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New approaches in media and communication geography: Quantitative methods for analyzing geographical mobility

Final Report Summary - QUANTMEDCOMMGEO (New approaches in media and communication geography: Quantitative methods for analyzing geographical mobility)

This project “New approaches in media and communication geography: Quantitative methods for analyzing geographical mobility” (QuantMedCommGeo) concentrated on one of the crucial issues related to cultural globalisation – growing geographical mobility, both in the form of temporary movements within and outside of national territories, as well as in the more constant form of migration. This project focused on next subtopics analyzing different aspects of spatial mobility: 1. Geographical mobility and ICT, 2. Communication geography, 3. Media geography, and 4. Methodology of media and communication geography.

1. The first sub-topic, Geographical mobility and ICT, focused on analyzing general tendencies and practices in mobility and patterns of daily activity spaces in a transition society. Within this sub- following research questions were formulated: (1) What are the structural vs. cultural features of spatial mobility patterns? (2) How do various generational groups express their personal temporalities and spatialities through the patterns of mobility? Mainly the mobile positioning data collected in Estonia in 2014 was used as the main source.
The results of the study indicate that mobility and activity space declines linearly with age, with older generations being less active both within and outside the national territory. The analysis also indicates a high degree of heterogeneity within age groups regarding spatial activities. This study reveals “delayed mobility” patterns among the older generation and a new “immobility culture” among the younger generation regarding cross-border activities that take place in the transitional society of Estonia. Besides, comparing the mobile positioning method with survey method in another study of daily spatial mobility patterns, has shown the high reliability and applicability of both methods in understanding human mobility and its implementation in socio-spatial inequality research.
The deliverables of this sub-topic are 2 draft articles delivered for publication consideration in peer-reviewed journals (see deliverables numbers 1-2).

2. The second sub-topic, Communication geography, focused on analysing personal mobility patterns as a communicative indicator for studying social changes. Within this subtopic the following research questions were aimed to answer: (1) What are the personal mobility patterns of individuals who have fallen behind social changes (e.g. immobile groups)? (2) How do the strategies to cope with the present vary across highly mobile groups? For answering these research questions, the survey data “Me, the Media and the World’, collected in Estonia in 2002, 2005, 2011, 2014, were used as the main source.
The results indicate that the accessibility of various countries has been increased for Estonian inhabitants. In the perceived space the clear shift from the east to the west have been occurred. Besides various individual and institutional resources like knowledge of foreign languages, various alternative resources are emerging, like media, in shaping the spatial contacts and mobility. Emigration has turned out to be an essential strategy for adjusting with the societal changes. Instead of economic and cultural reasons for emigration, like the higher emigration intentions expressed by Russian-speakers, age and network turned out to be essential explaining factors. Besides, main theoretical cornerstones for empirically studying the European social transformations from the prism of spatial mobility are formulated.
The deliverables of this sub-topic are 3 articles published and 1 book co-edited by the principal investigator of this project (see deliverables numbers 3-6).

3. The third sub-topic, Media geography, studied the role of media in shaping mobility attitudes and the spatial differences across Europe regarding this relationship. Following research questions were aimed to be answered: (1) How are personal mobilities formed by various individuals having different accessibility to media resources? (2) What are the spatial patterns of mobility mediations, in the context where the generational-specific sense of media is dominant? For answering these research questions two surveys were used as the main data sources here: European Social Survey (ESS) round 7th data collected in 2014, and survey ‘Me, the Media and the World’ collected in Estonia in 2014.
We studied what factors explain majority members’ anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim prejudice. Our results indicate that (a) a larger Muslim population size, (b) more liberal immigrant integration policies and (c) greater state support of religion are all associated with lower levels of majority members’ negative attitudes towards Muslim immigration. Such attitudes prove to be unrelated to (d) cross-national differences in the frequency of negative immigration-related news reports.
We also studied the role of smartphones in forming the new mobile forms of existence, in general, and changing the perceptions of time and space in particular. The study indicated, that the perceptions of smartphones are related to generational belonging, and personal time and time use capability. The youngest generations are most cognizant of both positive and negative aspects of smartphoning, and benefiting emotionally and cognitively more from this new media device depends on individuals’ capability of multitasking and using their spatio-temporal capital efficiently.
The deliverables of this sub-topic are 3 articles written and submitted for publication consideration in peer-reviewed journals (see deliverables 7-9).

4. Within the final sub-topic, methodology of media and communication geography, my broader aim was to find a disciplinary bridge between media & communication studies and geography, through the quantitative methodological perspective and analysing the phenomena of spatial mobility. I aimed to find answers to the next research questions: (1) What are the methodological intersections between media & communication studies and geography? (2) What is the potentiality of implementing quantitative research methods in the field of media & communication studies and interpretative quantitative approach in spatial analysis?
For answering these research questions, in the empirical articles within sub-topics 1-3 the necessary research methods were adjusted and implemented, like using the interpretative approach and related methods in the study of spatial practices (e.g. working out spatial indexes for studying daily spatial movements with mobile phone data), using spatial analysis methods for analyzing mobility attitudes (e.g. methods for visualizing geographical data, using multilevel modeling method for analyzing the individual-and country-level variation in immigration attitudes), etc. Besides this empirical work, a thorough work with literature was done within this sub-topic.
The deliverable of this sub-topic is a theoretical article draft focusing on the methodological challenges and solutions for studying complex issues of spatial mobility (see deliverable number 10).

The research conducted within this project is relevant for policy makers as the main target groups, both on the levels of EU, national as well as the local governments. The results of the first sub-topic, where the generational differences in daily mobility patterns are analysed, enables to understand the socio-economic impacts of spatial segregation among generations, being essential for the policies on the national and EU levels. The results of the second sub-topic, focused on analysing the changes in spatial mobilities as indicator for social transformations, has essential political impact on the Estonian national level, since mapping the main factors for ensuring social cohesion in a multi-ethnic society and in the context of high level of emigration. The results of the third sub-topic that focused on analysing the role of the media in shaping immigration attitudes, helps to contribute to a better understanding and explaining how negative attitudes towards immigrant minorities may come about, being essential topic in the context of current high immigration in western European countries.
For more detailed information see the project website (https://sisu.ut.ee/quantmedcommgeo).