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Mobile Communications, Social Networks, and Urban Travel: Hypertext as a New Metaphor for Conceptualizing Spatial Interaction


  • *This article is based on the Fleming Lecture in Transportation Geography I delivered at the 102th Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers, Chicago, 7–11 March 2006. I thank Jean-Paul Rodrigue for making arrangements for the lecture, and the Department of Geography at the University of Washington for providing support to me for this lecture. I am also grateful to the audience, to Bill Black (who served as the discussant of the session), and to three anonymous reviewers for their very helpful comments. The views expressed in this article remain my responsibility.


The widespread use of mobile communications is leading to new practices in family life and social life, and these changes have significant implications for the study of urban travel. Because of the adoption of new modes of space-time coordination, changing time use and increasing mobility, changing use of existing urban nodes, the blurring of boundaries between home and work, the importance of social networks and social capital, and the shift to person-to-person connectivity, the spatial structure and processes of interaction among individuals have become much more complicated in this age of mobile communications. Static spatial frameworks based on fixed points (e.g., home or workplace) and distances among them are no longer adequate for understanding urban travel. The study of urban travel now needs new conceptualizations and new methodologies.