What if inequalities of access and use of digital technologies also gave rise to inequalities relative to mobility? This is the question raised by Dana Diminescu, Hélène-Marie Juteau, Christian Licoppe and Julien Morel in their study of Saint-Denis jobseekers’ exceptional mobility practices. Over the course of two years, the Mines ParisTech researchers will follow 30 jobseekers, in order to understand if and how the use of mobility apps sets people apart in terms of exceptional mobility practices for job seeking.
Christian Licoppe is a professor of sociology of information and communication technology at Télécom ParisTech. For the past several years, he has been conducting research on the relationship between mobility, communication and sociability in urban areas. He has also developed an ethnographic, workplace studies-type approach, based in particular on the analysis of video data. It is in this framework that he is studying the development of forms of remote participation in the relationship between organizations and their various audiences.
Dana Diminescu is a sociologist, scholar at Telecom ParisTech and currently visiting scholar at UCLA. Her empirical work and writings address mobility and distance communication, integration strategies related to ITC, and new forms of ethnic economy. Famous for her epistemological manifesto dedicated to the “connected migrant”, she developed a set of methodologies to understand the way migrants are using ITC.
Hélène-Marie Juteau is a research officer in sociology at Telecom ParisTech. She is interested in the relation between mobility and ITC. She studied pedestrian representation of space when making use of GPS and is now working on the mobile use of digital technologies of young jobseekers and the way it changes both their relationship to employment and to the city. In this context, she also develops the serious game Joka Jobs in collaboration with Dana Diminescu, Christian Licoppe and Julien Morel.
Ethnologist and sociologist
Julien Morel is a senior lecturer at Télécom Paristech where he teaches analysis of interactions and activities in technologized environments. He is pursuing research on the natural organisation (ethnomethodology, conversation analysis, ethnography) of interactions in situations of co-presence and remote communication (PC/mobile): videocommunication, geolocation apps, instant messaging, games, etc. He is also invested in the development of innovative video recording methods and the improvement of transcription and visualization techniques.
In recent years, the social sciences have conceptualized mobility not only as travel between point A and point B, but as a lived experience capable of transforming the individual. Consequently, mobility encompasses the act of moving itself, the implementing of specific skills necessary for doing so and individuals’ specific resources in this regard.
Extensively considered in the context of “normal” mobility (i.e. daily commuting), the implemention of these skills is less studied in the context of exceptional mobility. This is why the research project Mobility and job hunting: a digital barrier? focuses on the study of exceptional mobility for job seeking (i.e. travel to get to/from internships or job interviews in unfamiliar locations). As this mobility is in some senses a "trial", it provides an ideal field of observation of individuals’ capacity to locate, navigate and conceptualize an unfamiliar location for the first time.
While geotagged mobility apps have greatly improved conditions of travel, the researchers hypothesize that they also give rise to inequalities between people in regards to their ability to use the apps. The researchers will try to show the link between spatial mobility – which may or may not be facilitated by the use of digital technologies – and social mobility, through access to employment. Does inequality of access to and use of digital technologies reinforce mobility inequalities, which are decisive when it comes to accessing a spatially dispersed job market?
To answer this question, researchers from Telecom Paris Tech, in partnership with the association Objectif Emploi (Saint-Denis), will follow 30 job-seeking men and women aged 18 to 30, some of whom accustomed to the use of smartphones, others who are not. Over the course of this research, they will analyze how people use their skills and resources (particularly smartphones and mobility apps) to make public spaces and transport modes their own and to relate with others during their travels. To do this, they will use ethnographic survey techniques combining semi-structured interviews with commentated trips (filmed) to reflect the mobility experiences of these individuals as accurately as possible.
Based on these observations, what types of development, designs and/or app uses might help reduce the gap in skills needed to use digital technologies? How to ensure that the potential afforded by digital technologies benefits the greatest number of people, and not only those who have already mastered it?