Sofie Willemsen: Breaching mobile private life: an experiment with public digital materialities

Sofie Willemsen | University of Groningen, Centre for Media and Journalism Studies | Supervisors: Prof. dr Tamara Witschge and Dr Michael Stevenson | February 2016 to February 2020 | s.a.willemsen[at]rug.nl

Breaching mobile private life: an experiment with public digital materialities 
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Description (of a work in progress):

My research takes up an embodied, spatio-temporal perspective on our daily mediated realities. It focuses on the moving trajectories in space and time of people and their media devices. The central question I wish to ask and tentatively explore, is whether and how media materials can help us shape sustainable forms of togetherness.

Existing literature reveals a global development towards mobile privatized lives that connect individuals to ‘mediated centers’ through a variety of individual media-practices. Researchers have extensively discussed the risk of living such private lives and also what problems it brings when people increasingly pay attention to a disembodied center rather than the direct physical environment.

My research engages with these theoretical problems through so-called ‘breaching experiments’. These experiments take up the form of parallel public media installations that draw attention to real-time physical places and people, allowing them to interact with each other as part of an environment. This form was chosen because it allows the researcher to not only focus on the problems surrounding the way people live with media, but lets her also explore imaginative horizons for ways of living more sustainable media lives.

Describing the process of setting up the installations as well as people’s behavior around them, this study first of all helps us to understand better how our current media life is closely related to the political-economic reality of capitalist culture. Second, positive interactions with and through the installations also reveal that there might be a need for more embodied and public forms of (media-)engagement. The questions whether and how such needs can be met beyond this experimental form point to various possibilities for further research.