Urry, J. (2002) ‘Mobility and Proximity’, Sociology 36(2): 255-274.
In this article I discuss just why travel takes place. Why does travel occur, especially with the development of new communications technologies? I unpack how corporeal proximity in diverse modes appears to make travel necessary and desirable. I examine how aspects of conversational practice and of `meetings’ make travel obligatory for sustaining `physical proximity’. I go on to consider the roles that travel plays in social networks, using Putnam’s recent analysis of social capital. The implications of different kinds of travel for the distribution of such social capital are spelled out. I examine what kinds of corporeal travel are necessary and appropriate for a rich and densely networked social life across various social groups. And in the light of these analyses of proximity and social capital, virtual travel will not in a simple sense substitute for corporeal travel, since intermittent co-presence appears obligatory for many forms of social life. However, virtual travel does seem to produce a strange and uncanny life on the screen that is near and far, present and absent, and it may be that this will change the very nature of what is experienced as `co-presence’. I conclude by showing how issues of social inclusion and exclusion cannot be examined without identifying the complex, overlapping and contradictory mobilities necessarily involved in the patterning of an embodied social life.