A Snapshot of Social Media: Camera Phone Practices

This short piece of text was cowritten by Larissa Hjorth and Natalie Hendry, it is only a couple of pages long including the references, but it provides a really good starting point and summary of the relationship between the camera phone and social media. The ideas raised in this short piece of text, will both give me ideas to research and think about in relation to my research project and I can also use this reference section to identify other texts for me to read. In this blog post I have identified important quotes and ideas from this text and explored how I can relate them to my research project.


Contemporary social media just compress and spread ideas in a more accelerated and data heavy manner

Instagram as a social media encourages succinct visual expression, posting a singular image or video and an accompanying caption. The posting has become more free with recent updates and the development of accompanying apps which allow explorative video editing and the collage of multiple images. I have before likened Instagram to the dynamic of a postcard, particularly when the user has posted an image from the travel genre. However the digital form of this postcard dramatically changes the speed at which the material is received by the intended viewer, where a postcard might take days or weeks if the post is slow, with a sufficient internet connection an Instagram post can be made and uploaded within seconds. It is the speed of photography that has changed the nature of the practice and has encouraged some practitioners to revert to the slower process of analogue photography. Instagram has acknowledged this retro revival of the analogue image in the development of the app by offering a set of editing filters that apply a particular aesthetic to the image.


second generation camera phone apps can be understood in terms of “emplaced” visuality. Emplaced visuality puts a theory of movement at the center of our understanding of contemporary media practice.

This is where Larissa Hjorth has focused on her own ideas from a separate paper, which she wrote with other author Sarah Pink. First generation social media would resemble platforms such as Flickr, that were designed for users who had digital compact, bridge or SLR cameras, whereas second generation social media, such as Instagram are designed for users who take images using their camera phone. Rather than the social media being hosted on a website like Flickr and redeveloped to become an app, Instagram was designed to be an application for a smartphone before then being redesigned to be accessed from a laptop. Emplaced reality is closely linked to the portable nature of the smartphone/cameraphone, whereas photographers with cameras would go out to shoot and then come back home to edit and share, cameraphone users have the ability to shoot, edit and share in that one device. The fact that the device can connect to the Internet in almost any location, means that places that were previously dedicated to banal rituals of waiting such as travelling, have been changed to represent explorative periods of creativity.


Just as young people collaged fanzines or decorated their bedrooms with posters, they also use platforms like Tumblr to creatively visualize and “circulate everything”: their intimate, consumer and aesthetic desires; personal politics; and endless animated gifs

Although limiting, the bedroom wall metaphor points to the ways that young people predominately “renovate” their spaces, and, in turn, their identities and relationships

The bedroom wall metaphor is a really interesting idea to describe how young people creatively express their identity, it really reminds of the video game Life Is Strange, where the main character Max takes a self portrait of herself in front of her wall of photographs.


The ritualistic idea of the college or university student creatively decorating their room to express their identity is recognisable in popular Western culture.¬†Despite the fact that the occupant knows their occupancy of this space will only be temporary, this may have been the first chance they have full control to express their personality in a space that they effectively own for the duration of their stay. Social media and the user’s profile/newsfeed represents this chance at freedom, the platform and their profile is their four walls, which they experiment with in order to express their personality to those who choose to visit/those who are allowed to see. However despite the physical constraints of a bedroom meaning that only a few people could see the decoration of the bedroom at a time, social media can be accessed and seen by a global audiences of millions simultaneously.


The histories of young people as a population under surveillance are remediated through camera phone practices as new anxieties and moral panics are revealed

Photos exchanged through Snapchat, Instagram and Kik convey a sense of being with each other and reinforce shared emotional experience across time and space

These statements both ask and answer a similar question, it is undeniable that with the increased focus on treating mental health that there has been a massive increase in the diagnosis of such conditions, especially in young people. The number of 15-16 year olds with depression has nearly doubled between the 1980s and the 2000s according to mental health statistics from youngminds.org. However a rise in awareness of mental health is not the predominate reason why so many young people are now being diagnosed, it is this age of the smartphone and surveillance that makes many feel like they are under pressure to fulfil unrealistic expectations. Selfies can be considered as a narcissism that has developed as a response to increased insecurity about body image, as young people feel encouraged to look and act much older than their age, with resultant risk of minors being sexualised.


However for every young person that is feeling this sense of moral panic, social media also appears to provide a link to other people feeling the same, hence the creation of memes. People share their moral panics on social media in order to get a response, which can support them and tell them that are not alone. However equally this offering of vulnerability could become a target for Internet users that thrive on making hostile, personal attacks on other users, known as trolls.


As Daniel Palmer notes in his study on iPhone photography, cameras have colonized the mobile phone over the past decade. Nokia has reportedly put more cameras into people’s hands the in the whole previous history of photography

This is statistic that explains the changing nature of photography completely, despite a number of professionals still using top level SLR cameras in their work, the majority of photographers in this age are using smartphones to take pictures. The mobile phone industry have recognised this want for better cameras and developed phones that often have better camera than some compact digital cameras. In addition to this, the front camera has continued to develop in order to allow people to take self portraits or ‘selfies’, helped along by add on inventions such as the selfie stick. It is the smartphone/cameraphone that is the tool behind the increase and also the change of social photography in the digital era, as it collapses and combines the photography, editing and sharing in one portable device.


This piece of text despite the shorter length has given me a great starting point and encouraged me to consider other ideas to research in relation to my research. The bedroom wall metaphor is a concept that I feel is so relevant, as it describes the nature of creativity and the relationship between creativity, identity and self expression in a way that people can really understand. However I feel that this metaphor might only be relatable to the Western population, where moving out and going to university or college is central cultural concept. If I am going to use concepts that relate to Western culture, I need to begin thinking about shaping my research to Western culture as well. My position as a young, white, Western individual means that I can understand this example in relation to my own creativity and self expression, therefore I will be able to supplement this research idea with my own experience. However I have to consider that if I narrow my project down to engage with Western users of Instagram, I am excluding other subjects which have been traditionally othered by academia.


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