Playful photography: Travel selfies with smartphone and social media
Sumei Wang (National Chegnchi University)
Paper short abstract:
Using methods of ethnography, the paper investigates the playful experiences of taking travel selfies. Through the circulation of images on social media, photography itself becomes the purpose of travel, rather than means of event-recording, which may have changed the meanings of tourism.
Paper long abstract:
Photography has been crucial in constituting the nature of traveling in the modern times. Tourists have a compulsion to photograph. So that they could turn experience itself into a way of seeing. However, the emergent technologies, including smartphones and social media, have foregrounded the practices of photo-taking, remaking, distribution and management. Through the representation and circulation of images on social media, photography itself becomes the purpose of travel, rather than a means of event-recording. This research employs the methods of mobile and online ethnography to investigate the interactions among the physical space, the travelers, and the virtual space on social media. We followed eleven participants on their tours and observed their photo taking and sharing practices. The creating, adjusting, managing, remixing of photos of the tourists and landmarks do not just record the users' preferences but enable imaginations for other travelers. Further, we notice that the playful practices of making travel selfies may change the meanings of travel. When one travels, physical location is revealed on virtual spaces, which also bring friends at distance to the present. This new relation, afforded by both smartphones and social media, also foregrounds photography as playful, communicative, and performative practices. For some travelers, making and sharing photos are more crucial than seeing the scenery. Therefore, it is not for seizing the moment or capturing the scene that people take photograph with their smartphones. To some extent, it could be that tours are arranged in order to enjoy the playful experiences of photography.