Thesis Info

Thesis Title
Personal Media and Wireless Cities: Towards an Urban Spatial Analysis
Molly Hankwitz, PhD.
2nd Author
3rd Author
Doctor of Philosophy
Number of Pages
Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia
Thesis Supervisor
Dr. Terry Flew (QUT)
Supervisor e-mail
t.flew AT
Other Supervisor(s)
Dr. Stephen Wilson, SFSU, San Francisco CA
Language(s) of Thesis
Department / Discipline
Media and communications
Languages Familiar to Author
English, some German
URL where full thesis can be found
wirelessness, personal media, mobile, urban, spatial, mobility, gender, networked
Abstract: 200-500 words
Wirelessness' is a complex phenomenon of the early 21st century. For the past decade at least, a small, hand-held instrument known as the cell or mobile phone/device has appeared across the globe in unprecedented quantities. It has grown to become widely utilized by all persons from old to young, including children, women, men, and of all incomes and nations. It is particularly visible in urban areas where penetration and density are dramatically greater than rural areas and where population density favors our observance of commodity culture. With this comes a booming telecommunications market, and the state of being wireless, or 'wirelessness', as we are increasingly capable of taking networks along, communicating from 'anywhere', and customizing our personal navigation. This thesis places 'wirelessness' into an historical context wherein the personalization of media tools and networked communications is studied as a social phenomenon as it enables and conditions urban community. Chief in the investigation has been an assertion that the reinscription of gender, through the advertising of this media and social norms in our thinking about technology and its mythos, is contributing to mobile divides and recursive mobile identities for females. Several studies are thus utilized to examine the positioning of women to telephones and the internet, for example, but, also as an underpinning of cities as places where technology is quickly popularized and gains uses to parallel other interests. Reading of data, tracking of information, security culture, and surveillance are some examples. The research is exploratory, in the sense of providing an urban spatial analysis of a social phenomenon. It is undertaken with feminist, techno, industrial and theoretical literatures and it examines as a whole, where mobile space-- the mobile office, personal media mobility, and networked mobility--intersect, merge, or manifest. Pioneering public art and hacktivist projects, for example, such as Proboscis' Urban Tapestries' which developed public authoring through texting and MMS or the Transborder Tool project, creating navigational tools out of cheap cell phones for crossing into and out of the US-Mexican border desert, display in their critique the degree to which these new technological instruments can be designed for "alternative" social import. Through numerous additional examples, a discussion of networked cities as predecessors to the ‘wireless city’ is developed in terms of how cities have been formed and at how urban design, planning, and techno art utilizes wireless, GPS mapping, and personal navigation in new conceptions of urban space. From the glance at gender to discourse on public computing and wireless development, the technological movement towards microelectronics in everyday use and the transformation of personal space is contrasted with corporate industrial culture's presentation of mobile culture and critiqued as a basis of social change and the advancement of urbanism.