From Snapshots to Social Media

Introduction, pp.1-3, in:

Sarvas, R., Frohlich, D.M., 2011. From snapshots to social media: the changing picture of domestic photography. Springer, London; New York.


We are indeed witnessing a great change in domestic photography: the constellation of technologies, businesses, conventions, practices, artefacts, etc. that constitute photography has changed. However, the change has not come about overnight. It has been happening since the beginning of the 1990s, when the first digital consumer camera became available.


In this book we identify three consecutive paths in the history of domestic photography: the Portrait Path (ca. 1830s-1888), the Kodak Path (ca. 1888-1990s), and the Digital Path (starting in the 1990s).

Each of these paths is characterised by an innovation that disrupted the existing status quo  of technologies, businesses, and practices related to the creation of images within the domestic sphere. Each disruption was followed by an era of ferment in which technological change, business actors, and changing practices interacted to form a new status quo – a new path.

[…] the main audience for this book is researchers, engineers, and designers of digital imaging technologies, social media and Web services or other products relying of mediated social interaction.

[…] technological change is not linear by marked by discontinuities that have potential to disrupt whole industries.


In summary [of Bill Buxton’s text] no professional theatre critic could ignore the historical and societal context of a new release, yet in technology reviews, the historical, cultural, and political contexts are often absent.

A consequence of this absence is that issues such as privacy, power social structures, and economic factors are almost missing from design-oriented science and engineering research.

In the context of photography, a clear gap exists between research on interactive system design and visual media studies (including traditional photography studies).

Our objective is to bridge this gap between interaction design and visual culture studies by presenting a socio-technical history of domestic photography: the technologies, the business models and commercial organisations, regulation, people and their practices, and broader phenomena in society.

Our analytic lens in studying the history of domestic photography is the concept of a technological path, which has its background in science and technology studies (STS) and in technology management literature.

In studying the technological paths in domestic photography (and those paths that did not become dominant), we do our best to find a middle ground between interaction design research, which has a technology-centric background, and visual culture studies, which have a strong background in cultural studies.

By adopting an analytical approach from science and technology studies, we hope to contribute in both ways: to interaction design by emphasising the historical study of technologies as socio-technical constellations of heterogeneous actors and, second, to visual culture studies by emphasising the agency of these socio-technical constellations in shaping and maintaining specific visual cultures.