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What time is this picture? Cameraphones, tourism, and the digital gaze in Japan

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After its introduction in 2000, the cameraphone (a cell phone with digital camera functionality) rapidly became a ubiquitous presence in Japan, part of an increase in non-voice modalities associated with mobile telephony. This essay employs an experimental format to explore what it means to combine cell phone and camera in a single portable device. Particular attention is paid to how cameraphones, within the broader context of cell phone (keitai) culture in Japan, alter the way tourist sites and events are experienced, recorded, and shared. Ultimately, the ease with which the cameraphone facilitates capture, narrativization, sharing, and deletion of photos, causes a blurring of traditional distinctions between the touristic and the everyday. Furthermore, these changes are imbricated in a broader cultural shift in perception and consciousness engendered by the continued interplay between producers of digital technologies and creative use of these technologies by consumers.
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Keywords: Japan; cameraphone; cell phone; keitai; photography; tourism

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology and the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures, Indiana University,

Publication date: May 1, 2009

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