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Mobile Electronic Media

Mobility History at the Intersection of Transport and Media History

Heike Weber

Keywords: CELL PHONE; MEDIA CONSUMPTION; MOBILE MEDIA; RADIO; TOURISM; TRAVEL; WALKMAN

This article takes the history of mobile electronic media as a vantage point from which to view a transformation in everyday Western mobility culture. It argues that mobile media technologies rather than transport technologies constitute today's guiding symbols of mobility whilst mobility itself is seen as going beyond physical movement. In the late twentieth century, its understanding has been broadened and now refers to the mere capacity to be ready for action and, thus, movement. This shift from movement to the potential to move can be observed in the material culture of mobile media. Initially designed to accompany travel, tourism or sport activities, portable radios or cell phones have been increasingly used in stationary or domestic settings, thereby challenging the Western dualisms of mobile/sedentary and public/private. On a methodological level, a focus on mobile media history involves merging the fields of media and transport history with the aim of arriving at a comprehensive mobility history.

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