Learning with camera phones

Fumitoshi Kato (Keio University)


Practice makes perfect

Mobile phones are everywhere. And the uses of mobile phones are changing the ways in which we shape and reshape our day-today activities. We are now communicating through exchanging photos over mobile phones. Because of the convenience of taking, sending, and publishing the photos, the use of mobile phones, as cameras, may increase one’s opportunity to generate “life documents” within a sequence of daily events. It is suggested that a new mode of more pervasive photo taking is emerging through the use of mobile phones, and it contributes, to some extent, to change the ways in which we record and preserve our “life documents” on a daily basis.

From the standpoint of developing a qualitative research method, a camera phone can be understood as a new “gear” for conducting field studies, because it enables us to record and compile diverse standpoints as a set of photos. Especially, it can capture a series of micro-moments embedded within an individual’s day-to-day activities. Theoretically motivated by the ideas of experiential learning and grounded theory approach, inspired by the “method cards” by IDEO, and acknowledging the usefulness of a postcard as a medium, I have been designing a set of postcards to learn about the basics of conducting a field research.
Together with a camera phone, a deck of postcards can be used as a textbook, a town guide, or a series of lessons. One can select and combine different cards to organize them within the context of his/her learning.



There are ten cards, and each has a simple exercise or a tip that one can experiment in the field. For example, issues such as how to keep a “proper” distance between the subject, the importance of a time-lapse recording, and how to position oneself in the field, etc., are arranged as exercises.
With a card and a camera phone, one can learn about the basics of qualitative research method. These postcards may be used in the introductory course on qualitative research method (for undergraduate students) by having the students take photos with their camera phones.

* IDEO Method Cards.http://www.ideo.com/methodcards/MethodDeck/index.html
* Kato, F. (2006) Seeing the "seeing" of others: Environmental knowing through camera-phones. In Kristof Nyiri (ed). Mobile Understanding:The Epistemology of Ubiquitous Communication (pp. 183-195) Vienna: Passagen Verlag.

For inquiries please contact:

Fumitoshi Kato
Keio University • Faculty of Environment and Information Studies
5322 Endo Fujisawa, Kanagawa 252-0882 Japan
fk [at] sfc.keio.ac.jp