Howard Rheingold writes that “the cameraphone exists at this moment in that ephemeral, potent and confusing phase of its adoption cycle where people are still deciding what kind of social medium it is.”
If recent observations from Keio University researcher Daisuke Okabe can be used to forecast future trends, we will find that the social role of the cameraphone is distinctly different from both the camera and the phone. And although these devices transmit images through the Internet, they are also turning out, rather unexpectedly, to be face-to-face media. It looks like this newly ubiquitous device could be more about flows of moments than stocks of images, more about sharing presence than transporting messages, and ultimately, more about personal narrative than factual communication.
“Cameraphones enable an expanded field for chronicling and displaying self and viewpoint to others in a new kind of everyday visual storytelling,” wrote Okabe, in a paper delivered at a conference in Korea at the end of 2004. Okabe’s findings make a case that cameraphones represent a new opportunity to tell the story of our lives to ourselves as well as to others, and to share a sense of continuous, multisensory, social presence with people who are geographically distant. Tokyo youth have added a visual element to the flow of phone calls and text-messages among small groups of intimates that Okabe and colleagues have come to call “distributed co-presence.”