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Creating Trans-Situativity: Air Travel and Its Media

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Materiality of Cooperation

Part of the book series: Medien der Kooperation – Media of Cooperation ((MEKOO))

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Abstract

For good reasons, many micro-sociological approaches follow a ‘methodological situationism’. This raises the question of the before, after and beside of situations, which have been problematised in various discussions, including those on the mobilisation and mediatisation of modern societies. I take up this question by drawing on empirical data from an ethnographic study on air travel, with the aim of understanding the material link between situations, including the link created by mobile media practices.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    I have replaced the original ‘men’ for ‘people’, since it seems to reflect more adequately the contemporary use of language.

  2. 2.

    The micro–macro link is still a widely discussed topic today, as a recently published special issue of the Zeitschrift für Soziologie shows (Heintz & Tyrell, 2014).

  3. 3.

    This study was funded by the German Research Foundation from March 2016 until June 2020 (project number 271437443; project leader: Larissa Schindler).

  4. 4.

    In this context, the question of reflexivity becomes particularly relevant. However, these considerations do not go far enough if they relate reflection primarily to the person of the researcher and not also to the practice of research. Müller (2016) and Lichterman (2017) make particularly instructive suggestions in this regard.

  5. 5.

    The cited essay is a publication edited and annotated by Lyn H. Lofland of the lecture Goffman gave at the conference of the Pacific Sociological Association in 1974.

  6. 6.

    For a detailed discussion of this data, see Schindler (2020). Kunz (2015) also works with a method known as ‘logbooks’. However, this differs from my approach: Kunz uses pre-structured questionnaires as a survey instrument, in which the research subjects enter and comment on campus use and study behaviour along predetermined questions.

  7. 7.

    They differ from the aforementioned travel writing, which Grivel (1994) sketches, because their content refers to the actual journey. There is a similarity, however, in that they are about writing while travelling. This is certainly physically easier to do when travelling by air than when cycling, for example, but it still requires a specific concentration from the writers. In some cases, the writing of logbooks failed, for example because of fatigue or because there were no writing utensils in a traveller’s hand luggage.

  8. 8.

    The same is most likely true for the sensorial nature of tourist activities. Here it should be repeated that physical co-presence is of course by no means a contradiction to situations communicated through media or that it would in any way create an ‘offline area’. The fact that physical co-presence has a quality of its own does not mean that one can avoid the mediatisation of situations.

  9. 9.

    Fuller (2009, p. 67 ff.) points out that airports produce a present that is primarily shaped by the future. However, this phenomenon is not only to be found at the airport, but throughout the entire journey.

  10. 10.

    An interesting case for such a link between the infrastructure of the airport and the city is the Vienna City Check In Terminal (VCT) at Wien Mitte station, the departure station of the CAT (City Airport Train). Here, passengers of certain airlines can check in outside the airport at the City Terminal located in the centre of the city and, if necessary, check in their baggage. Only then they travel to the airport on the CAT, saving time and travelling in comfort without baggage. Another exciting phenomenon is airport hotels that are booked for business meetings without any direct connection to flying (McNeill, 2009).

  11. 11.

    In this case it is empirically unclear and analytically irrelevant whether the lockers were built for this purpose or rather for the many shops in this part of the station. According to Potthast (2016, p. 143), railway stations can also be regarded as ‘architectures of compromise’ in which competing interests are taken into account. The selected excerpt shows a productive element of this phenomenon.

  12. 12.

    But conventional check-in at the airport also creates a new integration into the electronic system of the airline and the airport. Here, too, Dodge’s and Kitchin’s thesis is confirmed.

  13. 13.

    Latour published the first of these texts under the pseudonym of Johnson.

  14. 14.

    However, some flights now have Wi-Fi connections, so this aspect will probably soon be a thing of the past. Nevertheless, the issue of smartphone connections in particular seems to be controversial; there are certainly voices against it, partly because you cannot freely choose your seat on a plane (The Economist, 1.3.2017).

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Schindler, L. (2023). Creating Trans-Situativity: Air Travel and Its Media. In: Gießmann, S., Röhl, T., Trischler, R., Zillinger, M. (eds) Materiality of Cooperation. Medien der Kooperation – Media of Cooperation. Springer VS, Wiesbaden. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-658-39468-4_10

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