting many different kinds of affordances between varied bodies, technologies cars, phones, the internet, satellites , practices of movement such as walking, biking, riding, driving or flying and events of movement such as commuting, migration, congestion,waiting, touring or pilgrimage Hannam et al.

Some recent work, for example, focuses on the micromobilities of the body in forms of dance or the bodily rhythms and motion involved in activities such as bicycling, rock climbing or walking Fincham et al. New methodologies are being developed to study these more ephemeral, embodied and affective dimensions of interlocking mobility and immobility, including attention not simply to fluidity or speed, but to slowness, stillness, waiting and pauses, which are all part of a wider sensuous geography of movement, affect and dwelling Adey ; Bissell , ; Bissell and Fuller Vannini We also gain an appreciation of the temporal pulse of transfer points and places of in-between-ness in which the circulation of people and objects are slowed or stopped, as well as facilitated and accelerated Sheller and Urry a ; Hannam et al.

Yet it is also crucial that we recognize that the field of mobilities research goes beyond a micro-sociology of practice. As the preceding section on histories of im mobilities suggested, it also draws on Foucauldian genealogies and governmentalities to address the meanings of im mobility, discourses and visual representations of speed and slowness, and the production of normalized mobile subjects.

Classic historical and comparative sociological questions of state formation, social movements and resistance can also be re-thought in terms of the state strategies for management of mobility, borders and the visibility of subjects within regimes of mobility, versus hidden mobility as a tactical escape from state power and anarchistic evasion of state governance Scott that is still crucial to informal economies, piracy, and practices of offshoring. Having broken out of the straightjacket of society imagined as a national container with fixed boundaries at its borders, macro-level mobilities theory also draws on critical postcolonial theory and theories of political economy to re-think the performative politics of racial difference, secured borders and the governance of migration, sea-space and air-space.

Crucial here are the in-between and liminal places at which movement is paused, slowed or stopped: borders, airports, toll roads, hotels, motels, detention centers, refugee camps, etc. Mountz The study of mobilities at this scale too is also very much about waiting, stillness and non-movement. It is also very concerned with emotional geographies, and the ways in which affect circulates amongst that which moves and does not move, suffusing the speeds and stillnesses of im mobility with negative and positive polarities.

Thus it offers a far more nuanced view of migration, border-crossing and various other kinds of travel, including tourism, and has been recognized in all of these sub-disciplines as an important contribution to how we might think about our field of study. Rather than assuming pre-constituted subjects who cross pre-existing borders, there is a move towards examining the co-constitution of mobile border-subjects or places-in-motion Sheller and Urry Through a kinaesthetic sense of bodily motion we apprehend time and space, orient ourselves toward the world, and create place through the frictions and rhythms of our movement.

Movements have different rhythms, and those rhythms of movement flow through bodies, cities and landscapes, shaping their feel, sculpting their textures, and making places. And this certainly echoes the feel of the work of Simmel on the stimulus of urban life and the rhythms of urban metabolism, yet places it into a contemporary framework that is relevant to understanding global urbanism today. By revisiting a diverse range of historical and contemporary sociological issues, mobilities research re-casts some of the classical concerns of social stratification theory and urban ecology, expanding the notion of social mobility to wide-ranging spatio-temporal contexts and multiple scales.

It would be a significant contribution to sociology were mobilities research recognized for its ability to bridge separate geographical and historical domains, to re-position the empirical content of sociology to be more inclusive, and to cross scales in analyzing the dynamics of structure and agency.

Mobilities research combines social and spatial theory in new ways, and in so doing bridges micro-interactional research on the phenomenology of embodiment, the cultural turn and hermeneutics, post-colonial and critical theory, macro-structural approaches to the state and political-economy, and elements of science and technology studies STS and new media studies. These moves, it must be noted, are not simply individual moves, but may be moves of infrastructure and spatio-temporal fixes, moves of meaning and representation, or moves of distributed power and evasive tactics.

The question is, where might this lead contemporary sociology? And are sociologists willing to make the moves that would be required to follow these new avenues and new forms of engagement with the empirical? In some respects the field of mobilities research has already left sociology far behind, and constituted its own disciplinary matrix of highly productive research collaborations and conver-sations that span many other disciplines.

If anything, it may be that this move, beyond sociology, is already part of the transition toward a new paradigm implicit in the initial claims for the field , in which academic research will be more transformative, more innova-tive, and more mobile. We are using cookies to provide statistics that help us give you the best experience of our site.

You can find out more in our Privacy Policy. By continuing to use the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Free trial voucher code. Invalid Search. The positive instances can inform our hypotheses concerning the question of these selections, but only on the condition that the selection mechanisms have first been specified.

From biological metaphors to sociological diaphors. The complexity of the interacting subdynamics makes socionomy a fascinating discipline in its own right: the various selection mechanisms operate upon one another, sometimes leading to resonances and therefore potential stabilizations. At other times stabilizations can be selected for globalization.

Globalization can be considered as a selection mechanism on stabilizations. Stabilization integrates historically, while globalization differentiates in instantaneous time. Selection, however, remains a negative operation that can only be observed by implication, that is, on the basis of the specification of a selection mechanism. What is differentiated and what is integrated? The analogy with the biological model should not obscure the analytical differences David, , at p.

Sociology beyond societies mobilities for the twenty first century

When it is not life, but meaning that is considered to be autopoietic, the communications are differentiated and integrated with reference to generating and reproducing inter-human understanding. If an integration problem is solved, an observable manifestation may be instantiated, for example, as institutional agency. As cultural evolution develops, the social coordination mechanisms increasingly reorganize the agents and their aggregates carrying the actions in terms of roles.

The uncertainty in these distributions, however, can be provided with other meanings in the interacting domains so that the systems can further develop in terms of interactions among different dimensions. For example, when a new drug is brought to the market, this event can have completely different meanings for the patients who may find a cure for their illnesses, for the pharmaceutical industries which supply to the market, or for the biomedical scientists who shaped the knowledge base of this product but perhaps have already moved on to their next project.

The self-organization of knowledge-based systems. The networks are more than one-dimensional because otherwise they would only be lines. Furthermore, all subsystems can be expected to tick with different frequencies. The differentiation remains uncertain both at each moment in time and over time.

It can only be stabilized provisionally as an endogenous result of the reflexive maintenance of the multi-layered system of communicative exchanges in a complex environment or, in other words, its potential to self-organize the communication within the social system. This self-organization takes place in the present by using the instantaneous time contained in the system as one of its subdynamics. The reflexive reconstructions drive the evolving system as its knowledge base. The latter, however, can only be defined at the level of the social system if it has become socially available and also institutionalized, that is, when it emerges within the social system as a specific form of communication.

Knowledge production organized in modern science and technology manifests this function. Science and technology continuously produce new discursive insights that can be used for the reconstruction of the social system and its subsystems. The socially available knowledge is contained in reflexive discourses which remain uncertain about their respective relations to the reflected system s. In my opinion, this reflexive turn in discourse analysis may have been the most important contribution of science studies during the last decades Mulkay et al. It enables us to study post-modern society in all its complexity and changing forms of differentiation while keeping the empirical focus on the development of inter-human communication and its codification in discourses.

For example, the intellectual organization of the sciences in specialties and disciplines under specifiable conditions of cultural evolution sometimes leads to the reduction of the discourse to the specific jargon of a paradigm. The institutional layer thenceforth only carries the relatively independent development of the intellectual field. The next-order level of codification tends to take over control.

Therefore, the cognitive and communicative competencies of the contributors become crucial. New codes of communication emerge as relevant systems of reference ex post. The network only processes representations in terms of their qualities, for example, by processing them in the form of texts and pictures. The processing of meaning can change the processing of information with hindsight by rewriting the communication.


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Because of this coupling the complexity of the operations can be made available mutually, albeit selectively. The volatility of the medium speeds up a cultural evolution on top of the biological one. From this perspective, all communications with non-human e. Social systems can be considered as the plasticity of the complex medium among people. Intentional actions interact in this medium as communications, and the results of these interactions may begin to develop recursively.

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The codification of relationship with non-human entities is then possible. The medium can become differentiated and further codification can sometimes be stabilized in a paradigm. From time to time, the systems of communication e. Both the actions and the interactions develop recursively, and thus a non-linear dynamics of social communications is generated. When this complex dynamics gains in terms of its structure over time, forms of differentiation can be expected. Stabilizations function as retention mechanisms of the globalizing system.

Society and national systems. The various e. To this end, socionomy can become a very practical science Leydesdorff, The crucial point is that the medium of communication has changed with the ICT revolution and that this change can be reflected theoretically as an advancement of our understanding of processes of social coordination. ICT has thus provided us with a focus on communication as the quintessential operation of social coordination and inter-human relationship. Communication both generates and reproduces meaning. Communications and their codification can be measured algorithmically and analyzed using elaborations of the mathematical theory of communication Shannon, ; Theil, ; Leydesdorff, The historical metaphors of sociology were based on a naturalistic or historistic understanding of society as a given.

Another set of possible recombinations has become available when the phase space is enlarged with globalization as another dimension of the social system. This next-order complexity in the system provides an additional selection pressure on historical trajectories and thus potentially complicates the status of the observable dynamics. Unintended consequences of human actions can, for example, increasingly be expected because of the non-trivial machinery of reflexive social relations. However, it may be possible to reconstruct some counter-intuitive results using the algorithmic simulations and representations for a non-naturalistic understanding.

For example, the ozone hole, the greenhouse effect, the BSE-crisis, etc. Both the generation of these problems and their control will increasingly be knowledge-based.

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Unlike personal e. Human reflexivity and human practices are necessarily involved at the interfaces with the non-human environments, but in a distributed mode. The coupling of science and technology at the social level, however, provides the system of social reproduction with a control mechanism at the supra-individual and supra-institutional level. Whereas institutions can be considered as aggregates of actions, scientific discourses are based on the interaction terms. This codification of the reflexive interaction can be developed further into the knowledge base of an economy.

Figure 1. A schematic depiction of the self-organization of the knowledge base as a cultural evolution in the social domain adapted from: Leydesdorff, Normative implications. Like other actor-network-theorists he discusses giving rights to things, animals, and nature, in addition to a new formulation of rights for human beings.

Sociology Beyond Societies: Mobilities for the Twenty-first Century

But what discourse is appropriate for the attribution of such rights? Might the sociological discourse be intended to become the agency of such new formulations of rights? A stabilized actor would be needed for the imposition of specific conclusions. Would sociologists have to take on a Voltaire-like role of informing the principal agents?

Sociology beyond societies mobilities for the twenty first century

In my opinion, the alternative to these romantic ideas is to move towards a socionomy that uses metaphors as localizable frameworks of interpretation. The metaphors reflect discursively on the subdynamics that they specify heuristically, but the complex dynamics can only be grasped algorithmically. The study of complex dynamics continuously updates the discursive expectations because the results can be counter-intuitive.

However, the expectations can only be specified ex ante using the reflexive discourses. Thus, the subdynamics of reflexive theorizing are functional for the reproduction of the knowledge-based system: the metaphors provide provisional frameworks for the appreciation in addition to contributing to the heuristics. The ICT revolution has provided us with the substance of society, notably communication. Facts are subjected to cultural evolution because they can be reconstructed into artifacts. The networks communicate in various dimensions, with different time horizons, but under historical conditions.

In principle, the indicators are amenable to the measurement. Do the metaphors also provide the heuristics for a next round of empirical testing and updating? Sociologists have hitherto interpreted the world in terms of metaphors. The knowledge-based society which results, can be considered as the subject of an emerging socionomy.

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Berger, P. Luckmann The social construction of reality: a treatise in the sociology of knowledge.