A chance to catch a breath: Using mobile video ethnography in cycling research

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Spinney, Justin (2011)

Under the rubric of transport much previous research on everyday mobility has focused on understanding the more representational and readily articulated aspects of everyday movement. By way of contrast, emergent theorisations of mobility suggest that an understanding of the less representational – those fleeting, ephemeral and often embodied and sensory aspects of movement – is vital if we are to fully understand why and how people move around. Accordingly, the ability of conventional methods to complement new research agendas, particularly those related to issues around the sensory, affect and embodied experience has been called in to question. This paper contributes to the burgeoning literature on mobile methodologies by critically discussing a theoretical and methodological journey towards mobile video ethnography in the context of a project researching cycling in London, UK between 2004 and 2006. In doing so it highlights three ways in which mobile video ethnography can contribute to research in the new mobilities paradigm: video as a way of ‘feeling there’ when you can’t be there; video as a way of apprehending fleeting moments of mobile experience; and video as a tool to extend sensory vocabularies. It also critically discusses the limitations of video as a text and the importance of embodied experience, interpretation and audiencing to its success as part of a mobile methodology. Whilst emphasising the need for caution, the paper demonstrates the way in which mobile video ethnography can contribute to a new mobilities agenda by facilitating more situated understandings of daily corporeal mobility which highlight an alternative time‐space politics to those inscribed in road spaces.
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