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Monika Büscher, Malene Freudendal-Pedersen, Sven Kesselring and Nikolaj Grauslund Kristensen
The growing field of mobilities research focuses on the flows and movements of people, artefacts, capital, information and signs on different social and geographical scales. Scholars in mobilities research are working on the physical movement of people and goods, digitalised (social) relations and communication between individuals, groups, organisations and institutions, the experience and embodiment of space in motion and dwelling, and many other subjects. Mobilities research examines the systems and practices of mobilities from different theoretical, epistemological and methodological perspectives, but with a common ontology of mobilities as the constitutive element of societies, politics and economies (Urry 2000; Sheller and Urry 2016; Sheller 2017; Jensen et al. 2019). This Handbook reflects the variety and diversity of the field in respect of research methods and applications for mobilities research, while also illuminating the multiple dimensions of mobilities, from transport to tourism, cargo to information as well as physical, virtual and imaginative mobilities. In these contexts, the motivation to make methods mobile springs from a deep appreciation of how ‘the reality is movement’ (Bergson 1911, p. 302). The new mobility paradigm (Sheller and Urry 2006) not only broadened the perspective by including social and cultural practices in the study of mobilities, but also added a new epistemological, creative, normative, public dimension to doing research. Mobile methods provide new insights by mobilising an analytical approach to the constitutive role of (im)mobilities (Büscher et al. 2010; Fincham et al. 2010). This may literally mobilise researchers in ethnographic go-alongs, as many of the authors in this Handbook describe (for example, Wilson, Chapter 12 in this volume), or metaphorically mobilise research by self-tracking (Duarte, Chapter 6 in this volume), following the mobile positioning of mobile phones (Silm et al., Chapter 17 in this volume) or through cultural analysis (Perkins, Chapter 15 in this volume), and it may mobilise research subjects in planning (Bennetsen and Hartmann-Petersen, Chapter 22 in this volume) or through phronesis (Tyfield, Chapter 33 in this volume). Mobilising research means employing the understanding of how research objects, subjects field sites and collaborators are mobile and in movement rather than geographically fixed or static. With the mobilities paradigm, interdisciplinary research and qualitative methods have come to the fore, compared with earlier traditions of mobility and transportation research (see, for example, Yago 1983; Vannini 2015). Researchers and research users engage with mobile methods, to investigate the emergent nature of reality and the way in which social and material phenomena are socially constructed and made durable in and through the intra-actions of many human and non-human agencies (Barad 2007).
This opening chapter for the book will begin with an exposition of the book objectives and structure. It will then move to brief discussions of the three primal notions, which constitute the basis for this book: information, virtual spatial mobility, and connectivity.