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Title: Spatial practices/digital traces : embodiment and reconfigurations of urban spaces through GPS mobile applications
Author: Ramos Ramirez, R. A.
ISNI:       0000 0004 7230 4185
Awarding Body: UCL (University College London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2016
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This research explores the relationship between bodies, space and mobile technologies by studying the affective and spatial properties of three GPS-based mobile applications—Grindr, Mappiness and Waze. Discussions of how newly constructed subjectivities experience location, orientation and spatial movements—both physical and digital—emerge throughout the chapters. The study seeks to answer the following research questions: How are GPS-based apps enabling the construction of new digital subjects and embodiments? How do they enable users to perform these identities in space? How does the production of these new subjectivities create alternate forms of inhabiting urban spaces as well as alternate modes of digital mobility? In what ways do GPS apps create new spatiotemporal relations for bodies, and how are these relations made visible by the interfaces’ spatial and urban representations? To answer these questions, the three apps—which were selected from a group of contemporary apps based on their GPS properties, strong link to urban space and relation to embodied performance—are treated as a series of material objects. Though each app’s particular purpose varies, as a set they suggest coupled themes that structure the study’s analysis: physical boundaries/digital peripheries, companionship/wayfinding, embodiments/othering, judgement/ confidence, gamification/interface, intimacy/tactility and trails/digital residue. Guided by Cyberfeminist theories, the method of study is conducted through three phases: personal empirical research, in-depth interviews with participants and the designing of a series of coded avatars of the participants’ identities. The dissertation argues that there exists a mutual shaping between a person’s subjectivity and app-technology, and that these constructions affect the way space is navigated and perceived. To elaborate on this triadic relationship between body/space/technology and to open up new imaginaries to theorise about the body in space through a Cyberfeminist perspective, it proposes a new, performative figuration—the boy—arguing that these newly constructed identities are fluidly assembled and disassembled by their continuous negotiation between physical and digital boundaries. In this way, the study rethinks how Grindr, Mappiness and Waze enable alternate embodiments for performing identities in space, while also seeking to discuss how they create new spatial organisations and socio-spatial manifestations.
Supervisor: Campkin, B. ; Rawes, M. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available