Mediating mothering: geographies of embodiment, emotion and affect  — ASN Events

Mediating mothering: geographies of embodiment, emotion and affect  (16583)

Robyn Longhurst 1
  1. University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand

Currently maternal relationships, not just in families who live apart but also in families who live together, are being mediated via a range of digital communication technologies. This research traces a line between two literatures which have to some degree ignored each other: geographies of media and communication, and geographies of emotion and affect. The aim is to examine how different digital communication technologies, both individually and combined in various ways, are being used by women as part their mothering practices to prompt different emotions and affects. The work is informed by feminist theories on emotion, affect and ‘the body’, and based on semi-structured interviews with 35 mothers who live in Hamilton, New Zealand. Participants were asked questions such as are there particular things you prefer to communicate to your child(ren) about through a particular digital communication technology rather than face to face? It is argued that whether technologies are voice-based (e.g. voice calls), text-based (e.g. text messaging), multi-media (e.g. social networking), synchronous (e.g. Skyping, instant messaging) and so on makes a difference to the interactions between mothers and their children. For example, texting can take some of the emotional import out of interactions. Skype on the other hand, conveys something of the materiality of bodies, and emotions and affects can resonance more deeply, more viscerally. This is not to suggest that digital communication technologies have inherent capacities that necessarily determine different outcomes but they do play at least some role in prompting different emotions and affects. Finally, the paper ends with a note about other research possibilities that extend beyond maternal bodies, for example, the potential emotions and affects prompted by different communication technologies for colleagues at work or for lovers who are physically parted.