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« Rite of passage for cameraphones: CNN uses Nokia N93 to record broadcast content | Main | The mongols are coming »

February 14, 2007



I'm old enough to be reading this blog, and I *love* the pictures it takes! To me, it is far better than the "proper" cameras, in more ways than one. I "blogged" my own attempt at cameraphone creativity at


Maybe we should take a step back here (especially in generalising the youth of today) on the day the UN reports that the US is failing its children, as it comes bottom of a league table for child well-being across 21 industrialised countries. Camera phones will do nothing for these children if their basic social needs and well being are not met.


Well, the blog post is about global (more global than just NA and EU, too) trend(s), not about any specific places.

Interesting report though, although it's about UK failing its children, not US. But US is second to last at position 20 in the same report. When reading it, I felt the "dog eat dog" problems among the British youth sounded like something that I'd expect to come from the adults and culture in general. I wish they had mentioned examples of cultural differences that might have affected the results:

QUOTE: But they added: "The process of international comparison can never be freed from questions of translation, culture, and custom."

I think Tomi and Alan often report Scandinavia and Italy as being on the bleeding edge of mobile culture adoption in Europe. Those countries are all in the top 10 in this report. More a symptom or cause (if either)? Perhaps the youth there - or _here_, I'm from Finland - have more time for luxuries. But they don't have to be seen that way, rather the British might welcome any (creative) outlets to express themselves.


Was hoping to that this would kick off some good discussiong here or on forum oxford given these huge numbers. But looks like LBS seems is a more hot topic.

- Rajan

Tomi T Ahonen

Hi Jag, Mike, Pekka R and Rajan

Thanks for visiting and posting comments.

Jag - cool, you're obviously very young at heart :-) But I do feel there is a dramatic gulf between how adults treat any cameras, pictures, and digital images; and how teenagers today deal with the same. To most adults, they remember a time before "everybody" had digital picture taking ability. A time when either the digital cameras were very expensive (and picture manipulating and storing software; and the hard drive storage for images; and the personal computers themselves were expensive etc). And those old enough to have gray in their hair (like both Alan and me) will remember that cameras were only film-based. Not only were cameras expensive and rare and valuable, but so was film - which went stale with time - and developing pictures and then attempting to deal with any modifications to them (eg scanning them to get into digital, and invariably having the picture in the wrong format for whatever software you happened to find to try to edit pictures, etc)

I'm one of those who had his own laboratory for my camera hobby, and I did the full range from developing the negatives (not only positives) and even buying negative stock in bulk and rolling my own 35 mm cartridges. Talk about a labor-intensive process of being a camera freak back then in the 1970s...

So long story, what were we on? Oh, yeah, about the differences. For older generations cameras are special, pictures are precious, and photo opportunities used to be rare. You dressed up for pictures, took a look in the mirror before the picture. Any pictures you had, you stored, they were valuable. Good pictures you might reprint copies to relatives etc. Cameras were taken to special occasions like weddings, birthday parties, the summer vacation etc. This all conspired to make us think of pictures and cameras as very special.

For the youth today with cameraphones, pictures are totally disposable memories. They store a set of pictures only as long as it takes to go to Pizza Hut to show them to the friends, then they can safely be deleted, as new ones are taken already at the Pizza Hut. The total number of snaps taken by a typical teenager on their cameraphone is well in line with the massive amount of SMS text messages they manage or IM instant messaging chat comments. Disposable memories.

It totally alters the relationship. Kids DO understand the value of an important picture - the one with "that girl" partly out of view, is the most precious picture in the whole cameraphone - well, at least for this week until next week another girl is the new heart-throb. The same for pictures that are useful - like the cool close-up image of the logo of the skateboarding brand, which the kid may use repeatedly in various projects of personalization.

But this is a totally different way of dealing with cameras. They regularly snap up pictures of anything that could be funny or interesting, and are also very ruthless in discarding any pictures (or clips) that are not "good enough." Yes, that was the first time I had mastered that trick on the snowboard, but my head was mostly out of the frame. I know I can do that trick again, and now I want to shoot the clip with me in perfect focus all the way...

A longwinded reply, sorry about that Jag.

Mike - well, you're a wet blanket aren't you?

Do you Mike seriously suggest, that Alan and I should "stop reporting on topics of our blog" because the American society is failing its kids, and that report came out today? This is NOT a blogsite with a focus on family/social matters, even though we occasionally do touch upon those. Please look at the masthead of this blogsite - we are a "Communities Dominate" blogsite, discussing the emerging role of digital communities, in marketing, media, technology and how that impacts society.

I do agree that it is of grave importance to the educators and governments of the UK and USA, to help reverse that situation. But note it is a ranking of countries. Because ONE country comes on the bottom of the rankings CANNOT be reason to stop reporting about that topic, whatever it is, because EVERY TIME such a ranking is done, SOME country will be at the bottom. It is possible that ALL countries have become better, and still someone will be on the bottom. Its a relative finding !

Unless you suggest that Americans are "more important" than other people? Some (mostly Americans) do think that way. We don't. We do cover the global phenomena at this blogsite, and just because American kids (or British kids) are on the bottom of some survey of their happiness, is NO reason for us to STOP reporting on topics of our blog.

But yes, to be very specific. Cameraphones could not have caused that "disasterous state of affairs" for the American or British kids - as cameraphones are too new a technology. They appeared in 2001, even in 2003 were so rare that only top end executive smart phones had cameras. Today even in Britain barely over half of teenagers have cameraphones and significantly less in America. As in Japan and South Korea almost all teenagers have cameraphones - if your logic held, that cameraphones cause this severe distress by the kids, America should be at the top of the list with Canada (having lowest teenager cellphone penetration and cameraphone penetration) and Japan and Korea should be on the bottom. Obviously the reverse is true. I would suggest this is what statisticians call a correlation, not a causation (or the "Post Hoc" fallacy in logic, from the latin "post hoc ergo propter hoc")

But yes, we share in your pain. Thank you for writing. But I will reserve the right to report on the topics of our blog no matter which country comes last in the next international comparative survey. Sorry about that.

PekkaR - you are so nice for stepping in and defending us with your words. Thank you Pekka! Good reasoning too on national rankings ha-ha...

Rajan - so you wanted debate? How's this reply ha-ha. But yes, I would have preferred more discussion on how cameraphones might impact creativity, how they become a new information input tool - like microphones in the 1920s and stand-alone digital cameras in the 1980s, and flatbed scanners in the 1990s, etc. Maybe we'll still find some more discussion. But thanks for stopping by Rajan, and for reading our blog and also participating at Forum Oxford.

PS on LBS (Location-Based Services) - I am very confident this is false hope by newcomers who have "discovered" mobile in the past 2 years, and haven't gone through the futility of it before. Most of the companies who push LBS are IT companies from America, not the big boys of mobile (eg Nokia, Vodafone, NTT DoCoMo, China Mobile, Ericsson, etc). Yes, the big boys are following with announcements, but notice none of them are pushing any kind of hype about LBS, they talk about 3G TV, HSDPA, communities, and advertising, not LBS. The only ones who believe passionately in LBS are the newcomers to the industry.... It won't last :-)

Thanks for visiting and commenting. And Mike, I hope you can find some reason to continue to live even after that sad report. I hope you can understand that we here won't stop providing our blog reporting to our loyal readers just because of some UNRELATED report came out by the UN.

Tomi Ahonen :-)


Excellent reply Tomi, and I think you hit the nail with the explanation on "relationship" between picture and generation.


I too wanted a discussion on how camera phone affects creativity. In addition to being as a information input tool, its power as a much powerful presence device is something that fascinates me as well.

Treating of camera phone as enabling presence and how telephone and photography are natural complement by Douglas Galbi was a pure Aha moment for me.

I am sure you would have read through his economic treatise called "Sense in Communication" ,

I was introduced to his thoughts by Martin Geddes

There are more than a billion camera phones but as Galbi mention there is scope for handset manufacturers for changing design and coming with much better camera phones which would much huge impact.


N. Moore

Hi Tomi!

Sent you e-mail and am awaiting your promt reply. I have a few "problems" that I need to run by you. Please contact me asap. Cheers.

Alan moore

Dear Jag,

Thank you very much for the link to sense in communication. I personaly had not come across it. And I am going to read it with great interest.

Thanks for stopping by.

And have a great weekend



Great article. I loved the respect and appreciation you have for our youth. I'm really tired of hearing old people complaining about the teenagers of today while ignoring their greatness and potential. As for the camera phones, i totally agree and your words just make me even happier with my n73. I also agree however that i won't be able to use my cameraphone to the extent that the gen-c's will. This is because i'm still not 100% comfortable taking pictures everywhere in public. Just as you said i never had it as a toy so its not natural enough for me.

Tomi T Ahonen

Hi Jag, Rajan, N.Moore, Alan and Natan

Thanks for writing.

Jag - thanks!

Rajan, good points. And Martin is a great resource and good guy (and friend)

N.Moore - I saw the e-mail and replied to it. Thanks.

Alan - cool.

Natan - very nice sentiment, thank you. Yes, I don't have kids of my own (Alan has) but I am very lucky to have a nice close family of nephews, nieces and godchildren, who are my "test lab". It is really heartwarming for me, as a technology evangelist, to see these kids (11 boys and girls, between age 3 and 16) and how comfortable they are with the technology. It gives me confidence. And I'm so proud of them all as their uncle, regularly featuring some of them in my presentations as the girl with her first phone or the boy on his skateboarding trick etc. But it didn't occur to me that this love would shine through in my writing - which it obviously does. Yeah, and its also obviously I'm one of those "glass is half full" type of guys - perhaps more even, that the "glass is still nearly full" ha-ha...

Thank you all for writing

Tomi Ahonen :-)

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I hope you will keep updating your content constantly as you have one dedicated reader here.

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Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same

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good points. And Martin is a great resource and good guy

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that blog covers all of the topics in this, older blog posting, so unless you want to read about the history of mobile, I suggest you hop over to the newer blog where the current numbers are discussed.

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Assuming the internet user numbers also grow at about the same rate as last year, by late Spring 2007 we will have more people with cameraphones, than access to the internet.

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