Mobility of People, Objects, and Ideas
The topic of mobility has been gaining significance among the scholars
and researchers in the field of social science following the large scale
movement of people, ideas, and objects across the globe. The main focus
of the modern researchers and scholars in the field of social science is
factors that motivate movement and movement of culture in different
parts of the world (Urry, 2003, p. 1-2). This implies that an effective
research focusing on the broad topic of mobility should address the
issues of movement, forces driving the movement, and the effects of
mobility. This paper will provide evidence to support the argument
raised by John Urry in his book “Mobilities” where he stated in the
first line that “It sometimes seems as if all the world is on the move”
(Urry, 2007, p. 3). Three theories of social science will be used to
study the topic of mobility namely the actor network theory, nomadic
theory, and theory of globalization. The high rate of mobility
experienced in the modern world is being supported by the movement of
both human and non-human objects.
Theoretical concepts of mobility
Many researchers and scholars in the field of social studies have
attempted to explain the mass mobility of people, ideas (including
cultural and technological ideas), and objects, which has resulted in
the development of different theories of social mobility. The
actor-network is one of the social theories that are widely used in the
study of mass mobility, especially the movement of non-human objects and
ideas. The theory was developed by a group of social theorists
(including Brono Latour, John Law, and Michael Callon) who suggested
that the society is a composition of different components (both social
and technical) that form a system where power relationships existing
within the system mobilize social skills that drive transient
interactions (Latour, 2005, p. 66). Unlike other theories of network and
mobility, the actor-network theory addresses the issue of mobility in a
comprehensive by including the movement of people, objectives, as well
as organizations. This makes it a suitable theoretical concept to
explain the first line of Urry’s book stating that everything in the
world seems to be moving. The basic assumption of the theory of
actor-network theory is that all components of the system (both human
and non-human) are important in a social network. This means that they
all contribute towards the mass mobility in the modern world.
The nomadic theory was developed by Rosi Braidotti in an attempt to
explain how the modern subjectivity is a component of flux, how all
things are still in the progression of becoming, and the dynamic powers
of relationship that are restrictive and creative. According to
Braidotti (2011, p. 5) the modern form of coercive mobility can be
attributed to the European forced enslavement and colonial expansion.
The nomadic theory is based on the assumption that power differences
that exist in different forms, practices as well as categories of
movement for human and non-human objects are the fundamental aspects
that can be used to explain the current rate of nomadism in the context
of globalization. In addition, the high rate of mobility is facilitated
by technological mediation and high rate of flow of information. The
theory is relevant to the present study because it will help in
explaining the mobility of technology and how such mobility have
contributed towards cultural mobility in different parts of the world.
Currently, globalization is a controversial topic where many contenders
are attempting to define it and identify its scope. The theory of
globalization assumes that globalization involves the process in which
social, cultural, and geographical obstacles lose significance in a way
that all people are aware (Stefanovic, 2008, p. 264). In the context of
globalization, social relations are intensified and interlinked in
distant localities in a manner that allows the local practices to be
influenced by events occurring in a distant place. The transformational
perspective of globalization is more suitable in explaining the
occurrence of indisputable changes in the organization of society, which
involves the acceleration and integration of both social and economic
dynamics via a compression of time and space (Stefanovic, 2008, p. 264).
This makes the globalization theory appropriate in explaining the change
of movement of people, non-human objects and ideas across the globe.
Mobility of people
The movement of people from one place to another comprise of the largest
part of mobility in the modern world. Urry (2007, p. 3) identified the
major categories of people who are mainly involved in the international
human mobility. These groups of people include holidaymakers,
international students, early retired, business people, backpackers,
sport stars, terrorists, young mobile commuters, refugees, and
prostitutes. The list of the major groups of people who have a
significant contribution towards human mobility suggests that people
move to and from different parts of the world for both positive and
negative motives. The differential power as stated in both
actor-network and nomadic theories is the key determinant of people’s
mobility. (Urry, 2003, p. 1) identified that the global movement of
people is not even since most people tend to move towards the societies
that are perceived to be industrialized and advanced. The researcher
also identified that out of all the international travels over 80 % of
them occur within North America, Southern and Western Europe. Similarly,
the arguments raised by Urry (2007, p. 3) supported the fact that power
relationships play a significant part in mobility by emphasizing on the
larger number of passengers, especially the air and road passengers who
travel in the United States on a daily basis. These facts confirm that
people in the entire world are on the move.
Tourism and travel are the major factors that contribute towards the
mobility of people in the world. While studying mobility Urry (2007, p.
4) identified that tourism and travel industry is valued at $ 6.5
trillion and contributed about 8.7 % of the global employment rate and
about 10.3 GDP. The movement of people for the purpose of tourism and
affects the majority if not all countries of the world. Similarly, Urry
(2003, p. 2) compared the movement of nomadic communities with learning
and characterized the mobility as deterritorialisation, implying that
there are established points that one can call home since people can
neither be said to be at home nor away from home. Moreover, other
research has established the link between tourism and travel (movement
of people) to globalization, which involves the transformation of
transactions and social relations. The relationship between tourism and
travel and the inevitable concept of globalization has also affected the
Arab nations (Mustafa, 2010, p. 44-46), which means that the entire
world is now on the move.
The movement of people can be associated with other forms of movement,
transition, or changes that are being experienced by the society in the
modern world. According to Urry (2007, p. 4-5) the non-human objects or
materials are also moving, but their movement is facilitated by the
moving bodies. In addition, the movement of manufactured products and
raw materials is facilitated by human beings through the moving objects
such as airplanes, ships and, and vehicles. However, the movement of
people coupled with the widespread acceptance of the concept of
globalization is associated with negative movements in term of the
increase in illegal trade and environmental pollution. According to
Faraji-rad (2010, p. 38) environmental conservation, protection,
preservation, and interpretation have become difficult in such a time
when globalization has become a priority. The movement of people through
the power driven objects such vehicles and airplanes cause emissions
that contributed towards environmental pollution. This results in an
adverse movement of environment that has led to the persistent challenge
of climate change.
The physical movement of people is facilitated by different factors
because people move from one geographical location to another for
different reasons. Although the majority of global travels are tourism
oriented, the ultimate goals of touring places vary from one person or
group of people to another. For example, the European grand involve
learning in an attempt to advance their knowledge of places, the
Japanese travels aim at enhancing group solidarity while luminal
tourists go to play (Urry, 2003, p. 3). In addition, some people
perceive traveling as a way of enhancing a hale and hearty functioning
or an opportunity for solitude.
Technology has been changing drastically, especially in the last few
decades. The global trend of migrating from analogue to digital is clear
evidence that technological changes are impacting, not parts, but the
entire world. Many people (including the residents of the developing
world) have shifted from the use of landline to mobile phones while the
other has been able to access internet as a means of communication or
source of information. Research shows that by the end of the year 2012,
trafficking of mobile data grew by 70 % compared to the global rate of
mobile data trafficking in 2000 (Cisco Systems Incorporation, 2013, p.
1-2). Drastic changes have also been taking place within the field of
mobile telephone. The development of smart-phones with its usage
increasing by 81 % in 2012 is a sign of transition in the usage of
mobile phones (Cisco Systems Incorporation, 2013, p. 2). The growth in
the rate of innovation and development of mobile phones and computers
has subsequently enhanced the use of internet as stated by Urry (2007,
The high rate of technological development has increased the speed at
which various components of the world are moving. Urry (2007, p. 5)
suggested that the mobile world is currently experiencing an extensive
connection that facilitates physical travels as well as different modes
of communication, which creates new forms of fluidities. This has
resulted in the remarkable connectivity and rapid movement of
information, money, power, and ideas around the world. The series of
technological transition has caused a significant movement in social and
economic life of people in both developed and the developing economies.
Research shows that the use of the internet and mobile phone services
has changed the management approaches where supply chains are managed
through mobile phone communication with suppliers. Aker (2012, p. 15-16)
established a positive association between the use of mobile phones and
an increase in profit following an improvement in communication between
business enterprises and suppliers. This has improved economic
efficiency through improved an increase in productivity of small firms
in the developing economies and large organization in the developed
Apart from the movement of people, non-human objects, and technological
ideas, the cross-border movement of culture has become rampant.
Cultural mobility involves the exchange of beliefs, values, and norms by
people of different cultures and geographical locations as well as
in-group change of cultural practices. The exchange of cultural
practices is mainly facilitated by people’s ability to travel and pass
over-places of different cultures. Research shows that cultures of
different people are not pure, sealed from other cultures, or possesses
a clear essence (Urry, 2003, p. 6). All cultures are fragmented,
impure, and exist in a continuous state of re-invention, which means
that they are on the move. The rate of cultural mobility into a given
place depends on the number of different cultural groups traveling in
that place. The groups may comprise of mass tourists, work-based
migration, colonialism, and individual travel. The internet has also
created a new channel through which cultural practices are exchanged
without the physical movement of people and objects. This is because the
internet allows people from different parts of the world to establish
social groups that re-model their social organization as well as social
relationships Movius, 2010, p. 9). This implies that internet
connectivity facilitates the globalization of culture.
The widespread of western culture non-western communities have been
attributed to cultural imperialism, but it is a sign of globalization of
culture and a general move from one type of cultural practice to
another. The high rate of exchange of cultural practices between the
western and non-western communities is attributed to the emergence and
development of new types of media especially the internet. For example,
the increase in the internet connectivity in Asian has enhanced the
spread of the gay and lesbian practices among the Asian communities
(Berry, 2003, p. 223). Similarly, the Asian communities have produced
contingent and mobile practices of self-identification and self
inscription. The fusion of western culture into non-western cultures can
also be attributed to translation authenticity and translation of
non-western cultures into western cultures, which has allowed the media
transmission to impose sexual identities and categories from the west.
The high rate of mobility experienced in the modern world is being
supported by both human and non-human objects. The theories of
actor-network, nomadism, and globalization reveal that the world is
experiencing movement in terms of people, objects, and ideas. The
movement of people is the primary cause of other forms of change,
especially the technological and cultural changes. This is because
people carry objects and ideas as they move from one place to another.
The major changes in technology encompass the use of mobile phones and
the internet as a means of communication and sharing information with
people in distant places without physical movement. Cultural mobility is
facilitated by the movement of people and technological changes that
allow people to exchange ideas and cultural practices. In overall,
Urry’s statement that all things in the world appear to be in the move
is correct and encompasses the physical and abstract movement of
physical objects, people, and ideas.
List of references
Aker, C. and Mbiti, M., 2012. Mobile phones and economic development in
Africa. Medford: Tufts University.
Berry, C., Fran, M. and Yue, A., 2003. Mobile cultures: New media in
Queer Asia. Durham: Duke University Press.
Braidotti, R., 2011. Nomadic theory: the portable Rosi Braidotti. New
York: Columbia University Press.
Cisco Systems Incorporation, 2013. Cisco visual networking index: Global
mobile data trafficking forecast updates, 2012-2017. San Jose: Cisco
Faraji-rad, A. and Aghajani, S., 2010. The relationship between tourism
and environment. Iranian Journal of Tourism & Hospitality, 1 (1), p.
Latour, B., 2005. Reassembling the social: An introduction to
actor-network theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Movius, L., 2010. Cultural globalization and challenges to traditional
communication. Journal of Media and Communication, 2 (1), p. 6-18.
Mustafa, M., 2010. Tourism and globalization in the Arab world.
International Journal of Business and Social Science, 1 (1), p. 37-48.
Stefanovic, Z., 2008. Globalization: Theoretical perspectives, impacts
and institutional response of the economy. Economic and Organization, 5
(3), p. 263-272.
Urry, J., 2003. Mobile cultures. Lancaster LA: Lancaster University.
Urry, J., 2007. Mobilities. Cambridge: Polity Press.
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