Academic journal article Journal of Aesthetics and Culture

Sensory Experiences of Digital Photo-Sharing - ''Mundane Frictions'' and Emerging Learning Strategies

Academic journal article Journal of Aesthetics and Culture

Sensory Experiences of Digital Photo-Sharing - ''Mundane Frictions'' and Emerging Learning Strategies

Article excerpt

Copyright: ©2015 V. Fors. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, allowing third parties to copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format and to remix, transform, and build upon the material for any purpose, even commercially, provided the original work is properly cited and states its license.

Published: 8 December 2015

*Correspondence to: Vaike Fors, School of Education, Humanities, and Social Sciences, Halmstad University, Box 823, SE-301 18 Halmstad, Sweden. Email:

This paper is part of the Special Issue: Visual Frictions. More papers from this issue can be found at

This article will advance the concept of "mundane friction" through which to discuss the experience, meaning-making and pedagogy generated through operating touchscreens and computer screens. The presented empirical examples originate from ethnographic work together with seven teenagers who showed us around on their favourite website, a web-based photo-diary. These examples are part of a larger study of how teenagers' use of image-based social networking sites becomes part of how teenagers learn and make sense in their everyday life, and the implications for this in museums.1 In doing so, this article will elaborate on how a sensory approach to touchscreens can contribute to the study of digital visuality. Visuality, in its own term, derives from Hal Fosters distinction between vision and visuality, and denotes the aspects of the visual that is socially and culturally constructed in various ways: "how we see, how we are able, allowed, or made to see, and how we see this seeing and the unseeing therein."2 Through a sensory approach, this article will push the notion of visuality one step further, and not only discuss how the visual is socially constructed but also how visuality is in itself culturally constructed as distinctive from and in competition with other senses. Indeed, as media scholars like Elizabeth Edwards and Laura U Marks has convincingly suggested, vision is not purely visual, but a multisensory embodied experience, closely linked to touch and haptic perception. As Marks points out, in what she calls haptic visuality (as opposed to optical visuality), "the eyes themselves function as organs of touch" which leads to that "the viewer's body is more obviously involved in the process of seeing than in the case with optical visuality."3 Marks is concerned with what the focus on the optical brings with it in terms of how we might lose contact with the materiality of images; the tacit, sensory and embodied relationships between the viewer and the image. In line with this argument, but with an ethnographic approach that deviates from Marks' focus on spectatorship of moving images, I will here argue that digital visuality is inherently embodied since the digital invites people to touch, stroke, pinch, push, click touchscreens and other devices in daily routines and habits of taking, sharing and showing photos with camera phones. Even though large software and smartphone companies work hard and innovatively with creating "smooth" human-machine interfaces, there is an obvious, however not articulated, physical friction caused between the fingers/hands and the hardware in the daily use of these technologies. This daily and mundane friction between the hand/s and technologies plays a tangible role in the everyday learning strategies that develop through frequent use of digital visual media. Thus, "mundane frictions" is here used as a concept that might help us to move beyond simplified understandings of digital media practices as mainly actions of vision.

The reason for doing so is not only to, on a methodological level, problematise digital visuality through a multisensory perspective, but also to discuss implications on a pedagogical level. …

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