Conference Agenda

Overview and details of the sessions of this conference. Please select a date or location to show only sessions at that day or location. Please select a single session for detailed view (with abstracts and downloads if available).

Session Overview
PaperSession-16: Mobilities
Thursday, 03/Oct/2019:
2:00pm - 3:30pm

Session Chair: Emma Baulch
Location: P504

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2:00pm - 2:20pm

Perceptions of Darkness: Mobile media and the embodiment of risk and safety in the urban night

Jess Hardley, Ingrid Richardson

Murdoch University, Australia

This paper explores the embodied experience of smartphone users in urban darkness, and considers how the geo-locative and network functionality of mobile media impacts upon the perception of safety and risk at night. City spaces at nighttime are often perceived as less safe, and the habitual trust we place in familiar strangers during the day can become imbued with caution, suspicion and fear. Much of the research in this area neglects the impact of both the networked infrastructure of the city – what de Souza e Silva and Sutko (2009) term “net-local space” – and the place of mobile media in people’s nighttime practices and their experience and perception of the urban dark. This paper draws on original ethnographic data collected in Perth and Melbourne from 2015-2017 to examine how mobile devices as both communicative and location-aware interfaces are used to provide women with a perceived or ‘felt’ sense of bodily safety and security, and the potential implications this has on users’ pedestrian traversal of the urban dark. Throughout the paper, our conceptual and ethnographic approach is informed by Merleau-Ponty’s (1945) work on habituation and proprioception, Ihde’s (1993) postphenomenological take on the cultural specificity of the body-technology relation, and Weiss’s (1999) feminist adaptation of the term intercorporeality. The theme of “trust” runs as a thread through this paper, as we unpack the mistrust city dwellers have of the urban dark and how mobile media perceptually ameliorates this embodied sense of risk by extending users communicative reach via location-aware interfaces.

2:20pm - 2:40pm

Data Safety and Migration: An Intervention

Saskia Witteborn

CUHK, Hong Kong S.A.R. (China)

This intervention study discusses data safety in the context of forced migration, responding to the conference call of Trust in the System. Data safety and security are increasingly important in the context of (forced) migration due to digital border infrastructures and expanding legal mechanisms for accessing social media during border crossings and for asylum claims. Lack of data safety among forced migrants (asylum seekers and refugees) poses a problem as data have become a legal currency in asylum processes. This study focuses on Hong Kong as it is a transit point for forced migrants from the Global South and a place where messaging and social media platform use by forced migrants is high, with knowledge of data security and privacy being rather low. "Data safety" instead of data security or privacy is the term used in this study as forced migrants used it. Through thematic analysis of data collected through three years of fieldwork with asylum seekers from South(east) Asian and African nations, this paper demonstrates the meanings of data safety for the people through two themes: Selective information expression and confidence in numbers. Selective information expression referred to personalized control over communication. Confidence in numbers was linked to the amount of people using digital technologies without experiencing personal harm, which assured the migrants of the reliability of the platforms and their information being protected.

Based on the findings, a data safety workshop was designed for forced migrants available on Github (

2:40pm - 3:00pm


Nina Reynolds1, Sarah Quinton2

1University of Wollongong, Australia; 2Oxford Brookes University, United Kingdom

Research on trust and the use of mobile phones over the last 20 years has included insightful reviews and papers questioning the established view of trust and distrust being polar opposites. However, little extant research exists reflecting on the agency of users within the context of smartphone location-based services (LBS). In daily life as ubiquity and utility of LBS increase, users are progressively compelled to provide their locations in order to access services, whether this be Google maps locating a dentist’s surgery, a proximity discount on coffee and cake at a nearby café or location based, self-monitoring apps to track daily activity. This paper does not question the value to the individual or society of LBS, nevertheless, it does suggest that previous attempts to understand trust may be increasingly irrelevant as the users’ world has become an environment where choice to engage or not in LBS, and thus agency, are limited. Following critical reflection of the interdisciplinary literature surrounding LBS, trust, user behaviour and human agency, a future research agenda is outlined to encourage exploration of the macro, meso and micro level questions that have emerging saliency for understanding the mobile enabled life.

3:00pm - 3:20pm

Central American migration: trusting the mobile phone to cross borders

Michele Francis Ferris-Dobles

University of Illinois Chicago, United States of America, University of Costa Rica, Central America

Mobile phones have become ubiquitous tools for hundreds of thousands of Central American migrants in their transit from their home countries towards the United States (U.S). These communication technologies are not only changing traditional patterns of migration, they are also enabling and inducing migration by providing feelings of trust, closeness, and safety (Barros, 2017). By applying the methods of historical qualitative research and using a media archeological approach, I employ Durham Peters (2009) theory of infrastructuralism to investigate, which are the major infrastructural transitions that have allowed contemporary Central American migrants to use the same mobile phone and plan and to have Internet coverage across multiple national borders during their journey? How have these shifts enabled, induced, changed, and determined new ways and patterns of migration? I conclude that these infrastructural shifts have not only allowed mobile phones to change the traditional migratory patterns, but they are also creating a profitable business for a few private transnational telecommunications corporations. My conclusion presents a central paradox which is, that at the same time that the global capital promotes and enables a “borderless” world through the use of communication technologies which in turn promote emotions of trust, safety, and closeness, the nation-state borders are becoming more harsh, surveilled, and rigid for the migrants who are constantly harassed, detained, and persecuted.

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