Social Meaning in Mobile Media Practices Across Cultures, by Irene Hau

With the advancement of technology adding to the development of mobile and media devices, the mobility and portability of media is drastically increased. Now the media is so in motion that we practice mobile media in our everyday lives.

Mobile digital photography

Assistant Professor Yonnie Kyoung-hwa Kim at Kanda University of International Studies has been working to understand the historical and cultural implications of the transition from digital photography to mobile digital photography. She believes the practice of mobile digital photography is more than simply capturing the special moments and archiving our memories in a visual way, but also as a form of relationship between physical human body and mobile technology. “I usually take photos expecting Instagram’s reactions. Photographic images have power to launch a new conversation,” Kim’s 21-year-old female student said.


This social expectation and meaning of photography is also shared among Finnish teenagers. Adjunct Professor Sara Sintonen at University of Helsinki conducted a research on the mobile media usage of a 15-year-old Finnish female student for seven months. The research data shows that she sent 53,854 SnapChat messages, averaging up to 17 multimedia messages per hour during the research period excluding sleep. Not only did she describe her life happenings and express herself through visual communication on SnapChat, she was also connecting with her peers and building social relationships.

Tracing back to the rise of mobile media

Having learned about the mobile digital photography and SnapChat practices in Japan and Finland respectively, we may wonder how and when we have started practicing these mobile media habits. Professor Tomoyuqui Okada at Kansai University brings us to take a look at how media became mobile and portable, since mobile Internet services and the first camera mobile phone were introduced in Japan in 2000. In addition to the thriving technology, contemporary Japanese youth culture, especially their media consumption and mobile communication, as well as telecom subscribers and manufacturers all contributed to the development of mobile media in Japan.

Digital transition or opposition?

The rise of mobile media indicates adoption of mobile technology practices, not only from photography on digital cameras to digital photography on mobile phones, but also from print newspaper to digital newspaper. Mikko Villi, Director of the Communication Research Centre at University of Helsinki, carried out a research on the digital transition in Finland and Japan. Japan remains to be one of the countries with the largest daily print newspaper circulation in the world, and the digital newspaper is regarded as a supplement to the print newspaper in Japan. The digital transition has transformed reading newspaper from being an individual activity with the print version to a social and interactive practice with the digital version.

Introducing mobile media in schools

Mobile technology enhances the social meaning of media practices. Adjunct Professor Heikki Kynäslahti at University of Helsinki has been working on mobile learning in schools since the renewed Finnish national core curriculum 2014 to improve school pedagogy and communication. The principles of mobile learning and communication in schools center around student engagement, authority of learning, collaborative actions, and inquiry-based learning. This points to the future general direction of mobile media, as mobile media practices become more social, engaging, and interactive across cultures.