[Im]mobility in the age of [im]mobile phones: Young NEETs and digital practices (New Article)

We just published, along with Helen Thornham, the article [Im]mobility in the age of [im]mobile phones: Young NEETs and digital practices in New Media & Society. I’m very happy with this paper for two reasons: it is the first paper we publish based on that fieldwork and it is also the first time I publish in NM&S. But I’m mostly happy because I see it as a critical intervention into some common assumptions (that uncritically claim positive “impacts”) about the use of digital technologies, a criticism that comes straight from our ethnographic data. This is the abstract:

This article draws on research with young NEETs (not in education, employment or training) in Leeds in order to contest the assumption that technological qualities informing new media devices (here mobile phones) simply or transparently translate into social or ontological categories. We draw on a long-term ethnographic study of NEET individuals to argue that one of the underpinning principles of mobile phones – that they pertain to mobility and that mobility is positive and agential – is called into question. Our aim is not only to unpack a number of concepts and assumptions underpinning the mobile phone but also to suggest that these concepts unhelpfully (and even detrimentally) locate mobile phones in relation to the technological possibilities on offer without taking into account what is simultaneously made impossible and immobile, and for whom. Finally, when we set the digital experiences of NEETs alongside the discourses around mobile phones, we find that mobility is restricted – not enabling, and that it is forged in, and articulated as part of an everyday life that is dominated by the social and economic horizons set by the groups status as NEET.