My doctoral research took place from 2013-2019 in the department of Media, Communications and Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths College in London, under the supervision of Dr. Joanna Zylinska and Dr. Sarah Kember.
In my research I examined the attachments that exist between people and their mobile phones through a concept I termed affective mooring. This concept implies that our attachments to mobiles, if considered from an affective perspective, can extend our understanding of the dynamics of power that technology enables, maintains and reinforces.
My aim was to call into question whether certain narratives have been submerged or lost in the cultural history of mobiles and, if so, to ask: what is at stake in the re-telling of this history? As a media and cultural studies scholar I developed this concept of affective mooring in conversation with a number of related fields. Foremost I relied on the field of affect studies to theorise how affects are mobilized through mobile phones.
Further, drawing on theories of embodiment and the posthuman, I defined affect as an embodied reaction to technology that signals certain socio-political concerns between human and nonhumans as they relate to issues of gender, race or nationality. Further still, I drew on theories of urban geography and migration studies to theorise how notions of place are processes constituted through networks of information and technology infrastructures.
Through my methodology of writing with an emphasis on ethnography and structures of feelings, I was guided by certain affective moments in the cultural timeline of mobile technology. These moments – punctuated by fear, shame and paranoia – were my narrative leads in developing a story about how some bodies have come to matter more than others in particular contexts. Seen through the lens of affective mooring, I presented a number of findings about mobiles, such as the ways in which they engender particular conditions of work; how the gendering of mobile technology is brought to bear; and that as spatial technologies, mobiles are key to the formation of feelings of belonging and alienation in particular environments.
[Photo: copyright Antal Guszlev]