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Sunday, March 08, 2009

Larissa Hjorth, "Imaging Communities: Gendered mobile media in the Asia-Pacific," Japan Focus, March 2, 2009.


In the rise of participatory, networked and social media epitomised by Web 2.0 and user created content (UCC), mobile media has been central in ushering in new types of consumer agency, creativity and collaboration. Through its rapid uptake across the world, the mobile phone has become a compelling symbol for contemporary post-industrial modes of labour and intimacy. In particular, the icon of the mobile phone is most palpable in the Asia-Pacific where a diversity of innovative production and consumption practices can be found. One of the dominant symbols of the region’s mobile media has been the conspicuous symbol of the female mobile media user. And yet, the phenomenon—and its gendered implications—has been relatively under-explored. By charting the rise of gendered mobile media practices, we can gain insight into how technology, gender, labour and intimacy are being conceptualised and how this, in turn, is reconfiguring the region within the twenty-first century.

In this paper I draw from a longitudinal cross-cultural case study of gendered mobile media conducted in Tokyo, Seoul, Hong Kong and Melbourne from 2000-2007. Deploying on interdisciplinary, ethnographic research conducted over a seven-year period, this paper examines the relationship between gender, technology, labour and intimacy through ‘imaging communities’. Imaging communities can take multiple forms — form of texting, camera phone practices or mobile novels (keitai shôsetsu). These communities provide fresh ways for conceptualising the region’s multiple cartographies of personalisation. Cartographies of personalisation are new socio-emotional and political economic maps for imaging and imagining the Asia-Pacific in an age of personalised media and Web 2.0.

  ...networked mobile media is best conceptualised as a series of ongoing, micro ‘imaging communities’ that span visual, textual and aural forms.

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