Context Photography

Capturing the larger context in digital photography. In the Context Photography project, we developed a digital still camera augmented with sensors that gathered real-time context information and visually affected a photograph as it was taken, thereby also capturing some of the larger context surrounding the scene. After an iterative design process, we then evaluated the use of this camera in a long-term user study that involved participants in various countries during a period of 6 weeks. The study showed how the addition of ubiquitous technology in a still camera gave rise to new creative ways of taking pictures.

The mechanical and optical constraints specific to analogue cameras have disappeared with the advent of digital technology but still limit the way we conceive photography. Context Photography was a Future Applications Lab (Viktoria Institute) project, part of the Picture This! project that aimed at taking digital photography to the next level by developing new types of physical interactions with cameras, of visual representation, and of hybrid picture-viewing (see also BashoCam). Picture This! contributed to gathering knowledge about the potentials of ubiquitous computing in enabling new creative behaviours and aesthetic practices.

The design of the context camera was published in [1], its implementation on cameraphones in [2], the user study in [3] and our lessons learned about the implications for designing ubiquitous computing systems for creative purposes discussed in [4] (see publication list below). Context Photography was demoed at various venues such as UbiComp and DIS [pdf]. It was also featured in the press, most notably in leading Swedish newspapers such as Göteborgs Posten and Ny Teknik (see press list below).

The project started in 2002, I joined it in 2003 and co-led it together with Maria Håkansson and Sara Ljungblad. I participated in the development of the last two versions of the context camera prototype, in evaluation workshops and in the longer-term user study that took place during summer 2005.

Project website: Picture This! Context Photography – Future Applications Lab
Project lead: Maria Håkansson, Sara Ljungblad, Lalya Gaye (Future Applications Lab, Viktoria Institute)
Project collaborators: Pontus Munck, Panajotis Mihalatos (IT-University in Göteborg), Mattias Rost (Future Applications Lab, Viktoria Institute)
1. Context Photography: Modifying the Digital Camera Into a New Creative Tool. Sara Ljungblad, Maria Håkansson, Lalya Gaye, Lars Erik Holmquist. CHI 2004, Vienna, Austria (2004). [pdf]
2. Context Photography on Camera Phones. Mattias Rost, Lalya Gaye, Maria Håkansson, Sara Ljungblad, Lars Erik Holmquist. UbiComp 2005, Tokyo, Japan (2005). [pdf]
3. More Than Meets the Eye: An Exploratory User Study of Context Photography. Maria Håkansson, Lalya Gaye, Sara Ljungblad, Lars Erik Holmquist. NordiCHI 2006, Oslo, Norway (2006). [pdf]
4. Bringing Context to the Foreground: Designing for Creative Engagement in a Novel Still Camera Application. Maria Håkansson, Lalya Gaye. DIS 2008, Cape Town, South Africa (2008). [pdf]
- Context Photography project featured in Sweden’s largest technology magazine Ny Teknik in the article “Så ser ljud ut på bild” (2004)
- Article in newspaper Göteborgs Posten (2004)
- Context Photography – along with other Mobile Life projects – featured in the article “Bäst i Världen?” (2007)