Rendezvous Via Skype? Investigating Virtually Mediated Long-Distance Relationships in Modern Times Using Skype As an Example

Monday, 16 July 2018: 18:30
Oral Presentation
Charlotte NELL, Goethe University Frankfurt a/M, Germany
Taking the communication medium of skype as an example, this presentation investigates the structuring and modelling of long-distance relationships under the conditions of a contradicting, reflexive and liquid modernity (a.o. Bauman, Giddens, Berman). For this, the constituting “virtual space” is sketched due to a sociology of communication and systems theory (Luhmann) , taking into account the social reality-oriented references within the medium in order to analyse the constituting structure within “synthetic situations” (Knorr-Cetina). This includes the dimension of time and space in modeling the virtual, building on Goffmans “situation”.

Understanding Skype as constituted social space (Simmel), certain structural conditions, can be defined that shape the love communication between two actors in a distinct way. In order to investigate the structural characteristics as well as the specific designing requirements of Skype, and the role the medium takes in the stabilization and communication of love, the presentation will draw upon findings from five qualitative interviews. Through a phenomenological approach the medium Skype and the through it negotiated love-experiences by the actors will be reconstructed, demonstrating that the practice of skyping functions as a stabilizing ritual (Turner/Illlouz), which requires and constitutes specific “requirements of elasticity” in order to establish proximity over distance.

Before this background, Illouz theory of increasing commodiciation and rationalization of love relations (especially through the internet) can be (re-)discussed. Thus, this presentation not only contributes to a sociological conceptualization of virtual media, but also a sociology of space, culture, love and social inequeality (including gender).