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Reworking Appropriation

The Language of Paris Railways, 1870–1914

Peter Soppelsa

By tracking railway language through periodicals and poetry, this article examines the words and images used to make sense of Paris's new subway and streetcars between 1870 and 1914. It proposes a new threefold approach to understanding the appropriation of technology, which reworks its agents, sites, and chronologies. It maintains that appropriation takes both material and symbolic forms, and that appropriation processes transform both appropriated objects and their cultural contexts. Language anchors appropriation as it operates through circulating texts. For Paris, railways were both transportation technologies and versatile tools for making meaning. Railways set spaces, customs, identities, and images adrift, which traditionalists found threatening, progressives found promising, and avant-gardists found inspiring. Fitting Paris with railways required both reimagining and rebuilding the city, and reshaping what railways could be. The article concludes that appropriation is neither linear nor complete, but rather an ongoing and unfinished negotiation of the meaning of technologies.

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Nicholas Balaisis

This article examines the Cuban mobile cinema campaign in the 1960s as a case study for thinking about the relationship between cinema and mobility. I examine the rhetoric around mobile cinema in Cuban journals such as Cine Cubano, and in the documentary film Por primera vez (For the first time, 1967). I argue that cinema is linked with mobility in two primary ways: as a virtual mobility stimulated by onscreen images, and as a more literal mobility expressed by the transportation of film into remote rural sites of exhibition. These two kinds of mobility reflect the hopes and ambitions of filmmakers and critics energized by the resurgent nationalism of the Cuban revolution, and the excitement of cinema as a “new” technology in rural Cuba.

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Alessandro Jedlowski

processes of construction of the self through specific, motion-based “drives,” 5 and “aspirations.” 6 In this context, transport and communication technologies have a particularly relevant role. By facilitating and accelerating the motion of people

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James Ryan

This article reviews recent works of the urban history of Istanbul and considers new frameworks for the history of public transit in that city. It suggests that through new understandings of the transformation of public space, we can reconceptualize transit history as urban history writ small.

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Subversive Mobilities

The Copenhagen Riots, 1900–1919

Mikkel Thelle

The article approaches mobility through a cultural history of urban conflict. Using a case of “The Copenhagen Trouble,“ a series of riots in the Danish capital around 1900, a space of subversive mobilities is delineated. These turn-of-the-century riots points to a new pattern of mobile gathering, the swarm; to a new aspect of public action, the staging; and to new ways of configuring public space. These different components indicate an urban assemblage of subversion, and a new characterization of the “throwntogetherness“ of the modern public.

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Off-grid Mobilities

Incorporating a Way of Life

Phillip: Taggart Vannini

Drawing from sensory ethnography, the present multimodal writing—accompanied by photography and digital video—documents and interprets the mobilities of off-grid living on Lasqueti Island, British Columbia, Canada. The data presentation focuses in particular on the embodied experience of off-grid inhabitation, highlighting the sensory and kinetic experiences and practices of everyday life in a community disconnected from the North American electrical grid and highway network. The mobilities of fuel and energy are presented in unison with ethnographic attention to the taskscape of everyday activities and movements in which off-grid islanders routinely engage. The analysis, based on Tim Ingold's non-representational theory on place, movement, and inhabitation, focuses on how the material and corporeal mobilities of off-grid life body forth a unique sense of place.

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Ritika Prasad

Focusing on the wide-ranging scholarship on how railway technology, travel, and infrastructure has affected South Asia‚ this article highlights recent interventions and shifts. It discusses how questions about land‚ labor‚ capital‚ and markets are being increasingly integrated with questions about how railways affected society‚ culture‚ and politics. It also stresses the increasing interest in comparative work‚ both in terms of locating railways within wider structures of transport and mobility as well as analyzing how South Asia’s engagement relates to the global impact of this technology.

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Tomás Errázuriz

For countries that are not leaders in modernization and technology, discussions of transportation history frequently conclude by acknowledging insufficient research on this topic. Indeed, this was my first impression when committing to this assignment. Nevertheless, once I started to review and gather material, my findings exceeded my initial expectations.

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Janet R. Bednarek

Aviation inspires far less historical scholarship than other major forms of transportation technology, especially automobiles and trains—and even space travel. In the years leading up to the centennial of powered flight in 2003 there were some efforts by Dom Pisano, Roger Launius and others both to refine and expand the parameters of the field and suggest emerging research questions. Yet aviation history has remained a small subfield within broader areas of interest, such as military, technology, transportation and business history. More recently, to some degree in response to the efforts of Pisano and Launius, work has been done within social, cultural and urban history, and gender studies. So while the field has been and remains hard to pin down, nonetheless interesting—if sometimes isolated—work continues.

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Marie Thébaud-Sorger

In the history of aeronautics, the balloon has long been regarded as relatively unimportant—or even excluded from the field; “lighter-than-air” technology (to use the expression coined by Nadar) was considered a dead-end which may have delayed the arrival of airplanes at the beginning of the twentieth century. However, in the early years of aviation, both technologies were deeply interrelated on numerous levels, sharing the same milieu of entrepreneurs, pilots (for instance the remarkable Santos Dumont) and public enthusiasm. But the disappearance of dirigibles accompanies the construction of a heroic history of powered flight by the airplane as a symbol of modernity. However, the focus has recently shifted, through the work of eminent aviation historians such as Tom Crouch,1 and also because dirigible history has returned to the scene—for instance through the excellent studies of Guillaume de Syon who has stressed the popular and political mobilization that sustained the impressive development of this technology from the last decade of the nineteenth century until the 1930s. From the point of view of the aeronautics community (lobbies, technicians and publicists), 1880s dirigibles were a technology of the future that inherited a longstanding culture originating in the first aerostatic experiments at the end of the eighteenth century. If balloons could not yet be steered, aerial displacement was indeed a practical technique applied in races and experiments, and associated with learned societies, conferences and shows. Such endeavors nourished public expectations, political investments and, with the introduction of the dirigible, even fostered an institutional regulatory framework in the first international aerial law, as in the international conference at La Haye in 1899.