Everyday imagery: Users’ reflections on smartphone cameras and communication

Chris Peters*, Stuart Allan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

Abstract

User-based research into the lived experiences associated with smartphone camera practices – in particular, the taking, storing, curating, and sharing of personal imagery in the digital media sphere – remains scarce, especially in contrast to their increasing ubiquity. Accordingly, this article’s detailed analysis of open-ended questionnaires from ‘millennial’ smartphone users elucidates the varied experiential, compositional, and technological aspects associated with smartphone imagery in everyday life. It argues that the associated changes do more than just update previous technologies but rather open space up for emergent forms of visual communication. Specifically, our close interpretive reading indicates four key factors underlying the moments privileged when using smartphone cameras, showing how such instances deviate from the mundane, are related to ‘positive’ emotions, evince strong social bonds, and encompass a future-oriented perspective. Relatedly, in terms of photographic composition, visual content tends to circulate around the social presence of others, boundedness of event, perceived aesthetic value, and intended shareability. Our findings question certain formulations about the gradual disappearance of media from personal consciousness in a digital age. If ceaselessness is a defining characteristic of the current era, our analysis reveals that the use of smartphone cameras is indicative of people affectively and self-consciously deploying the technology to try to arrest the ephemerality of daily life, however fleetingly. This article thus pinpoints the theoretical and methodological value of research approaches moving beyond a narrow focus on usage patterns to uncover the spatiotemporal specificities shaping (and being shaped by) smartphone imagery and its communicative resonances.
Original languageEnglish
JournalConvergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies
Volume24
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)357-373
Number of pages17
ISSN1354-8565
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2018
Externally publishedYes

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