Using Skype to mother: bodies, emotions, visuality, and screens

This research examines how a group of mothers in Hamilton, Aotearoa New Zealand are developing and maintaining emotional and familial links with their children of a variety of ages via video calls using Skype. More specifically it seeks to deepen understanding of how seeing one’s child or children as part of the communication affects mothers’ feelings towards their children. The research is informed by Sara Ahmed’s work on ‘queer phenomenology’ and the ‘cultural politics of emotions’, which enabled a critical engagement on mothers’ and children’s embodied and emotional relationships via screens that convey ‘real-time’ images. Interviews with thirty-five mothers, twenty-four of whom use Skype to contact their children or maintain contact with their own mothers, revealed that the dwelling places of bodies are no longer just rooms in homes where mothers, and children’s flesh and emotions rub up against each other on a daily basis but screens across which voices and, even more importantly, images are shared. More than half the mothers who were interviewed reported that using Skype with real-time video to see their children reduced feelings of distance. They also reported that ‘seeing’ their child or children enables them to assess their children’s well-being more accurately. In this way the computer screen, as object, by portraying moving visual images, is ‘reorientating’ mothers’ and children’s bodies offering a seemingly closer physical and emotional proximity than in the past.
Journal Article
Type of thesis
Longhurst, R. (2013). Using Skype to mother: bodies, emotions, visuality, and screens. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 31(4), 664-679.
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