Cars and Contemporary Communication| Automobility, Autonomy, and Communication

Nathanael Bassett, Steve Jones


This article explores the tension between the freedom a self-driving car offers and privacy considerations. Studies of the automobile’s impact on the environment, public health, noise, planning, and development, as well as its appearance in, and inspiration of, popular culture are easy to find. In the field of communication, research on cars as a medium or as a site of communication often falls into the domain of mobilities, as defined by John Urry (2007). Mobilities consider not just the travel of people and objects through space, but also the imaginative, virtual, and communicative travel of messages between people and things. Julia Hildebrand (2017) notes the relationship of mobilities to media ecology and argues that we can understand the exploration of converging media and mobility entities as transportation–information–communication technologies. Furthermore, imaginaries of the autonomous car promote greater freedom for drivers while raising concerns with the necessity of increased connectivity. The automobile is a case for concern in communication studies, particularly around issues of control, freedom, and privacy.


mobilities, privacy, autonomous vehicles, affordances

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