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Geomedia· on location-based media, the changing status of collective
image production and the emergence of social navigation systems
lrancesco lapenta
Online publication date· 11 March zc11
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Visual Studies, Vol. 26, No. 1, March 2011
Geomedia: on location-based media, the changing status
of collective image production and the emergence of
social navigation systems
FRANCESCO LAPENTA
The increased computational power of portable devices
such as smart phones and laptops, and their integration
with widely available global positioning systems, are
opening the way for a new range of location-based
applications that integrate and coordinate users’ mediated
interactions and data exchanges with other users’ live
geographical positions. This user-generated information,
shared on navigable live virtual maps such as Google
Latitude, Foursquare and Gowalla, illustrates the
increasing use of location-based applications and the Web
to create, assemble and disseminate personal information
(in the form of images, sounds and text) to enable shared
experiences of individually and socially relevant spaces and
events. The new virtual maps, in which this information is
visually blurred and merged, represent the emergence of a
new paradigm in the visualisation of space. The article
elaborates on the fundamental social and perceptual shifts
that are being operated today by these new technologies
and software applications that the author refers to as
geomedia. Geomedia are not new media per se, but
platforms that merge existing electronic media +the
Internet +location-based technologies (or locative
media) +AR (Augmented Reality) technologies in a new
mode of digital composite imaging, data association and
socially maintained data exchange and communication. In
the article the author examines the early adoption of such
new geolocation-based technologies and develops a
theoretical analysis of the ontological and epistemological
shifts that characterise their contemporary evolution,
patterns of production and exchange, and the unique form
of geolocational digital re-aggregation of which digital
images are now a part.
I am here to show you, the reader, my home. I
could take many pictures to portray all the
rooms and several others to depict the many
objects they contain. Or I could take a video
and while filming comment on the many rooms
and their objects. This first photograph portrays
the studio desk and the bookshelf behind it.
The second shows the books and my computer
Francesco Lapenta is Associate Professor in Visual Culture and New Media in the Department of Communication, Business and Information Technologies at the
Roskilde University, Denmark. He is a Visiting Scholar in the Department of Sociology at New York University. He serves on the executive board of the International
Visual Sociology Association. Lapenta’s most recent work includes the special issue ‘Autonomy and Creative Labour’ (Routledge, 2010), edited with Fabian Holt for
the Journal of Cultural Research and the article ‘Theoretical and Methodological Approaches to Photo-elicitation’ in the Handbook of Visual Methods (Sage, 2010).
He is currently researching for a book on location-based technologies and software applications.
on the same desk. In the video I can pan from a
wide angle shot of my studio down to the desk,
my books and my computer. There is another
alternative, I can take all the pictures I have
taken of my house and merge them together in
Quicktime VR (1995) or better in Photosynth
(2008), and tag each object with comments and
personal descriptions (Places iPhoto 2009,
Google Earth). Instead of a series of pictures or
a fixed sequence of a video showing my house, I
now have a navigable virtual photograph of my
house. I can pan right, top, down, left in one
room (with Quicktime VR), or zoom in on the
table, focus on the computer on my desk, pan to
the left and move into the living room (with
Photosynth). While moving around you can
read or hear me describe these rooms and the
objects they contain. If not satisfied you can go
through the front door and move down the
street (Google Street View 2007) or fly high to
watch the whole neighbourhood from above
(Google Earth 2006, Google Maps 2005, Live
Search Maps Microsoft 2005). I could also come
and visit your home, office, favourite cafe,
movie theatre, restaurant or your actual
location (Foursquare, Gowalla 2009). Using the
latest location based applications and software
(Foursquare.com 2009, Bliin.com 2008), I could
point to your location, your city, your street,
your home, office or favourite shop or
restaurant, and see the images and comments
that you posted about them. (Lapenta 2008)
Reminiscent of a technology that Ridley Scott created for
Rick Deckard to use in the fictional Los Angeles of 2019
in his film Blade Runner (1982), reality can now exceed
fantasy in allowing us to seamlessly move from one
image into another in a virtual continuum of
increasingly global spatial representations of the world.
This article elaborates on the fundamental social and
perceptual shifts that are being operated today by new
software applications that merge existing images, sound
and text, creating representations connected to
ISSN1472-586Xprinted/ISSN1472-5878 online/11/010014-11 ©2011 International Visual Sociology Association
DOI: 10.1080/1472586X.2011.548485
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Geomedia 15
users’ live geographical position on a virtual map. These
technologies, that I call geomedia, are not new media per
se, but platforms that merge existing technologies
(electronic media +the Internet +location-based and
Augmented Reality technologies) in a new mode of
digital composite imaging, data association and socially
maintained data exchange and communication.
In this article I examine the early adoption of such new
geolocation-based technologies and develop a theoretical
analysis of the ontological and epistemological shifts that
characterise their contemporary evolution, their patterns
of production and exchange, and the unique form of
geolocational digital re-aggregation of which images are
now part. I interpret the geomedia-rendered map as a
new social space and organising principle. I suggest that
this virtual map is the site of complex and ramified
ontological and epistemological shifts that can be
initially observed and investigated from at least three
interconnected and inseparable perspectives –
technological, social and economic – that have the image
as their centre of gravity.
The first perspective focuses on the technological, to
develop a theoretical understanding of the fusion of
digital imaging technologies with fast-developing
geolocational technologies. I interpret instances of digital
synthesised imaging (photographic mapping) as an
example of the changing ontological function of space in
the photographic representations of reality. I argue that
these technologies reinforce an epistemology that
interprets geomedia-based photographic mapping not
just as a mere new form of digitally synthesised
representation of space, but as a visualisation of the
social spaces, identities and social relations and
interactions of the users that contribute to its
composition.
I next develop this argument to describe how the
geomedia-based reorganisation of photographic
mapping can be interpreted as paradigmatic of a
response to the need to organise the complexity of
information flows and mediated interactions. I argue
that the virtual map can be interpreted as a new
socio-regulatory system adopted by the individual to
reduce the complexity of global information flows.
Therefore, theoretically I propose that the photographic
articulation of space of the virtual map can be
understood as a new organisational system – a system
based on a regulated virtual representation of space on
which geomedia users rely to organise their mediated
communications and social interactions in more
manageable and contextually relevant information
exchanges.
I finally conclude the article with a critical interpretation
of these very organisational functions. I argue that while
these technological evolutions can be interpreted as a
form of social adaptation to the complexities of new
technologically enhanced social environments, they can
also more problematically be interpreted as the
embodiment of a new socio-economic order that
exploits geomedia users’ increased social production and
exchange of information. In this context, images, sounds
and texts are interpreted as dominant commodities
whose social patterns of production and exchange can be
analysed within known socio-economic discourses. In
this interpretation the geomedia-based virtual map (and
the digitally synthesised images that compose it) are
interpreted as a new organisational principle pushed by
the same old market forces that led to the progressive
global uniformisation of time (and labour) and to the
organisation of the production and exchange of material
commodities. Geomedia, I suggest, are to space what the
watch is to time. They regulate social behaviour and
coordinate mediated interactions, and can be interpreted
as the new tools used to cadence the production and
exchange of these dominant immaterial commodities,
images and information.
LIFE ON A SCREEN: A CHANGING
EPISTEMOLOGY
In Simulacra and Simulation, Baudrillard uses Jorge Luis
Borges’ well-known allegory of the ‘Map and the Empire’
to describe the progressive mutation of the relation of
the object with its representation. In ‘On Exactitude in
Science’, Borges (1946) narrates an empire in which
cartography had become a striving and exacting art. Such
were the cartographers’ mapping skills and steadfast
work that the map of the empire grew to be increasingly
detailed. The map eventually became so detailed that it
overlaid the entire empire and was eventually mistaken
for the empire itself. Baudrillard used this allegory to
describe the social and perceptual shifts operated by the
media system, and the increasingly vanishing relation of
their representations with the ‘real’ object of reference.
By means of a critique of the epistemological values of
the photographic image (the most detailed of all
mapping techniques), Baudrillard declared the demise of
the empire of the ‘real’ and the rise of the world of
simulacra and simulations, a world generated ‘by models
of a real without origin or reality’ (Baudrillard
1994, 1).
The relationship between the phenomenological real and
its many possible representations has always been
complex, as have the mediated effects of such
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16 F. Lapenta
representations. In the seventh book of The Republic
(360 BC), Plato describes a humanity trapped in a cave,
kept away from the outside world, but connected to it by
the illusionary shadows and sounds that the world
projected on the wall of the cave. Critical theorists such
as Baudrillard and Debord have, directly or indirectly,
used Plato’s contention to extend their critique to
media-distorted representations of the world and
famously argued that viewers of contemporary media,
very much like the inhabitants of the cave, are captives to
a world of illusory representations. They are trapped in a
world of images in which they see, not reality, but only a
projection on a screen, a ‘spectacle’ (Debord 1983
[1967]), a ‘simulation’ (Baudrillard 1994), a
‘pseudo-reality’ (Black 2002) that they have come to
identify and be/live as the real world. From a certain
point of view it is not difficult to see the predictive power
of Plato, Baudrillard and Debord’s predicaments. Simply
think about the ever-increasing number of hours we
spend sitting in our modern caves watching a screen. An
increasing wealth of representations of the world is
brought to us on our screens, and we now communicate,
learn, feel and socially exist in/through
them.
The empire and its map, the simulacrum, and
Baudrillard’s socially informed account of the shifts in
symbolic and perceptual value of mediated
representations remain powerful rhetorical concepts.
Specifically, the metaphor of the map, if
re-contextualised, can enable new understandings of the
fundamental social and perceptual shifts favoured by
these new mobile technologies, the new forms of
composite imaging, the geolocation-based
representations, and the new social patterns of image
production and exchange.
A different interpretation of the metaphor of the map
offers the opportunity to elaborate on the contemporary
systematisation of the representations of the world
operated by new geomedia-based technologies and
applications. As for the map of the empire that the
cartographers continued to grow with increasing levels
of detail, the virtual map of the world is acquiring a scale
and scope that further exceeds their ambition. The new
virtual map deserves attention because of its specific
ontological nature and its multiple social evolutions. Its
digital hybrid symbolic system seamlessly combines
images, texts and sounds. A puzzle of countless
photographic images, merged together by
geomedia-based applications, constitutes the new visual
map on which signs, texts and sounds are pinned down
and juxtaposed to systematise and connote the worlds
they represent. This new virtual map seems to challenge
Baudrillard’s descriptions of the image and media
representations as ultimately disconnected from the
objects they are supposed to represent.
The use of photographic images in geomedia-based
applications, for example, seems to reconfigure the
ontological erosion of indexicality described in
Baudrillard’s four phases of the simulacrum,
1
and lead
the image (and its representations) into a fifth phase –
the fifth order of the simulacrum, the order of the
geolocational reunion if you wish, in which the ‘world of
autonomous images’ (Debord 1983 [1967]) and reality
are finally reconciled (functionally, technologically,
socially). In the fifth geomedia-based rendition of the
simulacrum the image is finally recognised for what it
has always been: a representation of interconnected
physical and social relations, and a system of
informational relations (spatial and temporal) among
people and the objects of their worlds.
Debord in 1967 was already well aware of the
significance of these two processes of ‘accumulation’ and
‘exchange’ of representations of the world. Debord
described modernity as an immense accumulation of
‘spectacles’ (Debord 1983 [1967], 2), a collection of
images of every aspect of life that fused in a common
stream and created ‘a pseudo-world apart’. He also
characterised the society of the ‘spectacle’ not as a society
simply ‘collecting images’, but as a system of ‘social
relations among people, mediated by images’ (Debord
1983 [1967], 2). If interpreted from this perspective, the
virtual map (the collection of images, texts and sounds
juxtaposed and connected to one another by geomedia
technologies) can clearly be seen as more than a mere
collection of representations of the world. It can be
interpreted as a reunion of the once-disconnected ‘world
of autonomous images’ (Debord 1983 [1967], 2) with
the real worlds of their producers. Thus the virtual map
can be analysed as a visible articulation of the mediations
and social relations that it comprises.
Therefore, in what follows I re-think the allegory of the
map, and Baudrillard’s and Debord’s interpretations, to
advance a new interpretation of the ‘digital’ map of the
empire. In doing so, I take the photographic image as a
starting point. I outline a new geolocational ontology of
the image as hybrid and composite, to analyse the virtual
map’s social evolution and renewed social functions.
REDEFINING THE MAP: FROM REPRESENTATION,
TO SIMULATION, TO GEOLOCATION
It is my argument that new geomedia imaging
technologies are responsible for a new epistemological
shift that is redefining the perceptual and symbolic
relation between mediated representations and the real
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Geomedia 17
objects of reference (Lapenta 2009). This transformation
is profoundly changing the social function of such
mediated representations. In this new phase, a rhetorical
concept, that of the map of the empire, is transformed by
a set of geolocational software applications, and by their
users, into an experiential phenomenon, the ‘virtual
map’ (Google Earth and all the other similar maps) – the
‘utopian’ map that represents all ‘heterotopian’ (Foucault
2002) maps that more and more ubiquitously exist on
our computer screens and mobiles. The new virtual map
deserves in-depth scrutiny because of its distinctive
hybrid technological nature (digital +geolocational),
and because of the complex social dynamics and
developing social functions that it engenders. The digital
symbolic system of the virtual map allows the
combination of elements, images, signs, texts and sounds
which never before could be combined so seamlessly
together. Photographic images, signs, texts and sounds
produced by geomedia users, and geolocationally
merged with each other, thus constitute the virtual map.
The virtual map, however, is also intrinsically a social
phenomenon. Its origin and basic function essentially lie
in the facilitation and organisation of geomedia users’
collective production and exchange of images, signs,
texts and sounds. The more complex feat of the virtual
map is its reconfiguration of the epistemological, social
and functional relations of the map’s projected world of
mediated representations with the real world of its
creators.
To put things into a socio-historical perspective,
Baudrillard’s four epistemological phases of the image
seem to closely describe the culturally dominant
interpretations and functions of the evolving
technologies of the image, from the invention of
photography and the shared social perception of the
indissoluble link between the photographic image and
the objects it represents (Talbot 1844–1846; Sontag
1977), to the evolution of the communicative uses of
images in films and television in which images construct
narrative pseudo-realities (Russian formalism and
semiotics), to the postmodern questioning of reality
itself and the digital revolution in which the indissoluble
relation between the object and its representation seems
to be progressively eroding (Wombell 1991) until it
digitally disappears (CGI). New geomedia imaging
technologies seem to reconfigure the ontological erosion
of indexicality described by these four phases of the
simulacrum, and lead the image (and its ultimate
embodiment, the virtual map) into a fifth
epistemological phase – the fifth order of the
simulacrum in which the once separated world of
autonomous images and reality are technologically,
functionally, perceptually and socially
reconciled.
PHOTOGRAPHIC MAPPING: A CHANGING
ONTOLOGY AND A NEW FORM OF SOCIAL
INTERACTION
In the fifth geomedia-based rendition of the image (the
latest in the history of the developing technologies of the
image), photography is undergoing yet another
technological evolution that is transforming what was a
mechanical separation into what is now a digital
reunion. The initially mechanically divided images of the
world are digitally reunited in the virtual map,
geolocationally pinned down by geomedia technologies,
juxtaposed and merged as the jigsaw pieces of an
intricate puzzle. In the history of photography there are
many examples of images that superimpose and blend
multiple photographs for communicative or artistic
purposes. However, this specific form of digital
superimposition and blending (photosynthesis) is
creating a genre, photographic mapping, that poses a
challenge to photography’s conventional ontological
nature. This new photographic genre, associated with
specific photographic forms and practices, is
transforming photography’s once inseparable and
unique combination of time and space into a complex
and fragmented variable. It is important to focus on the
theoretical implications of this transformation and
engage in a description of the perceptual,
epistemological and social functions that image’s time
and space distanciation and reunion engender.
The desire to stop time is either a fundamental feature or
one of the historically strongest biases in the history of
photography. Since its invention, photography has been
described or wilfully constructed as a key witness to a
passing moment or event, and has enduringly been
conceptualised as what Innis (1964) referred to as a
‘time-biased’ medium.
2
This fundamental feature of
photography is being profoundly transformed through
digital photographic mapping, where one photograph
(and I wonder if this is still the proper name to indicate
what this image is) is able to seamlessly merge many
photographs of contiguous places taken at different
times. This synthesised image, as the single photographs
that compose it, is still a visible token of the past; but as a
combination of contiguous photographs, it is also a
combination of past, present and future, as the
photographs that it merges together represent the
present, past or future to one another. This new digital
photographic map transforms a time–space unicum (the
photograph taken at a specific time, in a specific place)
3
into a fractured time within a space continuum (a
composed photographic image that merges different
times and connects contiguous spaces).
Once the two key dimensions of the time and space of a
photographic image are operationally separated they give
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18 F. Lapenta
space to new possible forms of communicative
re-articulation. In the case of live audio-video
communications, for example, space is suspended in
favour of linear time; the image is transformed in a
complementary token of exchange between different
spaces to sustain the conditions of a ‘live’ (continuous
time) communication. Conversely, in the virtual map,
images taken at different times are combined together in
a contiguous linear space, juxtaposed, superimposed and
merged by means of spatial (and not temporal) relation.
In this system, space, not time, is perceived as the
existing continuous relation. Time is suspended to
sustain the natural conditions of objects’ co-presence
and spatial interrelations. The contiguous space of the
image is always implied in each photograph, but not
directly acknowledged (represented). Any photograph is
a photograph of something, but also a non-photograph
of what is excluded (out of frame). If space is the key
variable, all the pictures of the world can be seen as
interconnected by relations of relative distance from and
proximity to one another.
A technology that articulates these spatial interrelations
(Google Earth, Google Maps, or Photosynth, for
example) generates a system that mimics a fundamental
condition of existence of real objects, their spatial
interrelation. This system also creates a paradox for the
photographs it correlates and merges. On the one hand,
it reinforces the ‘realist bias’ of photography (Burgin
1982), the historical bias that has reinforced our
perception of a photograph as proof of the existence of
the objects it represents. These spatial relations create yet
another link between the represented (the object) and its
representation (its image), knotting them together at a
certain location by means of proximity to other images
(and objects). On the other hand, this system also
redefines the ontological principle that sustains this
‘realist bias’, transforming a physical relation, that
between the image and the object of its representation,
into a cognitive relation; from what we know to be true
of the object, its condition of spatial relation to other
objects, to what we think to be true of an image on the
map, the conditions of spatial relation of an image to the
other images on the virtual map.
Therefore the virtual map, a ‘space-biased’ medium
(Innis 1964), plays an active role in a process of
perceptual transformation. This involves substituting a
homogeneous physical organising principle, the
photograph’s indexicality in which time and space are
linked together, with a heterogeneous and hybrid
organising principle, geolocality, in which time is
fragmented, and where technologically determined space
relations remain as the surviving organising principle.
Geomedia reinforce this perceptual transformation,
substituting the physical link between the object and its
image (indexicality) with geolocality, the technologically
mediated link between the image and the physical space
of the object and the user.
It is important to understand the complex nature of this
specific technological reunion, but it is perhaps more
important to understand its changing epistemological
interpretation, and the specific social functions that this
reunion serves.
In 1991 Jameson was elaborating on the human limits of
cognitive mapping. Moving from a Lynchian,
Althusserian and Lacanian-inspired definition, Jameson
described ‘cognitive mapping’ as the coordination of
existential data (the empirical position of the subject)
with an abstract conception of an unrepresentable
socio-geographic totality (Jameson 1991, Chapter I).
4
If
framed within these two perspectives the virtual map
then can be interpreted as a utopian projection, or a
heterotopian realisation, of this once-unrepresentable
socio-geographic totality. More than a mere collection of
representations of the world, the virtual map can be
interpreted as a new (utopian) social space – a visible
articulation of the individual and social mediations of
the once-disconnected world of autonomous images
(Debord 1983 [1967]) with the real (Sontag 1977;
Baudrillard 1994), the cognitive (Jameson 1991) and the
social worlds of their producers.
The virtual map is built by the cooperation of two
entities. On the one hand, we have the
(soon-to-be-interconnected) software platforms that are
offered for its growth, the virtual surfaces offered for the
renditions of the map by applications such as Google
Earth, Google Maps, Photosynth, QuickTime VR, iPhoto
2009 that seamlessly combine images, texts and sounds.
And, on the other hand, we have the new generation of
cartographers, comprising all the individual media users
that contribute with pieces of representation of
themselves and the world around them to the enormous
puzzle of the virtual map. The new cartographers of the
world produce images (but also texts and sounds) that
are geo-positioned on the virtual map by geomedia
technologies that geotag these images and juxtapose
them to one another in a growing, interlinked and
ever-changing representation of the world. Both the map
and the pieces composing it are in continuous growth
and evolution as the virtual map adapts and follows the
lives of its cartographers.
The geomedia-based virtual map is ultimately a
socio-projective tool that transforms our personal and
collective cognitive mapping of the world. It transforms
a subject’s abstract relationship with an unrepresentable
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Geomedia 19
cognitive projection of the totality of the ‘real conditions
of existence’ (Jameson 1991) into a subject’s relationship
with the actual technological representation of the
socio-geographic totality of our ‘mediated conditions of
existence’ (composed by all the images, signs and texts
socially produced and shared by media users and
synthesised in the virtual map). I argue that this shift in
the organisation of the representations of the world can
be interpreted as a paradigmatic shift that transforms the
new synthesised image of the world (the virtual map)
into a new socio-organisational principle that has
far-reaching consequences for the social relations that
these new forms of representations of the self and the
world engender.
THE CONVERGENCE OF THE GEOSPHERE, THE
INFOSPHERE AND THE BODY: VISUALISING
IDENTITY AND IMAGINED COMMUNITY
While the effects of this geomedia-rendered reunion are
still evolving and complex, they can be contextualised as
part of a general development in information and
communication technologies based on the fast-paced
adoption of new geolocational technologies and their
rapidly changing social functions and significations.
Synthetically we can say that information technology
communications have moved through two phases
normally referred to (somewhat problematically) as
WEB 1.0 and WEB 2.0 (DiNucci 1999; O’Reilly 2005). If
WEB 1.0 can be seen as the initial move towards the
simple transfer of content (image, text, sound) to a new
digital medium and delivery system (digital information,
the computer and the Internet), WEB 2.0 has seen the
reorganisation of such distribution of content on the
basis of existing and developing social networks. In this
new ecosystem, social identity and social interactions
have been transformed into data, and data have become
part and parcel of online identity and mediated social
interactions. For example, age, location, interests,
photographs and videos, comments and replies, links,
friends lists and groups have all become, according to
Sundén, information used in social networking sites
(SNS) and online social platforms to ‘type oneself into
being’ (Sundén 2003, cited in Boyd and Ellison 2007,
211). These data serve as exchanged ‘identity markers’
(West and Turner 2008, 389) in SNS, and are used by
users to perform identity and to develop a sense of
‘imagined community’ (Anderson 1991). What makes
FIGURE 1. Staying connected on Foursquare. Photo: Foursquare.
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20 F. Lapenta
WEB 2.0 platforms different from pre-existing forms of
mediated-communication is, according to Boyd and
Ellison, that they ‘enable users to articulate and make
visible’ their social identity and ‘social networks’ (Boyd
2007; Boyd and Ellison 2007). The process of production
and consumption of images, sounds and texts in SNS can
then be interpreted as part of a process of identity
elaboration, impression management and
self-presentation (Donath and Boyd 2004, 71–82). It is
how people maintain relationships and continuously
perform and construct and make visible their online
social identities.
WEB 2.0 platforms, however, can also be observed from
a different point of view, and be described as an
innovative form of coordination and social articulation
of the exchange of information: a form of adaptation to
the selection of relevant information among the
ever-increasing amount of data available and their
ever-changing social function and signification. If we can
argue that search engines like Altavista, Yahoo and
Google really created the first generation of the Internet
as we know it (by actually allowing us to navigate the
immense archive of collected information and data
available on the Internet), we can interpret WEB 2.0 as
an adaptation to the increasing and exponential growth
of such data that required more sophisticated and
individually tailored systems to navigate and organise
available information according to other significant
paradigms than a text-based search string. Text (together
with content-based searches) is and will remain one of
the main signifying systems used to scout the Internet in
search of relevant information. Yet it is evident that other
tools are necessary to render and organise the
ever-increasing amount of non-textual information
available and their highly differentiated signifying
systems (signs, photographs, images and sounds). The
increasing use and popularity of WEB 2.0 applications
and the evolution of geomedia represent part of this
evolution, and differentiate WEB 2.0 applications and
geomedia-based communications and exchanges from
the first-generation types of computer-mediated
systematisation of information.
Observed from these interrelated perspectives, it is easy
to understand how it was only a question of time (and
technological development) before the body, and its
location, would become a system of reference used to
search and organise the collective information flows that
converge and constitute the virtual map in a fashion
significant for the individual. Geomedia and associated
photographic applications, such as Photosynth and
Google Earth, seem to represent a first response to this
FIGURE 2. Augmented reality and space.
need to contextually organise information – or, perhaps
more significantly, the first response to technologically
engage with a multi-sensorial organisation of the
increasingly multimodal and hybridised nature of the
information space (see also Sarah Pink’s article in this
volume).
The geomedia-based virtual map can be theorised as a
mediating space, a projective tool, in which two entities
and identities converge: the geosphere – the sphere of the
body and the object, the physical environments in which
media users communicate and live – and the ‘infosphere’
(Toffler 1980, 172; Garson 2006, 12; Floridi 2007, 59–64)
– the bits of information, the photographic, iconic or
symbolic representations of these physical environments
that media users produce and share.
Geomedia transform the geolocation of their users, their
geosphere, into data, and connect these data to existing
information that describe users’ online activities and
identities (and their infosphere). By means of software
applications (Foursquare,
5
Gowalla, Bliin.com, Google
Latitude, Photosynth, QuickTime VR, Places iPhoto
2009, Layar, Ekin.net), geomedia platforms connect and
merge on a live navigable virtual map (Google Earth,
Google Maps, Live Maps), the user’s physical location
and the ever-increasing wealth of information that they
produce as part of their online social interactions.
Geomedia become tools used by subjects to navigate
their social worlds, to organise their local social relations
and to maintain their networked ‘latent ties’
(Haythornthwaite 2005; Boyd and Ellison 2007). Within
this process, the photographic virtual map serves as the
tool used to project, to make visible, this social
performance, this personal mediated identity and
‘imagined’ community (a utopian representation of the
socio-geographic totality that Jameson described as
unrepresentable). Geomedia help users to navigate the
geosphere, but also provide tools to organise users’
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Geomedia 21
participation in the creation and visualisation of the
imagined community of the infosphere.
As such, geomedia can also be interpreted as new
regulatory systems that articulate and organise these new
hybrid forms of social interactions, communication and
exchange among individuals. The geomedia-based map
used to visualise, articulate and guide these social
interactions can thus be understood as a social navigation
system adopted by the individual to reduce the
complexity of global information systems to individually
manageable and socially relevant information exchanges.
Along with traditional search engines (the regulatory
systems of WEB 1.0) and social networking sites (the
social organisational tools of WEB 2.0), geomedia
provide one more tool to link and navigate the geosphere
and the infosphere for data relevant to the subject and
his or her relevant others in a live and continuous
exchange of information. Once a disconnected collection
of images, data and texts, the infosphere is now readily
synthesised on the virtual map organised in a network of
social interactions and exchanges that are finally
connected by geomedia technologies to what cannot be
disconnected any more – one’s individual physical reality
and one’s own digital identity.
GEOMEDIA AND THE NEW ECONOMY OF SPACE:
THE COMMODIFICATION OF COLLECTIVE IMAGE
PRODUCTION
To fully and critically understand the social impact of the
geomedia-based reorganisation of virtual space, I
compare it historically with the global reorganisation of
time that took place at the turn of the twentieth century.
This comparison also allows us to understand the new
social position acquired by the image and its relative
function in such redefinition of space.
The history of modernity has been characterised by a
growing interconnectedness of different nations and
cultures and an ever-increasing volume of global
exchange of services, commodities and communications.
The progressive evolution of these national and
international economic exchanges created a host of
organisational, economic and legal problems that were
eventually resolved with a much more precise definition
of the territorial national space, and with the nations’
progressive adoption of ‘Universal Standard Time’ (Kern
1983). The creation and adoption of Universal Standard
Time was politically motivated by a specific economic
and social agenda and designed to organise this
increasing global movement and exchange of people and
commodities.
In a way, this social uniformisation of time per se was
nothing new. Durkheim, one of the first authors to
elaborate on the social construction of time,
acknowledged that all societies required a socially shared
definition of time to create a framework for the ‘rhythm
of social life’ (Durkheim 2001 [1912]).
6
Late modernity’s
shared definition of time was, however, characterised by
a historically unprecedented level of precision, diffusion
and social pervasiveness. The precise social scheduling of
time that was initially required for the coordination of
transport of people and commodities, and the
coordination of international markets, soon became a
tool for the organisation of labour,
7
interpersonal
communications and public services. The precise social
scheduling of time quickly trickled down into the
organisation of the most mundane and personal events
progressively dominating and regulating our
lives.
It is with this antecedent in mind that I suggest that this
‘old’ framework, the familiar social dynamics and core
logic of modern capital’s expansion, could invite a
different interpretation of the mediated re-elaboration of
time and space operated by geomedia technologies and
the social functions of the images geolocationally
distributed and organised on the virtual map.
If we situate the current development of geomedia-based
technologies in terms of their emergence in relation to
this modern capitalist system, then this raises new
questions of how social dynamics, forms of commodity
exchange and the creation of a technologically enhanced
immaterial space can be understood. As the above
analyses have shown, the apparent promotion of
flexibility and the autonomy-enhancing qualities of these
new communication technologies also come in constant
tension with an opposite function that sees them as new
organisational and regulatory systems. From this
perspective, geomedia can not only be interpreted as the
evolution and response to the matured need for new
organisational criteria to coordinate and link mediated
interactions, but also as the attempt of new actors and
the same economic and political forces that regulate
physical time and space to organise and regulate the
global placeless flow of information into locally
controlled and physically contextualised information
systems. In this framework, geomedia and the virtual
map (the utopian space in which these new forms of
social interaction and exchange take place) can be
conceived as instruments enabling the capitalisation of
the production (Bell 1976, 127, 348) and exchange
(Castells 2000) of the immaterial commodities
that dominate these new immaterial social
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22 F. Lapenta
environments – the images, texts and sounds regularly
and collectively produced and exchanged by media users.
Observed from this intentionally critical perspective, the
similarities between the two historically momentous
redefinitions of time and space are striking. Geomedia
are to space (material and immaterial) what the watch is
to time. They regulate social behaviour and interpersonal
communications, coordinate social interactions and
organise the production and exchange of the founding
immaterial commodities (Negri and Hardt 2001)
constitutive of these immaterial spaces (Drucker 1969;
Porat 1977; Lyotard 1984). Information within these
systems is not only linked back to their local referents
(the physical space and the body of the user), but users
themselves (and their surrounding space) are
transformed into information – a commodified image –
which is once again embedded in a controlled as well as a
socially and economically structured system regulated
this time not by the watch, but by new geomedia
technologies and the virtual map.
Similarly to other strategies affecting other forms of
material and immaterial labour (Ursell 2000; Ross 2003;
Stahl 2005; Banks 2007, 2010; Holt and Lapenta 2010),
the geomedia liberatory function can be interpreted as
yet another form of ‘camouflage of its real intentions and
effects’, ‘to de-differentiate work and non-work
environments’ and to attenuate the boundaries between
the real and virtual self and ‘the work and non-work self ’
(Banks 2010, 256). As such, geomedia can be interpreted
as the predictable expansion of global market economies
from the systematic organisation and capitalisation of
time (sanctioned by Universal Standard Time) to the
systematic informatisation and capitalisation of an
individual’s immaterial space. The virtual map, and the
images that compose it, can be interpreted as immaterial
commodities produced by the immaterial labour
(Lazzarato 1997; Terranova 2003) of geomedia users,
organised by systems and actors that control and
capitalise upon the emerging immaterial spaces in which
images are produced and exchanged.
The history of the image is one of ever-changing
technological and cultural evolutions; each evolution
characteristic of historically evolving media epochs and
paradigmatic of specific cultural, social and economic
interpretations. All the arguments presented so far are
acknowledgements of this ever-changing technological
nature as well as of the complex and evolving social
functions of the image; they represent an initial
challenge, and not an exhaustive discussion, of the new
ontological, epistemological, social, cultural and
economic questions that come with the investigation of
the latest technological evolutions of the image, which
was first a form of mechanical reproduction, then an
artistic tool for descriptive or narrative pseudo-realities –
a commodified artefact, and a dominant form of
communication in a world of art galleries, journals,
billboards, family albums, movie theatres and
televisions. It later became a new form of digital
representation, initially questioned by postmodern
critical thinking, and now reincarnated as a foundation
of an evolving world of virtual maps and ‘augmented
realities’ (Uricchio, in this volume). It is a new,
meaningful form in an ever-expanding parallel world of
image-based representations, virtual spaces, imagined
identities and evolving virtual communities. And once
again, and more than ever, it is both form of expression
and commodified object of exchange in the newly
created virtual environments.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
The author would like to thank Gry Hasselbalch, Sarah
Pink, Fabian Holt, Eric Margolis, Don Slater and Jakob
Arnoldi for countless comments and meaningful
conversations about the earlier and later drafts of the
article.
NOTES
[1] ‘In the first case, the image is a good appearance: the
representation is of the order of sacrament. In the
second, it is an evil appearance: of the order of malefice.
In the third, it plays at being an appearance: it is
of the order of sorcery. In the fourth, it is no longer
in the order of appearance at all, but of simulation’
(Baudrillard 1994, 6).
[2] According to Innis, time-biased media favour the
preservation of knowledge over long periods of time,
whereas space-biased media favour the dissemination of
knowledge over great distances. The bias of
communication directly influences the way media exert
control and, consequently, the way society is organised.
[3] William Henry Fox Talbot describing photography:
‘Groups of figures take no longer time to obtain than
single figures would require, since the Camera depicts
them all at once, however numerous they may be’ (Talbot
1844–1846).
[4] Jameson was at the time acknowledging that despite the
evolution in geographic mapping techniques, it was clear
that ‘there can be no true maps’. He also recognised that
‘at the same time it also becomes clear that there can be
scientific progress, or better still, a dialectical advance, in
the various historical moments of map-making’
(Jameson 1991, 52).
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Geomedia 23
[5] For descriptive videos, visit:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=b64_16K2e08 or http://
www.vimeo.com/843168 or http://www.youtube.com/
watch?v=4ZLLqdizxTs&feature=fvst.
[6] In The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life (2001
[1912]), Durkheim challenged Kant’s ‘a priori’ definition
of ‘inner time’ with his account of the complex ‘social
nature of time’. Time, Durkheim says, is always a social
institution and cannot be reduced to a simple
interpretation of the time of nature or the individual.
Sundials, candle clocks, hourglasses, bells, water clocks,
mechanical clocks, electronic clocks, atomic clocks and
the omnipresent wristwatch are just a few among the
many devices that measured history and the passing of
time. They all shared a common function – that of
regulating and organising social interaction.
[7] In 1893, an article in the Scientific American journal
characterised this transition by describing one of the
Universal Standard Time core applications and social
values – the measurement of labour. The article
‘Recording Time of Employees’ described a machine that
stamped an employee’s card with the time s/he entered
and left the work place, precisely counting the minutes
and hours that s/he would be later paid for (finally
accomplishing Benjamin Franklin’s 1748 axiom ‘Time is
money’).
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145
No. 145 ÷ November 2012
Sarah Pink and Larissa Hjorth
Abstract
In the context of the increased use of high-qualitv camera phones, along with the
growth in distribution services via social and locative media, we are witnessing new
forms of visualitv emerging. These new tvpes of co-present visualitv overlav and
interweave online and ofßine cartographies in different wavs maps that require
a revision of ethnographv. In this article, we frame this phenomenon as a shift
from networked visualitv to emplaced visualitv and socialitv. That is, we reßect
upon previous models deploved in mobile communication and depart from them to
consider how a phenomenological approach rooted in visual and multisensorial
ethnographv might help provide insight into this dvnamic media cartographv
and the socialities associated with it.
With the rise oI high-quality camera phones, accompanied by the growth in in-phone editing
applications and distribution services via social and locative media, we are witnessing the
appearance oI new types oI co-present visuality and sociality. These emergent ways in
which online and oIfine cartographies are becoming overlaid and entangled as well as
the experiential environments associated with them demand alternative ways oI theorising
visuality and socialities oI co-presence. This requires that we go beyond earlier studies
oI camera phones (e.g. by Ito and Okabe, 2003, 2005, 2006), which Iocused on the three
Ss` sharing, storing and saving to inIorm the context oI what was predominantly
banal` everyday content (Koskinen, 2007). Moreover, these earlier studies Iorwarded the
idea oI ambient co-presence` (Ito and Okabe, 2006) in which burgeoning community
platIorms such as Flickr and social media like Facebook, and camera phone practices,
embodied not only networked visuality` but also emergent Iorms oI user creativity (Mork
Petersen, 2009; Burgess, 2008). Departing Irom these ideas, we develop the notion oI
emplaced visuality.
Emplaced visuality means understanding camera phone practices and the socialities
that create and emerge through them in ways corresponding with non-representational
(ThriIt, 2008) or more-than-representational` approaches in geography, which, according
to Hayden Lorimer, encompass:
how liIe takes shape and gains expression in shared experiences, everyday routines,
feeting encounters, embodied movements, precognitive triggers, aIIective intensities,
enduring urges, unexceptional interactions and sensuous dispositions (Lorimer,
2005: 84).
EMPLACED CARTOGRAPHIES:
RECONCEPTUALISING CAMERA PHONE
PRACTICES IN AN AGE OF LOCATIVE
MEDIA
146
Media Ìnternational Australia
Thus we see camera phone photography as part oI the fow oI everyday liIe, an increasingly
habitual way oI being that is sensed and Ielt (emotionally and physically). In doing so,
we join other contemporary ethnographic scholars who go beyond the content oI digital
photography to stress the importance oI a Iocus on practice and the non-representational
(e.g. Gomez Cruz, 2012).
However, because camera phone photography involves the production and sharing oI
images, it also compels us to engage with its status as representation, and to explore the
relationship between the representational and the non-representational. This tension Iorms
part oI our exploration oI how we might begin to theorise the shiIt Irom !"#$%&'"( to
"*+,-."( visuality and sociality, and may be examined through a Iocus on movement. Tim
Cresswell has suggested that we consider three aspects oI mobility: the Iact oI physical
movement getting Irom one place to another; the representations oI movement that
give it shared meaning; and, fnally, the experienced and embodied practice oI movement`
(Cresswell, 2010: 19). These three aspects oI mobility are deeply interwoven and entangled.
In camera phone photography, the experience and representation oI movement cohere, and
below we explore how these dimensions oI mobility might be situated.
To achieve this, we draw on a set oI related theoretical concepts that enable us to
understand the socialities and visualities oI camera phone photography as part oI a constantly
shiIting ecology: place, movement and perception (see also Pink, 2009, 2012). Following
the ideas oI Tim Ingold, we see place as unbounded`, a meshwork` or entanglement oI
lines oI movement, constituted through the intensities through which these lines become
entangled with each other (Ingold, 2008). Thus conceived, place can be constituted oI
any oI the diverse components that might come together to create such intensities. As
human subjects are inevitably emplaced (see also Casey, 1996), we share contemporary
places with, and are situated in relation to, human and non-human organisms, technologies,
soItware, code, energy, the weather, moralities, discourses and more. Place is also imbued
with relations oI power and fnance, corporate and non-corporate entities. As part oI place,
human subjects and other things and processes are constantly moving through. This is how
place, as a Iorever reconstituting constellation oI processes` (Massey, 2005: 141), shiIts
and changes. As Ingold (2008) and Doreen Massey (2005) both stress, movement is part
oI the constituting oI place. Moreover, as Ingold`s work shows us, as we move through
the places oI which we are part, we also continually sense and learn; Ingold argues that,
People do not make sense` oI things by superimposing ready-made sensory
meanings on top` oI lived experience, so as to give symbolic shape to the otherwise
Iormless material oI raw sensation. They do so, rather, by weaving together, in
narrative, strands oI experience born oI practical, perceptual activity. It is out oI
this interweaving that meanings emerge. (2011: 326)
Along similar lines, Barbara Maria StaIIord writes oI learning as incremental and endless,
yielding associations that allow us to wander oII inventively and independently into new
territory` (2011: 58). We conceptualise camera phone photography as part oI this process,
as it is enacted in the fow` oI everyday liIe at the interIace where digital and material
realities come together.
Accounting for the digitaI architectures of the banaI
As we noted above, in the frst series oI camera phone studies, the likes oI Mizuko
Ito and Daisuke Okabe (2003, 2005, 2006) noted the pivotal role played by the three
Ss` sharing, storing and saving in inIorming the context oI what was predominantly
banal`, everyday content (Koskinen, 2007). For Ilpo Koskinen, camera phone images
were branded by their participation in a new type oI banality (2007). While this banality
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No. 145 ÷ November 2012
can be seen as extending the conventions and genres oI earlier photographic tropes
(i.e. Kodak Gye, 2007; Hjorth, 2007; Lee, 2005), they also signifcantly depart (Chesher,
2012). Yet the banality oI the camera phone should not be understood only in terms oI
the visual content oI the images it produces, but also in its very use. It has become an
embedded part oI the ordinary the routine, habitual and oIten-tacit practices in which we
engage as we move through, sense and perceive environments. ThereIore, as camera phones
become more commonplace in the explosion oI smartphones along with new contexts
Ior image distribution, like microblogging and location-based services (LBS) emergent
types oI visual overlays become apparent, and are indeed emerging Irom a contemporary
Iorm oI everydayness in which camera phone photography participates. To comprehend
this Iurther, we need to locate the ambient visuality` oI these images, in relation to
Web 2.0 contexts, in which the geographic is overlaid with the social and emotional.
William Uricchio draws our attention to the algorithmic architecture oI Web 2.0
contexts in a way that, as he points out himselI, is compatible with the emergent and
moving qualities oI images (Uricchio, 2011: 28). Uricchio`s study Iocuses on Photosynth
and augmented reality, yet his argument has wider relevance. He argues that these
applications share a Iundamental realignment oI subjectobject relations thanks to their
algorithmic processing layer`, which resituates human agency and the fxities oI the
world viewed`, and determines !"#$ we see, and even "&! we see it` (2011: 33). This
algorithmic turn` also Iorms part oI the context whereby Francesco Lapenta suggests
imaging technologies are responsible Ior a new epistemological shiIt that is redefning the
perceptual and symbolic relation between mediated representations and the real objects oI
reIerence` (2011: 1617). Lapenta comprehends the digital map through a consideration
oI its changing status as photography, in that:
The initially mechanically divided images oI the world are digitally reunited in the
virtual map, geolocationally pinned down by geomedia technologies, juxtaposed
and merged as the jigsaw pieces oI an intricate puzzle. (Lapenta, 2011: 17)
Yet the virtual map serves as more than a composite image to be surveyed; rather, in the
Web 2.0 context that we consider here, it creates part oI the organising architecture Ior
contemporary and emergent Iorms oI sociality and digital practice. Thus, Ior Lapenta:
. the body, and its location . become a system oI reIerence used to search and
organise the collective inIormation fows that converge and constitute the virtual map
in a Iashion signifcant Ior the individual constituting technological engagements
with a multi-sensorial organisation oI the increasingly multimodal and hybridised
nature oI the inIormation space (2011: 20).
Jason Farman also writes oI the digital map in relation to a social network that
engages users as embodied interactors rather than disembodied voyeurs` (2010: 869). As
these understandings make clear, the digital map and its augmented reality do not exist
purely Ior our visual contemplation. Rather, they make and are part oI environments, imply
movement and are experienced corporeally. These works oIIer us a way to understand
the invisible architectures oI what we reIer to as emplaced visuality`, and camera phone
photography is part oI the way that human subjects, images and socialities become
emplaced in relation to these emergent structures and the corporate interests that drive
them (see Lapenta, 2011; Farman, 2010).
Simultaneous with the emergence oI these algorithmic architectures, the changing
nature oI the images that ordinary camera phone users themselves can make calls on us
to attend to the composition, genre and reIerentiality oI contemporary images, along with
their relationality to written text. While, globally, camera phone genres like selI-portraiture
have blossomed, we are also witnessing the fourishing oI vernacular visualities that refect
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a localised notion oI place, social and identity-making practices (Lee, 2009a; Hjorth,
2007). With LBS like Facebook Places, and LBS games like Foursquare and Jiepang, we
see a Iurther extension oI overlaying locality with the social and personal, whereby the
electronic is superimposed on to the geographic in new ways. This overlaying thus makes
place through engagements with it. Specifcally, by sharing an image and comment about
a place through LBS, users can create diIIerent ways to experience and record journeys
and, in turn, impact upon how place is recorded, experienced and thus remembered (Hjorth
and Gu, 2012). This is especially the case with the overlaying oI ambient images within
moving narratives oI place as aIIorded by LBS.
Moreover, with the burgeoning oI smartphones that enable new Iorms oI distribution
,we also see a plethora oI apps, flters and lenses to help users create unique` and artistic
camera phone images. Although iPhone has been quick to capitalise on this phenomenon
through applications such as Hipstamatic, other smartphones like Android have also
attempted to corner this expansive market. So too, social media like microblogs and
LBS have acknowledged the growing power oI camera phone photography by not only
aIIording easy uploading and sharing oI the vernacular (Burgess, 2008), but also providing
flters and lenses to Iurther enhance the proIessional` and artistic` dimensions oI the
photographic experience (Mork Petersen, 2009).
ThereIore, we are seeing the emergence oI a context where mobile media evokes a
particular kind oI ambient participation that is confgured through and by place in specifc
ways (Hjorth et al., 2012). One way oI conceptualising the various dimensions oI this has
been suggested by Daniel Palmer, Ior whom iPhone photography is distinctive across three
areas (2012). First, it created an experience between touch and the image, what Palmer
calls an embodied visual intimacy` (2012: 88). While touch has long been an important,
but neglected, dimension in the history oI photography . the iPhone, held in the palm oI
the hand, reintroduces a visual intimacy to screen culture that is missing Irom the larger
monitor screen` (Palmer, 2012: 88). Second, the proliIeration oI photo apps Ior the iPhone
has meant that there is a plethora oI ways to take, edit and share photos. No longer do
camera phone images have to look like the poorer cousin to the proIessional camera. Third,
there is the role oI GPS capability with the iPhone, automatically tagging photographs
with their location, allowing images to be browsed and arranged geographically` (Palmer,
2012: 88). In this context, with the convergence oI social, locative and mobile media, the
way in which we conceptualise camera phone visuality and aIIect is changing. So how
do we Irame these new visualities in motion? One way, as we suggest here, is through
the movement Irom network` to emplacement, as outlined above. Indeed, this already
has a certain ft` with the more practical and empirical ways with which scholars such
as Palmer are already conceptualising the diIIerent dimensions oI our engagements with
camera phones.
In the Iollowing sections, we explore how this theoretical Iocus on emplacement might
be applied critically to depart Irom existing notions oI network and embodiment as ways
oI conceptualising camera-phone practices.
Photoshopping: New visuaIities in motion
In studies oI frst-generation camera phone studies in Korea, Hjorth noted tensions
around camera phones` relationship to place and mobility in what she called snapshots
oI almost contact` (2007). The increasingly quick edit and deletion oI images at the time
has created a diIIerent relationship between recording; within this process, Ietishisation oI
realism prevailed. This tension around mediation, refection and engagement is amplifed
in second-generation camera phone studies, with the growth oI locative and social media
that converge various cartographies across spatial, social and electronic terrains. As
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No. 145 ÷ November 2012
previously noted, these cartographies are about mobile intimacy and the ways in which
these practices get mapped across the various and competing intimate publics.
As Goggin (2011: 48) notes, the rise oI the citizen journalist has been epitomised by
the camera phone revolution, to the extent that even some proIessional photojournalists
have opted Ior camera phones instead oI proIessional cameras (Palmer, 2012). As Daniel
Rubinstein and Katrina Sluis (2008) note, the rise oI the camera phone has been part
oI a shiIt Irom print-based to screen-based photography. As they observe, today, the
overwhelming majority oI personal photographs are destined never to appear on paper`
(2008: 13). While digital photography has Iar Irom diminished the importance oI the
analogue indeed, the digital is haunted` by the analogue in its aesthetics, genres and
soItware names the tactility oI the arteIacts is still omnipresent. People touch their screens,
zooming in and out oI the photo. And thanks to the portability oI digital photography via
social and mobile media contexts, millions are now walking around with thousands oI
pictures in their pocket. The old priority oI grabbing the photo albums Irom the burning
house has become a way oI the past. But now, the Iear is about the reappropriation oI
personal images by companies as part oI data aggregation, whereby the relationship
between context and content has become even more distorted.
Conventionally, personal photography could be understood as a genre that, as Patricia
Holland has argued, is a minor discourse, a knowledge without authority, designed to be
!"#$ by a limited number oI individuals` (2004: 158). Holland argues that it is important
Ior us to attend to personal photography precisely because oI this special quality, this
everyday unimportance` (Holland, 2004: 158). Yet locative media invite us to understand
a new dimension oI personal photography. As Rubinstein and Sluis note, this rise oI
photo-sharing sites has created a context vernacular photographers have always lacked:
a broad audience` (Rubinstein and Sluis, 2008: 18). Thus, building on Holland`s point,
we argue that personal photography in the Iorm oI camera phone photography makes it
all the more important to attend to how everyday images are participating in new ways.
Moreover, as we argue in this article, new theoretical and methodological approaches
are required Ior this purpose. The rise oI moblogging has seen a proliIeration oI camera
phone images as oIten these images can evoke much more than words. In China, an
example oI this can be Iound in Weibo, a rich media Chinese version oI Twitter, where
millions oI camera phone images are shared every day. The participatory elements oI
sites like Flickr, with what Burgess has called their vernacular` and situated` creativity,
(2008) have created new Iorms oI what Soren Mork Petersen calls common banalities`
(2008). For Rubinstein and Sluis, the increasing reliance on tagging Ior organisation and
retrieval oI images is an indication oI the importance oI textuality Ior online photographic
procedures . Tagging provides a substantially diIIerent way oI viewing and interacting
with personal photography` (2008: 19). According to Rubinstein and Sluis, these networked
images are transIormed as part oI metadata in which the original context is lost.
Since its introduction in 2007, the iPhone camera has quickly grown Irom one oI the
lesser quality lenses to becoming a key contributor in the global phenomenon oI images
that converge social, locative and mobile media. It has opened up new Iorms oI image
taking, editing and sharing, and in turn created new social and geographic cartographies
Ior images. For Chris Chesher (2012), the iPhone camera represents a new universe oI
reIerence`. He observes that the rise oI smartphones like the iPhone with their attendant
soItware applications like Instagram, Google Goggles and Hipstamatic has created
new ways in which to think about camera phone practices as being between image and
inIormation. As Chesher notes, the iPhone universe oI reIerence` disrupts the genealogy
oI mass amateur photography.
With these new applications, oIten working in collaboration with social and locative
media, camera phone images have been given new contexts. These contexts weave in
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various cartographies and social tapestries simultaneously, and require us to rethink the
relationship between the image and its context (see Pink, 2011). As we noted above, they
stand Ior a shiIt away Irom print media, and a world where (at least some genres oI)
personal photography is produced not Ior a small circle oI Iamily, and stored materially
in an album, but may also be viewed by wider audiences. Rather than images being
viewed as snapshots that seize a moment, instead these emergent visualities are about a
diversity oI moments within particular Iorms oI time and space. These temporal-spatial
visual confgurations are no longer isolated and Irozen, as suggested by a snapshot, but
are part oI a moving set oI cartographies orchestrated by the rise oI locative services as
part oI everyday mobile media.
Geographies of visuaI intimacy: SociaI, Iocative and mobiIe media
visuaIities
Rubinstein and Sluis`s (2008) study oI the networked image operates as a precursor to
the second generation oI camera phone practices, in which GPS creates new levels Ior
recording the original` context with a geographic coordinate. This capacity to geo-locate,
or tag, camera phone images invites us to conceptualise the production and consumption
oI images through movement and place, and to consider the multisensoriality oI images
and the emplacement oI both the encounters through which they were produced as well
as the contexts in which they are viewed (see Pink, 2011). ThereIore, rather than viewing
networked images as part oI a-contextualised metadata, as suggested by Rubinstein and
Sluis, we might argue that locative media provide new ways in which to Irame images
with the continuities oI everyday movement, perceiving and meaning-making` (Pink,
2011: 4). By contrasting photographs as mapped points in a network` with photographs
being outcomes oI, and inspirations within, continuous lines that interweave their way
through an environment that is, in movement and as part oI a confguration oI place`
(Pink, 2011: 45), we can conceive oI images as produced and consumed in movement.
Here, we can think about how images are being transIormed in light oI various turns
algorithmically, emotionally, with mobility and multisensorially.
Indeed, oI all the areas to be impacted and aIIected, camera phones especially with
their haptic (touch) screen interIace and engagement, along with their locative media
possibilities can be seen as indicative oI the need Ior a multisensorial conceptualisation
oI images. Thus, as we suggested above, we can conceptualise camera phone visuality
as emplaced`, not networked`; whereby photographs are not an intersection oI nodes
in networks` but are being both produced within and moving themselves as part oI a
meshwork oI moving things` (Pink, 2011: 8). Such movement encompasses moving
through localities and . moving across a screen, and the multisensoriality that each oI
these implies` (Pink, 2011: 89).
ThereIore, when we think oI camera phone photography as situated within a route
that the photographer and camera take through and as part oI a place, we can begin
to consider how the images produced are outcomes oI that particular experience and
context oI emplacement. Yet this emplacement can be experienced in multiple ways that
cross material and Web 2.0 contexts. For example, in 2011, Sarah Pink and Lisa Servon
developed a study oI the development oI the Slow City movement in Spain (Pink and
Servon, Iorthcoming). As part oI this, Pink took a series oI iPhone photographs oI a tour
oI the town oI Lekeitio in the Basque Country. These photographs, taken as she walked
through the town, were Iollowing the Iramework presented above the outcome oI that
particular social and material confguration through which she encountered the town. They
were also taken at a location between the sun overhead and the ground underIoot. The
images were thereIore the outcomes oI this total environment and, as the anthropological
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flm theorist David MacDougall put it when writing about flm, they were corporeal
images` (2005) standing Ior the situatedness oI the photographer as part oI an environment.
Following this theoretical and analytical prism, we can understand camera phone
photographs not as simply oI something that is in Iront oI the camera, that is then
recorded in an image, the content oI which we might analyse`. Instead, we can see
images as emplaced in relation to what Ingold has called a meshwork` oI lines (2008),
the images themselves being part oI such lines that they are inextricable Irom the person
and camera who took them. In this sense, camera phone images are not simply about
what they represent (although they are also about that); they are additionally about what
is behind, above, below and to either side.
This was, oI course, the case Ior analogue photography too; we have always taken
photographs in and as part oI movement through an environment (see Pink, 2011, where
this argument is extended). Yet the Web 2.0 context enables us to engage with this idea
anew, in practical as well as philosophical ways: the photographs that Pink took on her
tour oI Lekeitio were also geotagged. Being viewed Irom above meant that it was possible
to locate exactly where in a digital map they had been taken, thus digitally relocating the
emplacement oI an image on a map. In a contemporary context, thereIore, it is not simply
that camera phone images are emplaced as the outcomes oI material everyday realities,
but rather that they are inextricable Irom their double emplacement in digital maps.
Because their visuality is doubly emplaced, it creates a bond between the materialities
oI the ground underIoot and the sky overhead, with the digital architectures oI Web 2.0
that also Irame and are Iramed by our movements through the world. When we think oI
images only as representations oI what it was that was seen through the lens, we miss
the point that images are inextricably the outcomes oI the material and the digital, and
also that the algorithmic architectures (see Uricchio, 2011) discussed above soItware
and web platIorms also constitute elements in the way this practice is emplaced.
Although this example Irom Pink`s work demonstrates how camera phone photography
becomes part oI the way we create traces through environments, and how they might
become relevant to an ethnographer considering her research process, it does not tell us
about the social potential oI Web 2.0. Yet, in a Web 2.0 context, camera phone images
are oIten produced with web platIorms in mind, to digitally share (see Gomez Cruz,
2012). This is shown, as discussed elsewhere (Hjorth, Wilken and Gu, 2012; Hjorth and
Gu, 2012), in Shanghai with the uptake oI the LBS mobile game Jiepang, where users
can check in` to online spaces and visit oIfine places and win prizes which is creating
out-oI-game visualities. Since its inception two years ago, Jiepang`s three million users
have generated 50 million check-ins globally, with more than 8.2 million photos uploaded.
For many oI the Generation Y (!" $%&' ()*) respondents, the playing oI the oIfcial
Jiepang game is secondary to social motivation. In this social dimension, the use with
accelerated Irequency oI sharing camera phone pictures has become a key practice.
Accompanied with the rise oI rich-media moblogging such as Sina and Weibo and SNS
Renren (China`s Facebook), the compulsion to photograph, edit and share is growing. In
each oI the diIIerent social media spaces, types oI photographic genres can be Iound.
For example, many use Sina Ior selI-portraiture, Weibo Ior more political or newsworthy
images and Renren as a space Ior refecting inner Ieelings. In the case oI Jiepang, visuality
is more about new types oI place-making. These place-making exercises are like diaries
(Ito and Okabe, 2005) but with the active use oI flters and perspectives, Jiepang is
demonstrating emergent Iorms oI creative practice Ior the !" $%&' ()*+ In doing so, it
invites us to consider how camera phone practices are mapped on to socialities and, in
diary Iormat, the shiIting temporalities oI the visual/socialities that are part oI such places.
In feldwork in six locations in the Asia-Pacifc region, Hjorth and Arnold observed
the signifcance oI camera phone photography in the place-making exercises oI LBS
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(Hjorth and Arnold, 2013). They note that in LBS photo albums, while respondents used
traditional genres like Iood and places, they did so by using flters and lenses to create
highly aesthetic images. Far Irom being banal and boring, the images were oIten unique
and creative. They are not only about the vernacular qualities oI user-created content
(UCC) they signal new types oI emplaced visualities and ambient intimacy (Ito and
Okabe, 2005). As this case study highlights, the soItware is part oI the ways in which
images are emplaced: oIten flters were used that not only made the pictures look analogue
but also gave them a sense oI nostalgia. This IastIorwarding present/presence` (Hjorth,
2007) oI camera phones as images in a movement and event took on a specifc emplaced`
ambivalence with LBS. Through the overlaying oI highly edited camera phone image and
comment, respondents can narrate place in new ways. OIten the visuals are deployed to
present a unique image oI the locality whether through the image genre or, more oIten,
by using flters and lenses to create a mood.
Respondents also spoke oI the importance oI social capital (!"#$%&' in motivating
them to take and share pictures via Jiepang. Jiepang, however, does not attract the
same debate about privacy, partly because oI culturally specifc notions like !"#$%&) For
Cara Wallis, !"#$%& is a widely used yet ambiguous` term that can mean many things:
relationships, personal connections and social networks. As Wallis (2011) observes, in
Beijing the deployment oI social and mobile media is closely bounded by the notion oI
!"#$%&) Rather than being about memory and place, LBS camera phone practices were
about creating new narratives between presence, present and placing) In this sense, we
suggest that camera phone pictures are used to situate users not simply geographically or
digitally, but also socially, through the use oI their visual, locative and digital situatedness
in relation to material, social and online contexts.
Thus they can be used in the making oI social capital in ways that interweave or
entangle the social, material and digital. With the additional dimension oI camera phones
interwoven with locative media, !"#$%& and place can take on more complex cartographies
that place, emplace and embody visualities. Camera phone practices, thereIore, have
the eIIect oI creating digital traces as their users move through material and sensory
environments. In doing so, they enable a Iorm oI emplacement that encompasses both
material, soItware and Web 2.0 contexts, weaving routes simultaneously through both,
and constituting places where the online and oIfine are mutually entangled in a shared
meshwork`. All respondents noted that Jiepang inspired them to take more camera
phone pictures, and thanks to smartphones it was easier to take, edit and share images.
Moreover, respondents who used Jiepang progressively Ielt the need to make visual and
textual comments about places, especially encouraged by the idea that images were part
oI an event, movement or present-ness.
In the case oI LBS games, camera phone images are thereIore contextualised through
both multisensoriality and movement. Not only is the genre and content about narrating
place as part oI journey and process, but also the Irequency and its link to reinIorcing the
social capital suggest a complex mapping oI place, sociality and visuality. This becomes
apparent in case studies oI LBS games and the logic oI emplaced visualities. With LBS
creating new cartographies and connections to place, we see visualities move Irom frst-
generation networked (Ito and Okabe, 2005) to emplaced visualities. Here we see the
interweaving oI the visualities and socialities oI place in new ways, which can likewise
be understood in terms oI their mutual emplacement.
In many oI the locative camera phone images, the social dimension oI the image is
brought to the IoreIront in the overlaying oI geographical or locational knowledge. This
echoes Ilkka Arminen`s (2006) point that, when it comes to SNS, social context rather than
pure geographical location` is generally oI greater user interest. What seems to be most
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No. 145 ÷ November 2012
at stake in LBS games is new knowledge about particular sites and what they are likely
to signiIy within social network settings. LBS, like Jiepang, highlights that the various
dimensions around ideas oI place imagined and lived, geographic and psychological
are contextualised by social capital.
ConcIusion: EmpIaced geospatiaI visuaIities and sociaIities
In LBS games like Foursquare, Jiepang and fags, we are witnessing new types oI emplaced
visuality and geospatial sociality. Through the locative and microblogging experience oI
Jiepang, users are creating new Iorms oI intimate publics whereby the importance oI network
pales into insignifcance in comparison with the interweaving oI socialities, materialities
and the digital in providing ambient contexts. As part oI the smartphone phenomenon, LBS
games are accompanied by an accelerated rate oI camera phone image-taking, editing and
sharing. Far Irom being banal, acontextualised images, these pictures deploy the newest oI
flters and photographic techniques to give a sense oI the poetic and unique, and are then
overlaid electronically on to places. This is not a mere practice oI networked visuality, as
noted by the frst studies into camera phones; rather, we see emplaced and multisensorial
visuality that creates and refects unique Iorms oI geospatial sociality.
The traces made as camera phones are used as mobile media weaving through
material/digital environments with their users thus become Iorms oI visuality that are
emplaced digitally, socially and materially. Their visual content is the outcome oI the
multiple constituents oI place through which they are produced, and in relation to which
the body oI the photographer is emplaced including the weather, social relationships,
localities, soItware and code, technologies and human innovation and creativity. These
are Ielt, aIIective and embodied realities where people`s embodied engagements and ways
oI moving with camera phones should be coming into our Iocus as researchers. Yet they
are also inextricable Irom social environments, where they likewise play a situated and
situating role, as they are engaged in ways that include, but do not reIer exclusively to,
their status as representations, including the making oI the very qualities oI social relations
that characterise diIIerent Iorms oI sociality and, as we have shown, social value and
aIIect. Indeed, a Iocus on the camera phone oIIers an important prism through which to
understand how these relationships between the materialities and digital environments oI
place, embodied experience and sociological phenomena converge.
These contemporary shiIts are producing signifcant changes in the ways personal
photographs have become part oI the everyday world. They are part oI a context where the
everyday, the mundane, becomes both habitually Ielt in the practice oI taking photographs
and, simultaneously, is represented visually on web platIorms in ways that Iorge relationships
between the material, the sensory, the social and the digital. These new confgurations oI
persons, things and Ieelings call Ior revised theoretical and methodological approaches,
which enable us to both comprehend such contemporary realities and to Iocus back on
earlier photographic Iorms and discover their relevance anew. As we have argued in this
article, understanding camera phone photography, its qualities, aIIordances and the everyday
practices in which it is implicated through the theories oI place, movement and perception
enables us to move on analytically. It invites us to depart Irom the notion oI networked
visualities to understand more Iully how contemporary visualities and the socialities that
are implicated through them are emplaced. It also Iorms part oI a wider context in which
we need to Iocus more closely on the everydayness oI media beyond the content, and
look at the experiential realities with which it is interwoven.
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Asia-Pacihc, Routledge, New York.
Hjorth, L. and Gu, K. 2012, The Place oI Emplaced Visualities: A Case Study oI Smartphone Visuality
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Hjorth, L., Wilken, R. and Gu, K. 2012, Ambient Intimacy: A Case Study oI the iPhone, Presence,
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I. Richardson (eds), Studving Mobile Media. Cultural Technologies, Mobile Communication,
and the iPhone, Routledge, London, pp. 4362.
Holland, P. 2004, 'Sweet It is to Scan .¨: Personal Photographs and Popular Photography`, in
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Ingold, T. 2008, Bindings Against Boundaries: Entanglements oI LiIe in an Open World`, Environment
and Planning A, no. 40, pp. 17961810.
Ingold, T. 2011, Reply to David Howes`, Social Anthropologv, vol. 19, no. 3, pp. 32327.
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2005, Intimate Visual Co-Presence`, paper presented at Ubicomp, Takanawa Prince Hotel,
Tokyo, Japan, 1114 September, www.itofsher.com/mito.
2006, Everyday Contexts oI Camera Phone Use: Steps Towards Technosocial Ethnographic
Frameworks`, in J. Höfich and M. Hartmann (eds), Mobile Communication in Evervdav Life.
An Ethnographic Jiew, Frank & Timme, Berlin, pp. 79102.
Koskinen, I. 2007, Managing Banality in Mobile Multimedia`, in R. Pertierra (ed.), The Social
Construction and Usage of Communication Technologies. European and Asian Experiences,
Singapore University Press, Singapore, pp. 4860.
Lapenta, F. 2011, Geomedia: On Location-based Media, the Changing Status oI Collective Image
Production and the Emergence oI Social Navigation Systems`, Jisual Studies, vol. 26, no. 1,
pp. 1424.
Lee, D.-H. 2005, Women`s Creation oI Camera Phone Culture`, Fibreculture, no. 6, www.fbreculture.
org/journal/issue6/issue6¸donghoo¸print.html.
2009a, Re-imaging Urban Space: Mobility, Connectivity, and a Sense oI Place`, in G. Goggin
and L. Hjorth (eds), Mobile Technologies, Routledge, London, pp. 23551.
2009b, Mobile Snapshots and Private/Public Boundaries`, Knowledge, Technologv & Policv,
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Lorimer, H. 2005, Cultural Geography: The Busyness oI Being 'More Than Representational¨`,
Progress in Human Geographv, vol. 29, no. 1, pp. 8394.
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Press, Princeton, NJ.
Massey, D. 2005, For Space, Sage, London.
Mork Petersen, S. 2009, Common Banality: The AIIective Character oI Photo Sharing, Everyday
LiIe and Produsage Cultures`, PhD thesis, ITU Copenhagen.
Palmer, D. 2012, iPhone Photography: Mediating Visions oI Social Space`, in L. Hjorth, J. Burgess
and I. Richardson (eds), Studving Mobile Media. Cultural Technologies, Mobile Communication,
and the iPhone, Routledge, London, pp. 8597.
Pink, S. 2009, Doing Sensorv Ethnographv, Sage, London.
2011, Sensory Digital Photography: Re-thinking 'Moving¨ and the Image`, Jisual Studies,
vol. 26, no. 1, pp. 413.
2012, Situating Evervdav Life, Sage, London.
Pink, S. and Servon, L. (Iorthcoming) Sensory Global Towns`.
Rubinstein, D. and Sluis, K. 2008, A LiIe More Photographic: Mapping the Networked Image`,
Photographies, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 928.
StaIIord, B.M. (ed.) 2011, A Field Guide to a New Meta-Field. Bridging the HumanitiesNeuroscience
Divide, University oI Chicago Press, Chicago.
ThriIt, N.J. 2008, Non-representational Theorv. Space, Politics, Affect, Routledge, London.
Uricchio, W. 2011, The Algorithmic Turn: Photosynth, Augmented Reality and the Changing
Implications oI the Image`, Jisual Studies, vol. 26, no. 1, pp. 2535.
Wallis, C. 2011, (Im)Mobile Mobility: Marginal Youth and Mobile Phones in Beijing`, in R. Ling
and S.W. Campbell (eds), Mobile Communication. Bringing Us Together and Tearing Us Apart,
Transaction Books, New Brunswick, NJ, pp. 6181.
!"#"$ &'() is Professor of Design/Media Ethnographv at RMIT Universitv, Melbourne.
*"#'++" ,-.#/$ is an artist, digital ethnographer and Associate Professor in the Games Programs,
School of Media and Communication, RMIT Universitv, Melbourne.
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Sarah Pink and Larissa Hjorth
Abstract
In the context of the increased use of high-qualitv camera phones, along with the
growth in distribution services via social and locative media, we are witnessing new
forms of visualitv emerging. These new tvpes of co-present visualitv overlav and
interweave online and ofßine cartographies in different wavs maps that require
a revision of ethnographv. In this article, we frame this phenomenon as a shift
from networked visualitv to emplaced visualitv and socialitv. That is, we reßect
upon previous models deploved in mobile communication and depart from them to
consider how a phenomenological approach rooted in visual and multisensorial
ethnographv might help provide insight into this dvnamic media cartographv
and the socialities associated with it.
With the rise oI high-quality camera phones, accompanied by the growth in in-phone editing
applications and distribution services via social and locative media, we are witnessing the
appearance oI new types oI co-present visuality and sociality. These emergent ways in
which online and oIfine cartographies are becoming overlaid and entangled as well as
the experiential environments associated with them demand alternative ways oI theorising
visuality and socialities oI co-presence. This requires that we go beyond earlier studies
oI camera phones (e.g. by Ito and Okabe, 2003, 2005, 2006), which Iocused on the three
Ss` sharing, storing and saving to inIorm the context oI what was predominantly
banal` everyday content (Koskinen, 2007). Moreover, these earlier studies Iorwarded the
idea oI ambient co-presence` (Ito and Okabe, 2006) in which burgeoning community
platIorms such as Flickr and social media like Facebook, and camera phone practices,
embodied not only networked visuality` but also emergent Iorms oI user creativity (Mork
Petersen, 2009; Burgess, 2008). Departing Irom these ideas, we develop the notion oI
emplaced visuality.
Emplaced visuality means understanding camera phone practices and the socialities
that create and emerge through them in ways corresponding with non-representational
(ThriIt, 2008) or more-than-representational` approaches in geography, which, according
to Hayden Lorimer, encompass:
how liIe takes shape and gains expression in shared experiences, everyday routines,
feeting encounters, embodied movements, precognitive triggers, aIIective intensities,
enduring urges, unexceptional interactions and sensuous dispositions (Lorimer,
2005: 84).
EMPLACED CARTOGRAPHIES:
RECONCEPTUALISING CAMERA PHONE
PRACTICES IN AN AGE OF LOCATIVE
MEDIA
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Thus we see camera phone photography as part oI the fow oI everyday liIe, an increasingly
habitual way oI being that is sensed and Ielt (emotionally and physically). In doing so,
we join other contemporary ethnographic scholars who go beyond the content oI digital
photography to stress the importance oI a Iocus on practice and the non-representational
(e.g. Gomez Cruz, 2012).
However, because camera phone photography involves the production and sharing oI
images, it also compels us to engage with its status as representation, and to explore the
relationship between the representational and the non-representational. This tension Iorms
part oI our exploration oI how we might begin to theorise the shiIt Irom !"#$%&'"( to
"*+,-."( visuality and sociality, and may be examined through a Iocus on movement. Tim
Cresswell has suggested that we consider three aspects oI mobility: the Iact oI physical
movement getting Irom one place to another; the representations oI movement that
give it shared meaning; and, fnally, the experienced and embodied practice oI movement`
(Cresswell, 2010: 19). These three aspects oI mobility are deeply interwoven and entangled.
In camera phone photography, the experience and representation oI movement cohere, and
below we explore how these dimensions oI mobility might be situated.
To achieve this, we draw on a set oI related theoretical concepts that enable us to
understand the socialities and visualities oI camera phone photography as part oI a constantly
shiIting ecology: place, movement and perception (see also Pink, 2009, 2012). Following
the ideas oI Tim Ingold, we see place as unbounded`, a meshwork` or entanglement oI
lines oI movement, constituted through the intensities through which these lines become
entangled with each other (Ingold, 2008). Thus conceived, place can be constituted oI
any oI the diverse components that might come together to create such intensities. As
human subjects are inevitably emplaced (see also Casey, 1996), we share contemporary
places with, and are situated in relation to, human and non-human organisms, technologies,
soItware, code, energy, the weather, moralities, discourses and more. Place is also imbued
with relations oI power and fnance, corporate and non-corporate entities. As part oI place,
human subjects and other things and processes are constantly moving through. This is how
place, as a Iorever reconstituting constellation oI processes` (Massey, 2005: 141), shiIts
and changes. As Ingold (2008) and Doreen Massey (2005) both stress, movement is part
oI the constituting oI place. Moreover, as Ingold`s work shows us, as we move through
the places oI which we are part, we also continually sense and learn; Ingold argues that,
People do not make sense` oI things by superimposing ready-made sensory
meanings on top` oI lived experience, so as to give symbolic shape to the otherwise
Iormless material oI raw sensation. They do so, rather, by weaving together, in
narrative, strands oI experience born oI practical, perceptual activity. It is out oI
this interweaving that meanings emerge. (2011: 326)
Along similar lines, Barbara Maria StaIIord writes oI learning as incremental and endless,
yielding associations that allow us to wander oII inventively and independently into new
territory` (2011: 58). We conceptualise camera phone photography as part oI this process,
as it is enacted in the fow` oI everyday liIe at the interIace where digital and material
realities come together.
Accounting for the digitaI architectures of the banaI
As we noted above, in the frst series oI camera phone studies, the likes oI Mizuko
Ito and Daisuke Okabe (2003, 2005, 2006) noted the pivotal role played by the three
Ss` sharing, storing and saving in inIorming the context oI what was predominantly
banal`, everyday content (Koskinen, 2007). For Ilpo Koskinen, camera phone images
were branded by their participation in a new type oI banality (2007). While this banality
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can be seen as extending the conventions and genres oI earlier photographic tropes
(i.e. Kodak Gye, 2007; Hjorth, 2007; Lee, 2005), they also signifcantly depart (Chesher,
2012). Yet the banality oI the camera phone should not be understood only in terms oI
the visual content oI the images it produces, but also in its very use. It has become an
embedded part oI the ordinary the routine, habitual and oIten-tacit practices in which we
engage as we move through, sense and perceive environments. ThereIore, as camera phones
become more commonplace in the explosion oI smartphones along with new contexts
Ior image distribution, like microblogging and location-based services (LBS) emergent
types oI visual overlays become apparent, and are indeed emerging Irom a contemporary
Iorm oI everydayness in which camera phone photography participates. To comprehend
this Iurther, we need to locate the ambient visuality` oI these images, in relation to
Web 2.0 contexts, in which the geographic is overlaid with the social and emotional.
William Uricchio draws our attention to the algorithmic architecture oI Web 2.0
contexts in a way that, as he points out himselI, is compatible with the emergent and
moving qualities oI images (Uricchio, 2011: 28). Uricchio`s study Iocuses on Photosynth
and augmented reality, yet his argument has wider relevance. He argues that these
applications share a Iundamental realignment oI subjectobject relations thanks to their
algorithmic processing layer`, which resituates human agency and the fxities oI the
world viewed`, and determines !"#$ we see, and even "&! we see it` (2011: 33). This
algorithmic turn` also Iorms part oI the context whereby Francesco Lapenta suggests
imaging technologies are responsible Ior a new epistemological shiIt that is redefning the
perceptual and symbolic relation between mediated representations and the real objects oI
reIerence` (2011: 1617). Lapenta comprehends the digital map through a consideration
oI its changing status as photography, in that:
The initially mechanically divided images oI the world are digitally reunited in the
virtual map, geolocationally pinned down by geomedia technologies, juxtaposed
and merged as the jigsaw pieces oI an intricate puzzle. (Lapenta, 2011: 17)
Yet the virtual map serves as more than a composite image to be surveyed; rather, in the
Web 2.0 context that we consider here, it creates part oI the organising architecture Ior
contemporary and emergent Iorms oI sociality and digital practice. Thus, Ior Lapenta:
. the body, and its location . become a system oI reIerence used to search and
organise the collective inIormation fows that converge and constitute the virtual map
in a Iashion signifcant Ior the individual constituting technological engagements
with a multi-sensorial organisation oI the increasingly multimodal and hybridised
nature oI the inIormation space (2011: 20).
Jason Farman also writes oI the digital map in relation to a social network that
engages users as embodied interactors rather than disembodied voyeurs` (2010: 869). As
these understandings make clear, the digital map and its augmented reality do not exist
purely Ior our visual contemplation. Rather, they make and are part oI environments, imply
movement and are experienced corporeally. These works oIIer us a way to understand
the invisible architectures oI what we reIer to as emplaced visuality`, and camera phone
photography is part oI the way that human subjects, images and socialities become
emplaced in relation to these emergent structures and the corporate interests that drive
them (see Lapenta, 2011; Farman, 2010).
Simultaneous with the emergence oI these algorithmic architectures, the changing
nature oI the images that ordinary camera phone users themselves can make calls on us
to attend to the composition, genre and reIerentiality oI contemporary images, along with
their relationality to written text. While, globally, camera phone genres like selI-portraiture
have blossomed, we are also witnessing the fourishing oI vernacular visualities that refect
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a localised notion oI place, social and identity-making practices (Lee, 2009a; Hjorth,
2007). With LBS like Facebook Places, and LBS games like Foursquare and Jiepang, we
see a Iurther extension oI overlaying locality with the social and personal, whereby the
electronic is superimposed on to the geographic in new ways. This overlaying thus makes
place through engagements with it. Specifcally, by sharing an image and comment about
a place through LBS, users can create diIIerent ways to experience and record journeys
and, in turn, impact upon how place is recorded, experienced and thus remembered (Hjorth
and Gu, 2012). This is especially the case with the overlaying oI ambient images within
moving narratives oI place as aIIorded by LBS.
Moreover, with the burgeoning oI smartphones that enable new Iorms oI distribution
,we also see a plethora oI apps, flters and lenses to help users create unique` and artistic
camera phone images. Although iPhone has been quick to capitalise on this phenomenon
through applications such as Hipstamatic, other smartphones like Android have also
attempted to corner this expansive market. So too, social media like microblogs and
LBS have acknowledged the growing power oI camera phone photography by not only
aIIording easy uploading and sharing oI the vernacular (Burgess, 2008), but also providing
flters and lenses to Iurther enhance the proIessional` and artistic` dimensions oI the
photographic experience (Mork Petersen, 2009).
ThereIore, we are seeing the emergence oI a context where mobile media evokes a
particular kind oI ambient participation that is confgured through and by place in specifc
ways (Hjorth et al., 2012). One way oI conceptualising the various dimensions oI this has
been suggested by Daniel Palmer, Ior whom iPhone photography is distinctive across three
areas (2012). First, it created an experience between touch and the image, what Palmer
calls an embodied visual intimacy` (2012: 88). While touch has long been an important,
but neglected, dimension in the history oI photography . the iPhone, held in the palm oI
the hand, reintroduces a visual intimacy to screen culture that is missing Irom the larger
monitor screen` (Palmer, 2012: 88). Second, the proliIeration oI photo apps Ior the iPhone
has meant that there is a plethora oI ways to take, edit and share photos. No longer do
camera phone images have to look like the poorer cousin to the proIessional camera. Third,
there is the role oI GPS capability with the iPhone, automatically tagging photographs
with their location, allowing images to be browsed and arranged geographically` (Palmer,
2012: 88). In this context, with the convergence oI social, locative and mobile media, the
way in which we conceptualise camera phone visuality and aIIect is changing. So how
do we Irame these new visualities in motion? One way, as we suggest here, is through
the movement Irom network` to emplacement, as outlined above. Indeed, this already
has a certain ft` with the more practical and empirical ways with which scholars such
as Palmer are already conceptualising the diIIerent dimensions oI our engagements with
camera phones.
In the Iollowing sections, we explore how this theoretical Iocus on emplacement might
be applied critically to depart Irom existing notions oI network and embodiment as ways
oI conceptualising camera-phone practices.
Photoshopping: New visuaIities in motion
In studies oI frst-generation camera phone studies in Korea, Hjorth noted tensions
around camera phones` relationship to place and mobility in what she called snapshots
oI almost contact` (2007). The increasingly quick edit and deletion oI images at the time
has created a diIIerent relationship between recording; within this process, Ietishisation oI
realism prevailed. This tension around mediation, refection and engagement is amplifed
in second-generation camera phone studies, with the growth oI locative and social media
that converge various cartographies across spatial, social and electronic terrains. As
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No. 145 ÷ November 2012
previously noted, these cartographies are about mobile intimacy and the ways in which
these practices get mapped across the various and competing intimate publics.
As Goggin (2011: 48) notes, the rise oI the citizen journalist has been epitomised by
the camera phone revolution, to the extent that even some proIessional photojournalists
have opted Ior camera phones instead oI proIessional cameras (Palmer, 2012). As Daniel
Rubinstein and Katrina Sluis (2008) note, the rise oI the camera phone has been part
oI a shiIt Irom print-based to screen-based photography. As they observe, today, the
overwhelming majority oI personal photographs are destined never to appear on paper`
(2008: 13). While digital photography has Iar Irom diminished the importance oI the
analogue indeed, the digital is haunted` by the analogue in its aesthetics, genres and
soItware names the tactility oI the arteIacts is still omnipresent. People touch their screens,
zooming in and out oI the photo. And thanks to the portability oI digital photography via
social and mobile media contexts, millions are now walking around with thousands oI
pictures in their pocket. The old priority oI grabbing the photo albums Irom the burning
house has become a way oI the past. But now, the Iear is about the reappropriation oI
personal images by companies as part oI data aggregation, whereby the relationship
between context and content has become even more distorted.
Conventionally, personal photography could be understood as a genre that, as Patricia
Holland has argued, is a minor discourse, a knowledge without authority, designed to be
!"#$ by a limited number oI individuals` (2004: 158). Holland argues that it is important
Ior us to attend to personal photography precisely because oI this special quality, this
everyday unimportance` (Holland, 2004: 158). Yet locative media invite us to understand
a new dimension oI personal photography. As Rubinstein and Sluis note, this rise oI
photo-sharing sites has created a context vernacular photographers have always lacked:
a broad audience` (Rubinstein and Sluis, 2008: 18). Thus, building on Holland`s point,
we argue that personal photography in the Iorm oI camera phone photography makes it
all the more important to attend to how everyday images are participating in new ways.
Moreover, as we argue in this article, new theoretical and methodological approaches
are required Ior this purpose. The rise oI moblogging has seen a proliIeration oI camera
phone images as oIten these images can evoke much more than words. In China, an
example oI this can be Iound in Weibo, a rich media Chinese version oI Twitter, where
millions oI camera phone images are shared every day. The participatory elements oI
sites like Flickr, with what Burgess has called their vernacular` and situated` creativity,
(2008) have created new Iorms oI what Soren Mork Petersen calls common banalities`
(2008). For Rubinstein and Sluis, the increasing reliance on tagging Ior organisation and
retrieval oI images is an indication oI the importance oI textuality Ior online photographic
procedures . Tagging provides a substantially diIIerent way oI viewing and interacting
with personal photography` (2008: 19). According to Rubinstein and Sluis, these networked
images are transIormed as part oI metadata in which the original context is lost.
Since its introduction in 2007, the iPhone camera has quickly grown Irom one oI the
lesser quality lenses to becoming a key contributor in the global phenomenon oI images
that converge social, locative and mobile media. It has opened up new Iorms oI image
taking, editing and sharing, and in turn created new social and geographic cartographies
Ior images. For Chris Chesher (2012), the iPhone camera represents a new universe oI
reIerence`. He observes that the rise oI smartphones like the iPhone with their attendant
soItware applications like Instagram, Google Goggles and Hipstamatic has created
new ways in which to think about camera phone practices as being between image and
inIormation. As Chesher notes, the iPhone universe oI reIerence` disrupts the genealogy
oI mass amateur photography.
With these new applications, oIten working in collaboration with social and locative
media, camera phone images have been given new contexts. These contexts weave in
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various cartographies and social tapestries simultaneously, and require us to rethink the
relationship between the image and its context (see Pink, 2011). As we noted above, they
stand Ior a shiIt away Irom print media, and a world where (at least some genres oI)
personal photography is produced not Ior a small circle oI Iamily, and stored materially
in an album, but may also be viewed by wider audiences. Rather than images being
viewed as snapshots that seize a moment, instead these emergent visualities are about a
diversity oI moments within particular Iorms oI time and space. These temporal-spatial
visual confgurations are no longer isolated and Irozen, as suggested by a snapshot, but
are part oI a moving set oI cartographies orchestrated by the rise oI locative services as
part oI everyday mobile media.
Geographies of visuaI intimacy: SociaI, Iocative and mobiIe media
visuaIities
Rubinstein and Sluis`s (2008) study oI the networked image operates as a precursor to
the second generation oI camera phone practices, in which GPS creates new levels Ior
recording the original` context with a geographic coordinate. This capacity to geo-locate,
or tag, camera phone images invites us to conceptualise the production and consumption
oI images through movement and place, and to consider the multisensoriality oI images
and the emplacement oI both the encounters through which they were produced as well
as the contexts in which they are viewed (see Pink, 2011). ThereIore, rather than viewing
networked images as part oI a-contextualised metadata, as suggested by Rubinstein and
Sluis, we might argue that locative media provide new ways in which to Irame images
with the continuities oI everyday movement, perceiving and meaning-making` (Pink,
2011: 4). By contrasting photographs as mapped points in a network` with photographs
being outcomes oI, and inspirations within, continuous lines that interweave their way
through an environment that is, in movement and as part oI a confguration oI place`
(Pink, 2011: 45), we can conceive oI images as produced and consumed in movement.
Here, we can think about how images are being transIormed in light oI various turns
algorithmically, emotionally, with mobility and multisensorially.
Indeed, oI all the areas to be impacted and aIIected, camera phones especially with
their haptic (touch) screen interIace and engagement, along with their locative media
possibilities can be seen as indicative oI the need Ior a multisensorial conceptualisation
oI images. Thus, as we suggested above, we can conceptualise camera phone visuality
as emplaced`, not networked`; whereby photographs are not an intersection oI nodes
in networks` but are being both produced within and moving themselves as part oI a
meshwork oI moving things` (Pink, 2011: 8). Such movement encompasses moving
through localities and . moving across a screen, and the multisensoriality that each oI
these implies` (Pink, 2011: 89).
ThereIore, when we think oI camera phone photography as situated within a route
that the photographer and camera take through and as part oI a place, we can begin
to consider how the images produced are outcomes oI that particular experience and
context oI emplacement. Yet this emplacement can be experienced in multiple ways that
cross material and Web 2.0 contexts. For example, in 2011, Sarah Pink and Lisa Servon
developed a study oI the development oI the Slow City movement in Spain (Pink and
Servon, Iorthcoming). As part oI this, Pink took a series oI iPhone photographs oI a tour
oI the town oI Lekeitio in the Basque Country. These photographs, taken as she walked
through the town, were Iollowing the Iramework presented above the outcome oI that
particular social and material confguration through which she encountered the town. They
were also taken at a location between the sun overhead and the ground underIoot. The
images were thereIore the outcomes oI this total environment and, as the anthropological
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No. 145 ÷ November 2012
flm theorist David MacDougall put it when writing about flm, they were corporeal
images` (2005) standing Ior the situatedness oI the photographer as part oI an environment.
Following this theoretical and analytical prism, we can understand camera phone
photographs not as simply oI something that is in Iront oI the camera, that is then
recorded in an image, the content oI which we might analyse`. Instead, we can see
images as emplaced in relation to what Ingold has called a meshwork` oI lines (2008),
the images themselves being part oI such lines that they are inextricable Irom the person
and camera who took them. In this sense, camera phone images are not simply about
what they represent (although they are also about that); they are additionally about what
is behind, above, below and to either side.
This was, oI course, the case Ior analogue photography too; we have always taken
photographs in and as part oI movement through an environment (see Pink, 2011, where
this argument is extended). Yet the Web 2.0 context enables us to engage with this idea
anew, in practical as well as philosophical ways: the photographs that Pink took on her
tour oI Lekeitio were also geotagged. Being viewed Irom above meant that it was possible
to locate exactly where in a digital map they had been taken, thus digitally relocating the
emplacement oI an image on a map. In a contemporary context, thereIore, it is not simply
that camera phone images are emplaced as the outcomes oI material everyday realities,
but rather that they are inextricable Irom their double emplacement in digital maps.
Because their visuality is doubly emplaced, it creates a bond between the materialities
oI the ground underIoot and the sky overhead, with the digital architectures oI Web 2.0
that also Irame and are Iramed by our movements through the world. When we think oI
images only as representations oI what it was that was seen through the lens, we miss
the point that images are inextricably the outcomes oI the material and the digital, and
also that the algorithmic architectures (see Uricchio, 2011) discussed above soItware
and web platIorms also constitute elements in the way this practice is emplaced.
Although this example Irom Pink`s work demonstrates how camera phone photography
becomes part oI the way we create traces through environments, and how they might
become relevant to an ethnographer considering her research process, it does not tell us
about the social potential oI Web 2.0. Yet, in a Web 2.0 context, camera phone images
are oIten produced with web platIorms in mind, to digitally share (see Gomez Cruz,
2012). This is shown, as discussed elsewhere (Hjorth, Wilken and Gu, 2012; Hjorth and
Gu, 2012), in Shanghai with the uptake oI the LBS mobile game Jiepang, where users
can check in` to online spaces and visit oIfine places and win prizes which is creating
out-oI-game visualities. Since its inception two years ago, Jiepang`s three million users
have generated 50 million check-ins globally, with more than 8.2 million photos uploaded.
For many oI the Generation Y (!" $%&' ()*) respondents, the playing oI the oIfcial
Jiepang game is secondary to social motivation. In this social dimension, the use with
accelerated Irequency oI sharing camera phone pictures has become a key practice.
Accompanied with the rise oI rich-media moblogging such as Sina and Weibo and SNS
Renren (China`s Facebook), the compulsion to photograph, edit and share is growing. In
each oI the diIIerent social media spaces, types oI photographic genres can be Iound.
For example, many use Sina Ior selI-portraiture, Weibo Ior more political or newsworthy
images and Renren as a space Ior refecting inner Ieelings. In the case oI Jiepang, visuality
is more about new types oI place-making. These place-making exercises are like diaries
(Ito and Okabe, 2005) but with the active use oI flters and perspectives, Jiepang is
demonstrating emergent Iorms oI creative practice Ior the !" $%&' ()*+ In doing so, it
invites us to consider how camera phone practices are mapped on to socialities and, in
diary Iormat, the shiIting temporalities oI the visual/socialities that are part oI such places.
In feldwork in six locations in the Asia-Pacifc region, Hjorth and Arnold observed
the signifcance oI camera phone photography in the place-making exercises oI LBS
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Media Ìnternational Australia
(Hjorth and Arnold, 2013). They note that in LBS photo albums, while respondents used
traditional genres like Iood and places, they did so by using flters and lenses to create
highly aesthetic images. Far Irom being banal and boring, the images were oIten unique
and creative. They are not only about the vernacular qualities oI user-created content
(UCC) they signal new types oI emplaced visualities and ambient intimacy (Ito and
Okabe, 2005). As this case study highlights, the soItware is part oI the ways in which
images are emplaced: oIten flters were used that not only made the pictures look analogue
but also gave them a sense oI nostalgia. This IastIorwarding present/presence` (Hjorth,
2007) oI camera phones as images in a movement and event took on a specifc emplaced`
ambivalence with LBS. Through the overlaying oI highly edited camera phone image and
comment, respondents can narrate place in new ways. OIten the visuals are deployed to
present a unique image oI the locality whether through the image genre or, more oIten,
by using flters and lenses to create a mood.
Respondents also spoke oI the importance oI social capital (!"#$%&' in motivating
them to take and share pictures via Jiepang. Jiepang, however, does not attract the
same debate about privacy, partly because oI culturally specifc notions like !"#$%&) For
Cara Wallis, !"#$%& is a widely used yet ambiguous` term that can mean many things:
relationships, personal connections and social networks. As Wallis (2011) observes, in
Beijing the deployment oI social and mobile media is closely bounded by the notion oI
!"#$%&) Rather than being about memory and place, LBS camera phone practices were
about creating new narratives between presence, present and placing) In this sense, we
suggest that camera phone pictures are used to situate users not simply geographically or
digitally, but also socially, through the use oI their visual, locative and digital situatedness
in relation to material, social and online contexts.
Thus they can be used in the making oI social capital in ways that interweave or
entangle the social, material and digital. With the additional dimension oI camera phones
interwoven with locative media, !"#$%& and place can take on more complex cartographies
that place, emplace and embody visualities. Camera phone practices, thereIore, have
the eIIect oI creating digital traces as their users move through material and sensory
environments. In doing so, they enable a Iorm oI emplacement that encompasses both
material, soItware and Web 2.0 contexts, weaving routes simultaneously through both,
and constituting places where the online and oIfine are mutually entangled in a shared
meshwork`. All respondents noted that Jiepang inspired them to take more camera
phone pictures, and thanks to smartphones it was easier to take, edit and share images.
Moreover, respondents who used Jiepang progressively Ielt the need to make visual and
textual comments about places, especially encouraged by the idea that images were part
oI an event, movement or present-ness.
In the case oI LBS games, camera phone images are thereIore contextualised through
both multisensoriality and movement. Not only is the genre and content about narrating
place as part oI journey and process, but also the Irequency and its link to reinIorcing the
social capital suggest a complex mapping oI place, sociality and visuality. This becomes
apparent in case studies oI LBS games and the logic oI emplaced visualities. With LBS
creating new cartographies and connections to place, we see visualities move Irom frst-
generation networked (Ito and Okabe, 2005) to emplaced visualities. Here we see the
interweaving oI the visualities and socialities oI place in new ways, which can likewise
be understood in terms oI their mutual emplacement.
In many oI the locative camera phone images, the social dimension oI the image is
brought to the IoreIront in the overlaying oI geographical or locational knowledge. This
echoes Ilkka Arminen`s (2006) point that, when it comes to SNS, social context rather than
pure geographical location` is generally oI greater user interest. What seems to be most
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No. 145 ÷ November 2012
at stake in LBS games is new knowledge about particular sites and what they are likely
to signiIy within social network settings. LBS, like Jiepang, highlights that the various
dimensions around ideas oI place imagined and lived, geographic and psychological
are contextualised by social capital.
ConcIusion: EmpIaced geospatiaI visuaIities and sociaIities
In LBS games like Foursquare, Jiepang and fags, we are witnessing new types oI emplaced
visuality and geospatial sociality. Through the locative and microblogging experience oI
Jiepang, users are creating new Iorms oI intimate publics whereby the importance oI network
pales into insignifcance in comparison with the interweaving oI socialities, materialities
and the digital in providing ambient contexts. As part oI the smartphone phenomenon, LBS
games are accompanied by an accelerated rate oI camera phone image-taking, editing and
sharing. Far Irom being banal, acontextualised images, these pictures deploy the newest oI
flters and photographic techniques to give a sense oI the poetic and unique, and are then
overlaid electronically on to places. This is not a mere practice oI networked visuality, as
noted by the frst studies into camera phones; rather, we see emplaced and multisensorial
visuality that creates and refects unique Iorms oI geospatial sociality.
The traces made as camera phones are used as mobile media weaving through
material/digital environments with their users thus become Iorms oI visuality that are
emplaced digitally, socially and materially. Their visual content is the outcome oI the
multiple constituents oI place through which they are produced, and in relation to which
the body oI the photographer is emplaced including the weather, social relationships,
localities, soItware and code, technologies and human innovation and creativity. These
are Ielt, aIIective and embodied realities where people`s embodied engagements and ways
oI moving with camera phones should be coming into our Iocus as researchers. Yet they
are also inextricable Irom social environments, where they likewise play a situated and
situating role, as they are engaged in ways that include, but do not reIer exclusively to,
their status as representations, including the making oI the very qualities oI social relations
that characterise diIIerent Iorms oI sociality and, as we have shown, social value and
aIIect. Indeed, a Iocus on the camera phone oIIers an important prism through which to
understand how these relationships between the materialities and digital environments oI
place, embodied experience and sociological phenomena converge.
These contemporary shiIts are producing signifcant changes in the ways personal
photographs have become part oI the everyday world. They are part oI a context where the
everyday, the mundane, becomes both habitually Ielt in the practice oI taking photographs
and, simultaneously, is represented visually on web platIorms in ways that Iorge relationships
between the material, the sensory, the social and the digital. These new confgurations oI
persons, things and Ieelings call Ior revised theoretical and methodological approaches,
which enable us to both comprehend such contemporary realities and to Iocus back on
earlier photographic Iorms and discover their relevance anew. As we have argued in this
article, understanding camera phone photography, its qualities, aIIordances and the everyday
practices in which it is implicated through the theories oI place, movement and perception
enables us to move on analytically. It invites us to depart Irom the notion oI networked
visualities to understand more Iully how contemporary visualities and the socialities that
are implicated through them are emplaced. It also Iorms part oI a wider context in which
we need to Iocus more closely on the everydayness oI media beyond the content, and
look at the experiential realities with which it is interwoven.
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!"#"$ &'() is Professor of Design/Media Ethnographv at RMIT Universitv, Melbourne.
*"#'++" ,-.#/$ is an artist, digital ethnographer and Associate Professor in the Games Programs,
School of Media and Communication, RMIT Universitv, Melbourne.