Judith A. Nicholson, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Communication Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University.
Race and the mobilities paradigm
Race is largely excluded from mobilities studies. How do issues of race intersect with mobile media, where the latter include handheld multi-modal devices such as the mobile phone as well as the ancient flesh media of the mob? This paper examines how race and mobile media intersect in terms of genealogy, agency, identity, corporeality, social space, and politics and power. Judith A. Nicholson argues that race is present in origin stories of mediated mobility, which tell a tale of technological innovation led by intrepid white male inventors in Canada and the U.S. and of innovations ostensibly usurped by foreign creators and users, notably Japanese. Nicholson also argues that race is present in research practices that perpetuate a techno-orientalist fascination and fear of the Asian Other, in representations of mobile media use in popular culture, including in ads and films that perpetuate racial coding through portraying the ideal user as white and the likely perpetrator of threats to the user and to the technology as racialized. Race is present in contemporary mobbing phenomenon such as during the Cronulla riots in Sydney, Australia, in 2005, during the Blackberry riots in Tottenham, England in 2011, and during recent moments of flash mugging involving racialized youth in the U.S. Race also underpins development discourse focussed on mobile media uses in African nations and concerns about threats to human and environmental health during the
production or dismantling of mobile media technologies in African and Asian nations. Through focusing on how race intersects with mobile media in a variety of moments, this paper considers to what extent the production of knowledge about mobilities and the production of knowledge about race are mutually constitutive in our times.