Caught in Public: mobile phone use


“Would you mind if I take a photo?”

A simple question to ask an individual or a group of people that are in close proximity, but what if the question wasn’t asked and the photo was still taken, is the photo still allowed for use and distribution? Depending on the location of the photo being taken, whether taking that photo be in a public or private space then there is a concern to know if a photo is being taken.

Taking a photo in 2014 has never been easier since every smart phone has a camera, though taking a photo is nothing unusual, the sharing of that photo on social media can have a consequence that the people in the photo or the people taking the photo have never thought of.

Private space can mean both the space around an individual that they feel is psychologically theirs (their personal space), the other is the area for which an entity has control and power over an area and dictates what rules are followed within that controlled space. Houses and businesses are examples of private space as they are owned by people who dictate what happens with their establishments. To take a photo in a private space would be up to the individual who controls the area, so to ask permission would be needed.

Public space refers to an area opened to anyone for use, these spaces being parks, markets and malls. The use of public spaces deals with more of a social space where anyone can enter and do whatever they want. The intention usually specific to what sort of public space it is, such as a playground for children deals with the surrounding responsibilities, infrastructure and necessities to be called a “playground”. (Worpole, K)

Private and Public spaces were once separated but the ability to take photos and share those photos second guess how private, private spaces really are, and how photos in public spaces captures more than it should. When out in public taking a photo – whether it be scenery, friends, objects or art, the use of the mobile phone can capture every moment not even the one intended. As taking a photo out in a public park where other people are living their lives who you have no interaction with, you could capture a sensitive moment, without even the intention to. A moment such as an unexpected marriage proposal caught in a park Austin, Texas:

Out in public with your mobile phone, with all of the saved photos among other private information, is used constantly – from a distraction from face-to-face social interactions, as a navigation tool to a just something to use to pass the time. This small gadget that you hold on to impacts on your social convention and dictates what you will do and how you will do it but also those other people who you have captured.


Worpole, K & Knox, K 2007 “The social value of public spaces”, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, York

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