The ubiquitous camera: An in-depth study of camera phone use

T. Kindberg, M. Spasojevic, R. Fleck, and A. Sellen. The ubiquitous camera: An in-depth study of camera phone use. IEEE Pervasive Computing, 4(2):42–50, 2005. [PDF]


This paper describes a study of how people use camera phones. The authors interviewed 34 subjects trying to understand what they photographed and why. They developed a number of categories of subjects of pictures, dividing them into people and scenes + things. The authors found that people took pictures with their mobile for affective reasons, to enrich a mutual experience by sharing an image with those whowere present at the time of capture. Also, they took pictures to make an absent friend or family member aware of an event.

Additionally the authors found that many pictures were taken to support a personal reflection: supporting a mutual task with colocated friends, a remote task for a friend, and a personal task.

Two thirds of the images examined were captured to share, mainly for affective reasons, and the sharing mainly took place when people were face-to-face.

The authors highlight as the key value of a camera phone is the ability to spontaneously show images. They suggest that finding and browsing images wbhould be simple and possible. The portability and pervasiveness of capture of this content has a tremendous value for the interconnection with digital and public displays, and for absent people.

The interviewed participants reacted positively to the idea of enriching this content with contextual information. Finally, they found that image browsing of the subjects’ phones when many pictures were present was ineffective for image retrieval.


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