Cell Phones- the real democratization of photography

June 22, 2010 at 8:07 pm Leave a comment

Photo: Gare à Nouadhibu, Mauritania (CMiranda)
We’ve debated longly about the penetration of cell phones in all the World, and how they have the potential of being a mean for information, education or to achieve other intentions towards development. (See posts: Democratic Cell Phones and Third World Generalizations and Designing for ubiquity-mobile apps for social innovation )

Photo: Legueila Oasis, Mauritania 

In this short post I’d like to point out what I’ve experienced here in Africa, which is very similar to what happens to us in Chile. I remember my old days a a Design student where we had to “develop the film” and use photo-rolls. Just a very expensive enterprise. With the digital cameras, that has turned into an experience “from the past”. It happens to me often that I am taking pictures of people (here in Africa) and sending them to (if they have) their e-mails. Sometimes even showing the picture taken for some is enough. (if you come to Africa be careful to just promise that you’ll send a picture if you will do so for sure) 

But it is not so cheap or easy to get a digital camera in markets that do not produce them (like the US or Asia). It might be cheaper than before, but not accessible as we would love to.
In his book, “The World is Flat”, (2005) Thomas L.Friedman mentions a case where HP started a public private project with Andhra Pradesh in India. “You cannot design this stuff in Palo Alto; you have to cocreate with the user-customer beneficiary.”, he says. After collaborative instances with the community; they initiated a project for taking photographs within the community and printing them out. These were meant to be taken for purposes like: driving licenses. Nontheless, they realized that people wanted family pictures to be taken. This was something unexpected for them. But if you think it deeply, is nothing out of the ordinary. Nearly all of us want our lives to be registered, don’t we?

Cell phones have come to resolve this “gap” between the ones that can buy cameras and the ones that cannot. A cell phone can have (around) VGA resolution to a 12 px (what I’ve seen at least here) camera that allows the democratization of photography. And maybe is not that much quality in order to take pictures and printing them out. Yet, it is enough to register the moment and share it with others. This concept does not only have a potential for research (for example, any individual might be able, in the years to come, to provide information about himself or herself and maybe even engage in an autoethnography), but also a potential for connection or news’ communication, which some news companies are already exploring (report twitter/ facebook; etc).
On the other hand, technology companies could think about designing easy printing solutions for the cell phones, today they are way too expensive, yet we might be moving into that.

Hints from this post:
01. Check on cell phones and their potential for exploring Social Innovation
02. People can self-report using these devices


Entry filed under: Community, Interaction, Social Design, Visualization.

There is potential in using Design and “making physical models” in education Global Mamas, re-using for change [Ghana]

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contact + citing (CC license)

Constanza Miranda PhD(c) design.anthro
* Currently @ DILAB
* Ex.VR @ Stanford's Center for Design Research [DesignXLab]
* Ex.Instructor @ PUC Chile [Design+Engineering]
Use citations ¡Citar es ético!
Creative Commons License
Design for Social Innovation initiative by Constanza Miranda is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at www.innovacionsocial.cl.

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