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Interstate Interstitials: Bumper Stickers and Spaces of Social Encounter on and beyond American Superhighways

Sat, August 12, 8:30 to 10:10am, Palais des congrès de Montréal, Floor: Level 5, 511A


In this paper, I attempt to re-open the superhighway for consideration as a generative space of social possibility. I do this through an examination of encounters that extend from the moment one car passes another, and the resultant possibility for banal acts of reading and writing on the road. I employ Dant’s concept of the driver-car assemblage (2004) and draw upon empirical evidence to elaborate three interpretive modes of the driver-car. In bringing these arguments together I demonstrate how forms of writing and reading on the road challenge the view of the US interstate highway system as a non-place of negligible social interaction (Augé 2008). Additionally, using two case studies, I attempt to demonstrate how residual interaction spaces, instantiated through these encounters, may extend beyond the immediacy and proximity of two cars passing on the highway, thereby expanding the social potential of such encounters. The encounter between writer-car and reader-car on the road may only last a second or two and rarely more than a few minutes. Unlike many other social encounters, the participants do not, and will not ever have recourse to verify the various inter-subjective meaning(s) they produce. These encounters and the spaces they produce may be, in various measures imaginative, technologically mediated, asymmetrical and asynchronous. They are, nonetheless, places of social activity, however different they may be from classical conceptions of social interaction and space.