Body, theatricality, and communication: Digital photography posted on SNSs by young Japanese students during a humanitarian trip to Cambodia

Research papers
By Atsushi Miura

Digital photography posted on LINE, a popular social networking site (SNS) in Japan, has changed the way in which Japanese people communicate. This study analyzes the theatricality of images of the body in digital pictures taken by Japanese students during their humanitarian activities in Cambodia, making reference to the discussion of art historian Michael Fried. Images of the body posted on LINE vary depending on the addressees. With their classmates who are there with them, students share theatrical images of people gesturing toward the photographer (active theatrical photography [ATP]); however, to friends or family back in Japan, they send still images of people or objects (still theatrical photography [STP] and objective photography [OP]). In ATP, students try to stage themselves based on the gendered cultural code of kawaii (cute) for girls or kakkoii (cool) for boys. This analysis confirms the importance of the physical body in motion for communication on LINE and for the construction of a public space. However, this public space, as far as it appears in pictures, does not eliminate the distance between the Japanese students and the Cambodian peasants.

  • digital photography
  • SNS
  • kawaii and kakkoii
  • theatricality
  • public space.
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