Knowledge, Technology & Policy

, Volume 22, Issue 3, pp 205–215 | Cite as

Digital Photography and Picture Sharing: Redefining the Public/Private Divide

  • Amparo LasénEmail author
  • Edgar Gómez-Cruz
Original Paper


Digital photography is contributing to the renegotiation of the public and private divide and to the transformation of privacy and intimacy, especially with the convergence of digital cameras, mobile phones, and web sites. This convergence contributes to the redefinition of public and private and to the transformation of their boundaries, which have always been subject to historical and geographical change. Taking pictures or filming videos of strangers in public places and showing them in webs like Flickr or YouTube, or making self-portraits available to strangers in instant messenger, social network sites, or photo blogs are becoming a current practice for a growing number of Internet users. Both are examples of the intertwining of online and offline practices, experiences, and meanings that challenge the traditional concepts of the public and the private. Uses of digital images play a role in the way people perform being a stranger and in the way they relate to strangers, online and offline. The mere claims about the privatization of the public space or the public disclosure of intimacy do not account for all these practices, situations, and attitudes, as they are not a simple translation of behaviors and codes from one realm to the other.


Digital images Self-portraits Public places Privacy 


  1. Adams, A., Cunningham, S., & Masoodian, M. (2007). Sharing, Privacy and Trust Issues for Photo Collections: Working Paper 01/2007, Computer Science, Waikato University.Google Scholar
  2. Ariès, Ph. and Duby, F. (eds.) (1987–1991) History of the Private Life, five volumes, Havard: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Burgess, J. (2007) Vernacular Creativity and New Media. PhD Thesis, Creative Industries Faculty, QUT.Google Scholar
  4. Cohen, K. (2005). What does the photo blog want? Media, Culture & Society, 27(6): 883-901.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Coopersmith, J. (2000). Pornography, Videotape and the Internet. Technology and Society Magazine, IEEE, 19(1): 27–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Elias N. (1969) The Civilizing Process, Vol. I. The History of Manners. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  7. Foucault, M. (1982) ‘The Subject and the Power. Afterword’, in H. L. Dreyfus & P. Rabinow (eds.) Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  8. Foucault, M (1975) Discipline and Punish. The Birth of Prison. Vintage Books, New York.Google Scholar
  9. Frosh, P. (2001). The Public Eye and the Citizen-Voyeur: Photography as a Performance of Power. Social Semiotics, 11(1): 43–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Frohne, U. (2002). Screen Tests: Media Narcissism, Theatricality and the Internalized Observer. In: T. Y. Levin, U. Frohne & P. Weibel (Eds.), CTRL [SPACE]: Rhetorics of Surveillance from Bentham to Big Brother. Cambridge: MIT.Google Scholar
  11. Gay, P. (1984) The Bourgeois Experience: Victoria to Freud. Vol 1 Education of the Senses. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Goffman, E. (1963) Behavior in Public Places: Notes on the Social Organization of Gatherings. Glencoe: The Free Press.Google Scholar
  13. Gómez, E., Ardèvol, E., & Estalella, A. (2007). Playful Embodiment and Identity Performance on Internet. Paper presented at the Let’s Play! Conference of the Association of Internet Researchers, Vancouver, Canada.Google Scholar
  14. Hirschauer S. (2005). On Doing Being a Stranger: The Practical Constitution of Civil Inattention, Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, 35(1): 41–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hjorth, L. (2006). Snapshots of Almost Contact: Gendered Camera Phone Practices and a Case Study in Seoul, Korea. Cultural Space and Public Sphere in Asia, Seoul, 15–16 March.Google Scholar
  16. Ito M. (1999). Network Localities Paper Presented at the 1999 Meetings of the Society for the Social Studies of Science, San Diego. (Accessed the 14-04-09).
  17. Jacobs, K., Janssen, M. and Pasquinelli, M. (eds.) (2007). C’Lick Me: A Netporn Studies Reader, Amsterdam: Institute of Network Cultures.Google Scholar
  18. Knight, B. (2000). Watch me! Webcams and the public exposure of private lives. Art Journal, 59(4): 21–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Koskela, H. (2004) Webcams, TV Shows and Mobile Phones: Empowering Exhibitionism. Surveillance and Society, 2 (2/3), 199-215. (Accessed the 14th of April 2009).
  20. Koskinen, I. (2007). Mobile Multimedia in Action. Berlin: Transaction Pub.Google Scholar
  21. Koskinen, I. (2004). Seeing with Mobile Images: Towards Perpetual Visual Contact. Paper Presented at the T-Mobile Conference, Hungary, September.Google Scholar
  22. Lasén, A. (2006). How to be in Two Places at the Same Time. Mobile Phone Uses in Public Places, in Höflich J., Hartman M. (eds) Mobile Communication in Everyday Life. Ethnographic Views, Observations and Reflections, Berlin: Frank & Timme, pp. 227–252.Google Scholar
  23. Lasén, A. (2005). Understanding Mobile Phone Users and Usage, Newbury: Vodafone Group R&D.Google Scholar
  24. Larsen, J. (2008). Practices and Flows of Digital Photography: An Ethnographic Framework. Mobilities, 3(1): 141–160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Lee, D. (2005). Women's Creation of Camera Phone Culture. Fibreculture Journal, 6, (accessed 20 March 2009)
  26. Livingstone, S. (2008). Taking Risky Opportunities in Youthful Content Creation: Teenagers’ Use of Social Networking Sites for Intimacy, Privacy and Self-Expression. New Media & Society, 10(3), 393.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Lusoli, W and Miltgen, C. (2009) Young People and Emerging Digital Services. An Exploratory Survey on Motivations, Perceptions and Acceptance of Risks, Sevilla: JRC-IPTS, European Comisión,
  28. McDonald, K. (2006). Global Movements: Action and Culture. New York: Wiley-Blackwell.Google Scholar
  29. McQuire, S. (2008). The Media City. Media, Architecture and Urban Space. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  30. Müller, C. (2004) It’s Not About Privacy, It's About Control!—Critical Remarks on CCTV and the Public/Private Dichotomy from a Sociological Perspective. Presentation at the Conference «CCTV and Social Control: The politics and practice of video surveillance—European and Global perspectives» 8th/9th January 2004 in Sheffield (UK). (Accessed the 14th of April 2009).
  31. Nightingale, V. (2007) The Cameraphone and Online Image Sharing. Continuum, 21(2): 289–301.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Okabe, D., & Ito, M. (2006). Everyday Contexts of Camera Phone Use: Steps Toward Technosocial Ethnographic Frameworks. In J. Höflich & M. Hartmann (Eds.), Mobile Communication in Everyday Life: An Ethnographic View (pp. 79–102). Berlin: Frank & Timme.Google Scholar
  33. Okabe, D., & Ito, M. (2003). Camera Phones Changing the Definition of Picture-Worthy. Japan Media Review, 29, (Accessed the 14th of April 2009).
  34. Parenti, C. (2003). The Soft Cage: Surveillance in America from Slavery to the War on Terror. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  35. Patterson, Z. (2004). “Going On-line: Consuming Pornography on the Digital Era” in Williams, L. (ed.) Porn Studies, Durham: Duke University Press, pp. 104–141.Google Scholar
  36. Petersen, S. M. (2009). Common Banality: The Affective Character of Photo Sharing, Everyday Life and Produsage Cultures. Unpublished Ph.D., IT University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark.Google Scholar
  37. Rivière, C. (2005) Mobile Camera Phones: A New Form of “Being Together” in Daily Interpersonal Communication in Ling, R. and Pedersen, P.E. Mobile Communications. Re-negotiation of the Social Sphere. Springer, London, pp. 167–185.Google Scholar
  38. Russo, J. L. (2005). Show Me Yours: The Perversion and Politics of Cyber-Exhibitionism. Retrieved 18/05, 2008, from
  39. Senft, T. (2008). Camgirls: Celebrity and Community in the Age of Social Networks. Berlin: Lang.Google Scholar
  40. Sennett, R. (1977) The Fall of the Public Man. Knopf, New York.Google Scholar
  41. Sheller M. & Urry J. (2003). Mobile Transformations of ‘Public’ and ‘Private’ Life. Theory, Culture and Society, vol. 20(3): 107–125.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Stricherz, G. (2002). Americans in Kodachrome, 1945–65, Santa Fe: Twin Palms Publishers.Google Scholar
  43. Villota, G. (2001). Mirando al Patio: El Cuerpo Representado en la Frontera Entre las Esferas de lo Privado y lo Público. P olítica y Sociedad, 36: 113–128.Google Scholar
  44. Virilio, P. (2002). “The Visual Crash”. In: T. Y. Levin, U. Frohne & P. Weibel (Eds.), CTRL [SPACE]: Rhetorics of Surveillance from Bentham to Big Brother. (pp. 108–113) Cambridge: MIT.Google Scholar
  45. Weintraub, J. (1997). “The Theory and Politics of the Public/Private Distinction” In: Weintraub, J. and K. Kumar (eds) Public and Private in Thought and Practice: Perspectives on a Grand Dichotomy. Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1–42.Google Scholar
  46. Williams, L. (2004). “Contemporary Pornographies”. In: Williams, L. (ed.) Porn Studies. Durham: Duke University Press, pp 6–103.Google Scholar
  47. Williams, A. (2006). “Here I Am Taking My Own Picture”. New York Times, 19th of February, Accessed 12th of April 2009.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Universidad Complutense of MadridMadridSpain
  2. 2.Internet Interdisciplinary Institute, Open University of CataloniaBarcelonaSpain

Personalised recommendations