chapter  3
New Technologies, New Mobilities, Mobile Lives, Anthony Elliott and John Urry, 2010
ByElliott and John Urry, 2010 Anthony Elliott and John Urry
Pages 17

Sandra Fletcher is sophisticated and smart – a high-profile advertising executive.2

At forty-four, she describes her life as ‘full’ in both professional and personal terms. The mother of three children (ranging in age from nine to fourteen), and married to a successful architect, Sandra divides her week between the family home in Leeds and the company office in London. She had felt somewhat troubled about a working arrangement that would take her away from her family three (and sometimes four) nights a week, or at least she did when first experimenting with living and working this way some years ago. But much of her worry was unfounded. Her children have adapted well to her weekly absence and appear fond of the live-in nanny whom Sandra and her husband, Michael, selected (and screened) from an agency, many of which have spring up in order to provide mobile childcare for mobile couples. She also discovered that her relationship with Michael was fine, indeed thriving, when living and working away during the week and then reuniting for ‘quality time’ over weekends. Taken together, these factors meant she could feel relaxed about navigating the demands of her professional and personal lives. Indeed, she looks forward to the routine departure from Leeds on Tuesday mornings, eager to embrace the exciting challenges of professional life in London. Helping her coordinate, manage and sort through this life divided between

London and Leeds are various digital technologies. For Sandra threads and rethreads her professional and personal life together through the use of such technologies. She actively embraces a digital lifestyle. An avid follower of consumer electronic technologies, mobile and wireless products, Sandra relies on mobile communications in order to keep on the move, to access information and to communicate with others. From the broadband terrain of wireless and storage technology to videoconferencing and laptop imaging, Sandra deploys digital

lifestyle technologies in order to fashion a mobile, multiplex, connected life with others. In doing so, she has found a new kind of freedom: one that allows her to experience and explore other kinds of communication, information and knowledge. This has been of key importance to her professional success, to locating herself in new and ever-expanding advertising networks, and to the flourishing of her own business. But, for Sandra, the beauty of the digital lifestyle is that she gets to bring her family (or, more accurately, her emotional connection with her family) along on these virtual networks. For though she might be physically separated from family life for much of the week, the digital lifestyle of mobile communications means she is also never far away from them – or so it seems to Sandra. Consider Sandra’s weekly journey from Leeds to London, usually undertaken by

car. A journey of approximately four hours (much longer than the train), this might well be ‘empty time’, but Sandra (like countless motorists) prizes this time as a period for both strategic business thinking and communicating with others. Viewing her car as somewhat akin to a mobile office, Sandra commences her journey by checking her voice-activated email and subsequently undertakes various business calls using her Bluetooth, hands-free mobile.3Along the way, she also dictates letters to her secretary on her Apple iPhone, using its ‘voice memos’ function. These recorded letters she often emails to her secretary while taking a coffee break on the long journey, especially if the communications are a priority and need to be sent out later in the day. When she is not working while driving to London, Sandra’s car metamorphoses into a personal entertainment system. She listens to music while driving, lost in private reverie to songs that she has selected and arranged on ‘track lists’ on her iPod.4