Rethinking Mobile Methods

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Abstract

Over the past, few years a broad range of scholars have been emphasising the vital importance of methodological innovation and diversification to mobilities research. Whilst welcoming this pluralisation of research methods, this paper encourages a note of caution amongst researchers who wholly embrace the call for mobile methods, which are frequently justified by an assumption that ‘conventional’ or ‘traditional’ methods have failed. I outline some of the explanations that are given for the development of ‘mobile methods’ – including their inevitable emergence from a ‘new mobilities paradigm’, the importance of innovation and political relevance for social science methods, and their importance for apprehending elusive practices – before identifying a number of problems with this work: namely the assumption that mobilities research is necessarily a branch of social science research, the production of over-animated mobile subjects and objects, the prioritising of certain kinds of research methods and practices, and the overreliance on certain kinds of technology. Particular attention is paid to the use of ‘non-representational theories’ and theories of practice in mobilities research, wherein academics frequently suggest that we must adopt certain performative, participative, or ethnographic techniques to enable researchers to be, see or move with research subjects, and to more effectively or accurately understand those practices and subjects. In the final section, I draw upon historical research on early driving practices to highlight the diverse methods and sources that can be useful for mobilities scholars seeking to apprehend particular practices, events, subjects and spaces.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)167-187
Number of pages21
JournalMobilities
Volume9
Issue number2
Early online date07 May 2013
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2014

Keywords

  • Geography
  • History
  • Mobile methods
  • Mobilities
  • Non-representational theory
  • Practices
  • Sociology

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