Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Details

Gibson, C., Luckman, S. & Brennan-Horley, C. R. (2012). (Putting) mobile technologies in their place: a geographical perspective. In R. Wilken & G. Goggin (Eds.), Mobile Technology and Place (pp. 123-139). New York: Routledge.


This chapter critically engages with the proposition that mobile technologies challenge place as a "proper, stable and distinct location," drawing on the rich history of theorizing place in geography. Our engagement with this proposition draws critical attention to the assumption that place was ever "dominantly" understood as stable or distinct. Indeed, geographers have argued for decades that conceptions of place must move beyond ontologies of strongly bounded geographical scales. While the assumption of "place" as a neatly bounded category might linger in some cultural history and cultural studies research (especially that having recently "discovered" the spatial), as Kevin Dunn argues, "cultural geography's engagement is both older and deeper"-producing enduring disciplinary legacies and anxieties, as well as key insights. Among the legacies is a suspicion of super-organic conceptions of place that assume inert conceptions of landscape-place as "blank sheets onto which culture was written." Much of this kind of thinking, we admit, does infuse contemporary accounts of the transformational effects of technological advancement on experiences of place-place as unmoving, a rudimentary container until it is transformed through exciting socio-technological change, or what Goggin calls "the technological sublime." As cultural geographers we are uncomfortable with this, retaining "an anxiety' not to replicate the problems of environmental determinism, or to reduce space to a container' in the manner that characterized cultural geography in the 1920s through to the 1940s.