New visualities and the digital wayfarer: Reconceptualizing camera phone photography and locative media

This is one of the first papers I looked at when working on my Sketching the Field essay, where I had to identify and establish an area to research on and research accordingly. This paper is by Larissa Hjorth and Sarah Pink, both of which are writers who are consistently producing new knowledge about the role of visual technology in culture. Both researchers are from the the RMIT University in Australia, so despite being to identify certain cultural similarities between the UK and Australia, I have to acknowledge that this article was made about locative media in the location of Australia. I was interested in this paper because it touches on Instagram and other photography-based apps and the role that this portable creative technology has on the subjects they researched. I have identified specific quotes and ideas in this paper that I believe will be important and relevant for my own research project.

 

On average, Barbara takes a picture via Instagram at least twice a day. She views the application as a succinct way to mark a place and time for both her own personal memory and also as a sign as part of her journey throughout life.

This paper conducted a series of interviews with 10 participants who acknowledged the use of photo-sharing apps such as Instagram in their lives. Obviously this quotation is a result of the data collection, the writers are able to make statements about user activity, because the user themselves have allowed the researchers to analyse them. These interviews and the data the researchers have collected are constantly drawn upon in the research paper in order to support the theory that they have engaged with, in order to produce new forms of knowledge about the subject. It is this data collection, that provides the evidence and support behind the notions the researcher tries to make. Without this data, the researcher can only make assumptions about what could be happening culturally; the data allows the researcher to make a statement and say that a cultural activity is definitely happening.

 

Talking about where you are provides an excuse to talk and share with your absent copresent (Gergson 2002) friends.

Echoing the sentiment of the postcard, sharing camera phone images says, “I’m here and I want to share it with you” (Hjorth 2005)

I have made comparisons the the travel imagery on Instagram and the dynamic of the postcard, however now I have a quotation in writing to be able to support this. I will be looking up this citation in the list of references for this paper and reading Hjorth’s piece of text in which this quote originates. Often when writers use a quote and cite it, they are pointing the reader to go and explore another piece of text, that despite it being relevant to the project, it probably couldn’t be included because it might take the paper off in a different direction. There are quite a few of these quotes that Pink and Hjorth have embedded in this research paper, that most likely points to another research project of theirs, which would provide really good theoretical support for the discussions in this paper. The other works of these authors would no doubt support my own research idea, therefore it would be beneficial for me to read them.

 

 

Through sharing playful pictures of places as part of everyday movements, camera phone practices provide new ways of mapping place beyond just the geographic: they partake in adding social, emotional, psychological, and aesthetic dimensions to a sense of place.

In-between places like trains, busses or the walk between one building to another are no longer contexts for just “killing time”. These wayfarer spaces, as an embedded part of everyday life, have now become key moments where new forms of visuality (Ingold 2007), and sociality are generated, through camera phone photography and the digital copresence associated with locative media.

Hjorth and Pink transform the notion of place and movement in this paper, in relation to the use of locative, portable media devices. These quotations identify the transformation of the concept of place, to not just consider the physical location of the subject, the photograph or the content of the photograph. Physical presence is not the most important element of social media, the concept of copresence is perhaps more important, as the viewers of the image and the content are together in the same virtual location. Place could also refer to the subject/photographer’s emotional location in the world, the culture and communities that they associate themselves with, how they place themselves in relation to other people in the environment. The notion of place also becomes interesting when you introduce the fact that many people make images when they are moving geographically. Which place becomes more important, the place at which they choose to use their cameraphone to post a photograph, or the location in the image they are posting? How can you identify where a social media user is, when they are posting on a vehicle that is moving like a bus or train? The portability of media technology provides new discussions around the term place, which I will certainly draw upon in my research project.

 

The two moments in everyday mobile media practice we have opened this article with are examples of the millions of intimate media vignettes across the world that are at once photographic, social, locative and mobile. 

Here the authors discuss how the material produced and the activity of these Instagram users can be considered as photographic, social, locative and mobile. They are photographic because of the actuality that camera phone photography has become embedded in culture. They are social because they encourage interaction, even if it is just from copresent friends. They are locative because this activity can be geographically placed, due to many photo-sharing apps allowing the user to tag their location. They are mobile, as the images are most commonly made when the subjects are moving through different environments, both geographically and culturally.

 

By movement we refer to the idea spatially as well as temporally, with many camera phone filters romanticizing the now into analogue-looking genres.

By movement we refer to the idea that we refer to the idea that we inhabit and at the same time are creating a world in movement, an ongoingness, that we contribute to through our own mobility and that of which mobile media play an increasingly inevitable part.

Ingold in fact contrasts wayfaring to what he calls transport.

Place, therefore as conceptualized here follows Massey’s notion of place as “open” a “constellation of processes” forever in movement, changing and unfinished (2005).

This means a departure from the dominant “network”paradigms in visual/media culture and Internet studies, towards a focus on “emplacement” whereby people, images and technologies are always situated, in movement, and part of and constitutive of place (Pink & Hjorth, 2012).

These quotations all relate to the concept of movement and how, like the concept of place, this paper talks about movement in a different manner. Movement in this paper does not necessarily exclusively refer to the physical transportation of the user/subject, but broadens to consider an more abstract notion of movement. This abstract concept of movement includes and refers to the environments the users themselves make by using Instagram, moving through their own creativity, their identity and their place culturally. Movement does sometimes refer to the fact that the user/subject is travelling, and that photographs were made whilst the subject was travelling, however movement should not always be considered to mean physical travel. Hjorth and Pink propose a shift from considering environments to be made up of networks, to considering the theory of emplacement, which is made up of these abstract notions of place and movement and how the subject is situated in them.

 

As Pink has argued, photographs are not simply about what is represented in them, but they are emergent from what was above, below, in front, and behind. They stand for not just the thing or person that they depict, but the trace made through the world by the photographer who has produced them (Pink 2012).

Pink’s take on photography and representation in this section is really interesting and I definitely want to find in which text she discusses this further by tracing the citation to the references section. This quotation acknowledges that the photograph is not just a static, fixed moment in time that is contextless. A photograph is shaped by the photographer who made it, the content that is being photographed and the device that is being used to make the image. The photographer themselves are shaped by their own life experience and the environment they are photographing is shaped by their presence. In this case Pink is referring to the subjective influence these photographers have on their images, from tracing the various routes they take in their lives, to evidence of their design preferences when editing the image. The viewer of the image can also trace the voice of the photographer in the accompanying caption by their use of language.

 

Here it is important to recognize that all forms of presence (including face-to-face) and intimacy are mediated: if not by technology then by language, gestures, and memories (Hjorth, 2005; Mantovani & Riva, 1998).

Despite some proposing that the communication through social media is heavily mediated, the writers here remind the reader that all forms of communication are mediated. The speaker and the listener, even in physical face-to-face communication are still presenting themselves in a certain type of way and choosing the manner through which to communicate to each other. However the mediation appears to become more complex on social media, particularly Instagram because of the communication being split between visual, textual and sometimes through sound in the case of a video. I want to extend this concept of mediation and communication and relate it to discussions in the photography world about the image and truth. Representation and mediation are two concepts that collide on social media such as Instagram and I believe it is important to investigate that.

 

Through the narrative of the trajectory of the photograph the story brings together the affective, material, social, and temporal elements of the routines and rhythms of everyday life.

Far from banal, a-contextualized images, these pictures deploy the newest of filters and photographic tricks to give a sense of the poetic and unique and are then overlaid electronically onto places.

These two quotes describe the photography of the Instagram user, not dismissing the fact that they record their everyday rituals, but rather acknowledging that this practice of photography is central to the lives of many. The photographs are an important part of the subject’s creative expression and therefore become important for the researcher. The seemingly uncreative photograph of an everyday task or journey, is actually an important moment of creativity for a subject that perhaps would not engage with photography if they didn’t have a cameraphone or an app like Instagram. As a researcher I’d like to focus on the important role of Instagram as one of the photo-sharing apps available in facilitating and encouraging creativity from people that wouldn’t perhaps self-identify as artists.

 

This paper has been incredibly useful, in both supporting the other research I have done and giving me new ideas and concepts to research next. I have identified that Larissa Hjorth and Sarah Pink are influential writers who have written a number of texts on subjects that are extremely relevant to my research. Therefore I will be seeking other work from these two authors in order to build on the research I have already done and to see if there is anything that is discussed in the other papers that I might have missed in this one.

 

 

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