The social life of wireless urban spaces: Internet use, social networks, and the public realm

Keith N. Hampton, Oren Livio, Lauren Sessions Goulet

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Internet access in public parks, plazas, markets, and streets has been made possible through the proliferation of broadband wireless Internet in the form of municipal and community wi-fi and advanced mobile phone networks. In urban public spaces, the mobile phone is frequently lamented as an unpleasant distraction for strangers and colocated companions The resulting interaction space resembles other temporary private or parochial “bubbles” that protrude into the public realm, such as weddings, birthday parties, and reunions held in public parks. Mobile bubbles of private and parochial interaction within the public realm erase or significantly curtail the potential for interaction between strangers and mobile users. These users who were once a source of social diversity and a potential point of interaction become little more than the microcosm of a spectacle. What differentiates wireless Internet use from traditional mobile phone use is the potential for access to a full range of applications and experiences associated with home- and work-based Internet use.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPublic Space Reader
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages8
ISBN (Electronic)9781351202541
ISBN (Print)9780815385035
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Taylor & Francis.


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