Mobilab Aims

The Digital Laboratory for Mobility Research (MobiLab) aims at addressing the need to manage large quantities of data connected with mobilities and to provide digital support to qualitative research. The lab is also interested in reflecting upon the challenging epistemological issues that digital research in the humanities involves.

The lab, equipped with state-of-the-art technology and staffed by digital humanities experts, will develop new methodologies, research tools, empirical digital projects and innovative teaching and dissemination. The aim is to use IT in the humanities not only as a mere tool, but to advance the understanding of mobility phenomena and the concept of mobility itself within the humanities. In particular, the MobiLab is active in the areas of:

  • Research support. The MobiLab is in charge of hardware and software resources to be used by the DiSSGeA staff and visiting scholars to support their research activities. The MobiLab staff provides assistance and consulting at every stage of the research process, from its inception to the dissemination of the results.
  • Innovative teaching. Students and PhD candidates at DiSSGeA are guided through specific training on digital methodologies and have free access to a great variety of digital tools available at MobiLab.
  • Digital Open Science. The laboratory organises lessons, laboratories and workshops for students and for the general public in order to raise awareness about mobility phenomena and their study merging diachronic and spatial perspectives.

  • Data storing and management. The laboratory is responsible for a relational database that will be common to all the different researchers and nodes that make up the project and will make the results available to researchers and students.
  • Spatial visualisation. Thanks to a newly refurbished GIS room and the renowned DiSSGeA expertise in cartographic knowledge, the MobiLab is the site for both developing and discussing creative ways to conduct research and visualise their results in the humanities.
  • Networking and international relations. The lab and its staff contribute to setting up an international network of exchange of good practices and knowledge around digital humanities, with a specific focus on their impact in mobility research.

Mobilab Staff

Lucio Biasiori

Mushroom hunter, therefore historian. Trying to understand what ran through the people’s head, especially in the early modern world.

Chiara Rabbiosi

Walker. Commuter. Tourist. Made for being a scholar concerned with the mobility turn in the SSHs. Research expertise in human geography, tourism studies, qualitative and creative methodologies.

Federico Mazzini

Cultural – modern – digital – historian. Working on the 20th century history of technical cultures, techno-scientific popularization and digital media. And all the theory that comes with it.

Francesco Lubian

Scholar in Late Latin literature, interested in the newest ways to interrogate old texts

Marco Orlandi

(Mobi)Lab technician. From Cultural Heritage to Digital Heritage through Historical Gis, web-database for geo-historical and mobility research and many other Digital Humanities tools.

Theories & Methods

Theories & Methods

(current convenors: LAURA LO PRESTI and Elena Canadelli)

The conception of the Mobility and the Humanities Department Project started from a preliminary survey of the Department’s scientific production in its multiple disciplinary variations.

Indeed, the project was essentially aimed not only at strengthening the dialogue between such different disciplinary perspectives, but also at concretely defining a transversal theme that could validly constitute a basis for stimulating an interdisciplinary dialogue.

The theme of mobility—or rather, mobilities—provided a potential common platform that allowed for the inclusion of increasingly more specific Department lines of research dedicated to circumscribed areas, namely the mobility of people/individuals/bodies; the mobility of objects/things/goods; the mobility of ideas/concepts/knowledge; the mobility of texts/books/representations.

Beyond these thematic framings, which are specifically considered by dedicated Department research groups (nodes), the project also includes a node working through a more transversal perspective on theories and methods for the mobility humanities.

Hannam, Sheller and Urry (2006) noted that the new mobilities paradigm was conceived as ‘an approach that offers both theoretical and methodological purchase on a wide range of urgent contemporary issues, as well as new perspectives on certain historical questions’. Recently, there has been a more explicit call for further movements across disciplinary boundaries and, in particular, for further connections to the historical, and more generally, humanistic domains. While we were designing our Project of Excellence in August 2017, Peter Merriman and Lynne Pearce published a special issue in the journal, Mobilities, establishing the subfield of mobility and the humanities.

With a distinctive reference to the connections between past and present times (from antiquity to contemporaneity), our project aims to contribute original work to this emerging area of interest, which is increasingly pursued by other researchers and research centres worldwide.

The Theories and Methods node aims to promote reflection on theoretical and methodological issues, with a particular reference to the most innovative component of the project, namely the combination of mobility studies and the humanities.

Hence, the need for investigating the implications of this innovative formulation also from an epistemological point of view, and through a discussion of methodological possibilities which have been already implemented or are to be experimented.

Therefore, the purpose of the Theories and Methods node is to feed a broad theoretical vision on the topic (e.g., varied conceptions of mobility; development of innovative interpretations; terminological experimentations), on the one hand, and to think in a comparative and transversal way about quantitative, qualitative and creative methodologies on the other.

Maintaining the ability to constantly reimagine the relations between mobility and the humanities, the node also intends to provide theoretical and application tools that are productive for more specific research areas, such as the mobility of people, objects, ideas and texts.



(current convenors: Lucio Biasiori and Luca Fezzi)

This node aims at reflecting on the processes related to the mobility of ideas through time and space. It also aims at understanding the forms and reasons for the affirmation and circulation of some ideas in a context in which they are not the only ones available, as well as how ideas change in time and space.

In this context, ideas should be thought jointly with the practices they convey by widening the spectrum of the analysis, thus implying that this node should also research the conditions for their affirmation, reproduction and appropriation in geographical and historical contexts, even very distant. Thus, we wonder whether it is possible to discuss the mobility of ideas without binding ourselves to a diffusionist scheme, referring to variation also in epidemiological terms and, at the same time, whether it is productive to distinguish mobility from circulation.

In order to proceed in this direction, the working group set a common target allowing us to progress in a diachronic and interdisciplinary way: the common topic is tyranny, the despotic power or the dictatorship in the spatial-temporal articulations assumed by the use of such concepts.

Therefore, the aim is to keep on questioning, within the framework of the mobility turn, the synchronic and diachronic circulation of a complex device (e.g., crystallisation of ideologies, practices and political, social and economic dynamics). This theme has been defined on the basis that it is recurring in our studies, from the Ancient World (Fezzi, Raviola), to the Middle Ages (Canzian, Gallo), to the Modern Age (Piccinini, Savio, Valseriati, Viggiano), to the Contemporary (Albanese, Basso, Fava, Millan) and the Present (Quatrida). It also seems promising to explore and measure the theoretical import of the paradigm in relation to traditional categories of the social sciences used to thematise the phenomenon (circulation of ideas, diffusion, influence of the effects, transformation) and to activate debate and reflections about how to rethink the comparison action within the working group (and beyond).



(current convenors: Margherita Losacco and Gianmarco De Angelis)

In the framework of the Mobility and Humanities project, books (manuscripts and printed), texts, documents and the relative writers’ supports (rolls, codices, epigraphs) hold an ambiguous status. On the one hand, they are objects exposed to all the concrete events of production, sale, loan, circulation, damage, conservation and loss. On the other hand, they are intangible objects. They convey texts and, therefore, ideas. The transmission of a book constitutes the circulation of words, texts, notions, names, ideas. This is a factor driving aggregation and identity, but also disaggregation and dissent. In such dual nature of material and immaterial objects, books and texts are always connected to people, who transcribe, translate, collate, annotate and comment upon texts. People also search/look for, buy, sell, give/lend and borrow, collect and bind books and manuscripts. Books travel with people, in a wide spatial and chronological dimension; they are gathered in public and private libraries that change locations, order, goals and destinations. As properly intended, in mobility—of places and contexts of use, of conservation spaces, of material supports, of writing/handwriting/spelling, of languages, of forms and functions—lies the distinctive feature of written communication tools.

This research group works on the spatial, chronological and conceptual mobility of books and texts, intertwining different disciplines (philology, palaeography, codicology, medieval diplomatics, history of religions, philosophy) and following multiple thematic perspectives, within which tradition (in its broadest sense) and identity assume a decisive significance. In the first year, the programme will focus on two main themes

1. Mobility of texts

The programme will provide seminars and workshops on texts as a factor of tradition and transformation (handwritten traditions, translations, interpretations), in particular on: Aristotelian tradition; medical tradition; school books and literature; Bible and biblical translation and related exegesis in the Greek, Latin, Syriac and Arabic cultural contexts; tradition of Lombard/Longobard documents and early medieval documentary koiné (transformations, updating, forms contamination between North and South of the Alps).

2. Mobility of books

The programme will include seminars and workshops on books as “mobile” containers/boxes of texts (Greek, Latin, Arabic and Venetian manuscripts in Europe), and books programmatically conceived as vectors for long distances or, in any case, variously assembled and widely circulating information, even within narrower contexts, with function of identity aggregation (Franciscan miscellanies, commemorative texts, monastic fraternities lists).



(current convenors: Isabelle Chabot and Salvatore Gaspa)

This node is placed within the Materialities and Mobilities research line as it is identified in the new mobilities paradigm context. It aims at exploring the different forms of objects circulating in space and time and the way in which mobility transforms their materiality, value (economic, symbolic) and functions. In addition to mobility traditionally understood as circulation of goods, the mobility of material objects widens its investigative horizon/perspective to the different declinations of the traveling object, the role of material contacts, the technical instruments, structures and physical contingencies, and the symbolic dimension, as variously involved in the concept of plural mobility.

In this perspective, a preliminary survey highlighted the following topics to be investigated:

  • The value of things and its transformations induced by mobility; the creation of value (economic and symbolic)
  • The impact of mobility, both spatial and inter-generational, on the materiality of objects, from an economic, political and artistic point of view, in a global view of material culture
  • The processes leading to the development of collections, which arise from mobility and circulation of things
  • A methodological reflection on big-data, digital humanities and visual representation

Seminars with a theoretical approach will allow questioning of the conferment of value upon objects, regardless of their original materiality (common use objects or small human remains). Alternative kinds of materiality, such as those regarding reliquaries, images and inscriptions, as well as their circulation, will be investigated. The reflection on material culture from a global perspective will investigate themes related to collections, history of collections and cultural heritage preservation through seminars on museum objects interpreted from a mobility perspective (as well as from an interdisciplinary perspective involving geography, history and history of science) and on the history of ‘political’ objects, especially those traveling through diplomatic channels. The methodological aspects will be discussed also with the contribution of maritime historians, in particular starting from a quantitative analysis of shipwrecks.



(current convenors: Marco Bertilorenzi, Chiara Rabbiosi and Margherita Cisani)

The so-called new mobilities paradigm does not constitute a change such that concepts of place, territory, landscape and borders are considered outdated and no longer suitable for studying times and spaces or providing interpretative keys to texts, representations or discourses. The mobility turn does not introduce radically new themes, since the social sciences and the humanities have always dealt with movements and especially with those of individuals and peoples. The main feature of this new paradigm is instead the development of a holistic and interdisciplinary reflection on what mobility is, as well as on a comparative, multiscalar and transcalar approach. Scales and research areas that used to be disconnected are now stimulated to meet and confront under the mobilities studies umbrella and to reconsider their own concepts, models and objects of study with a renewed focus on the role of mobility.

The attention on people on the move is a central aspect of the research inspired by the mobility turn. Scales and subjects of the studies dealing with people’s mobility are innumerable: single movements of bodies—living, dead or even parts of bodies; dances and rhythms of daily movements characterising contemporaneity or past ages; movements inside our homes, in schools and offices, within neighbourhoods and along the streets, in gated communities as well as in refugee camps; movements within metropolis, by road or rail, between countryside and city, for different purposes (tourism, trade, military campaigns or religious pilgrimages); migrations and the movement of peoples through political or physical borders, between states or continents.

This node aims to explore whether and how this renewed attention to people’s mobility and movements, over a temporal and chronological period of longue durée and with diachronic and comparative approaches, can fruitfully influence the already consolidated studies characterising the Department of Historical and Geographic Sciences and the Ancient World. This approach also aims at stimulating new research projects willing to consider and problematise what happens during movement, between the places from which or to which people move, in its material, symbolic and experiential aspects, as well as exploring how different movements and movements of people can redefine places themselves, in a dynamic and diachronic perspective.

In order to contribute to a mobile approach in the humanities, this node plans to deepen different themes, such as:

  • migrations of peoples and individuals over time: reasons, conditions, experiences, representations and narrations; permanent, temporary or seasonal migrations
  • other forms of mobility: small-scale daily movements, commuters, conditions and mobility possibilities for the elderly or young people, group mobilities, tourism, military travels, mobility of students and scientists, mobility in the afterlife, the movements of priests and friars, merchants, entrepreneurs, artisans and other professionals, pilgrims, patrons and people carrying works of art
  • the immobility of people: the political and social control of mobility on people of different gender, origin, condition; frictions, obstacles and barriers to travel