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Keitai Spy


Network society's "freedom" and "order" communicated via cell phones and tag games

While playing "tag" using mobile phones' camera functions, participants in this workshop learned about the influence that today's advanced information society exerts on the community.
Whenever new media technologies surface, our modes of communication change accordingly, and those transformations ultimately affect not only the community, but have an impact on society at large. Considering these circumstances, thinking about the usage of media technology, and continuing to update methods of use is elemental in order to handle technology in an active and autonomous manner, and without adopting a passive attitude.
Through alternating shifts of rulemaking and actually playing "tag" using the camera functions of mobile phones, participants in this workshop witnessed firsthand the influential power of rules. The workshop functioned as a simulation of the creative yet at once abusive aspects of media technology, and promoted a fundamental understanding of the connection between community and media technology that was exposed in the process.
2005 -


Keitai Spy (YCAM original workshop)

Next-generation tag using "Keitai (mobile phones)"


Keitai Spy (YCAM original workshop)

Next-generation tag using "Keitai (mobile phones)"

Workshop details
Duration: 3 hours
Number of participants: 8 - 15
Age group: Fourth grade elementary students up to adults

Workshop program
(1) About the workshop
(2) Explaining the use of mobile phones
(3) How to play tag with mobile phones / test game
(4) Rulemaking (1st round)
(5) Tag game (1st round)
(6) Lecture on rules and manners
(7) Rulemaking (2nd round)
(8) Tag game (2nd round)

Playing tag with mobile phones
For the tag game, each participant was given one mobile phone with a built-in camera function. The participants used these for photographing the others while at once trying to avoid being photographed themselves by escaping or hiding. All photos that were eventually shot were uploaded to a dedicated server, and displayed on a large screen inside the venue after the end of the game. While watching these pictures, the participants awarded points and ranked the players based on the rating system they had previously worked out.

After compiling the ranking of tag players, all participants got together for a meeting to discuss and revise the rules of the game with the aim to make it fairer and safer. Newly formulated rules to lower the risks of injuries, and revised rating criteria that were agreed upon in the meeting were eventually implemented in the next round of tag.

Approaches for restricting people's behaviors
In the process of repeated playing and rulemaking, the participants automatically come across various approaches to restricting people's behaviors. Such approaches can be roughly divided into the four categories, "law", "norms", "market" and "architecture" that American jurist Lawrence Lessig proposes in his book "Code".
"Law" in this workshop specifies what is forbidden in the tag game, and defines penalties in cases of violation, while "norm" describes the rule of self-discipline that each participant needs to obey in order to prevent any behavior that would disturb others from enjoying the game. Considering their somewhat "educative" effect on each participant, the accomplishment of these categories involves a sort of compulsion.
"Market" in this case is where modifications to the rating criteria are being made. For example, when setting up rules according to which shooting close-up photographs earn the respective player more points, many participants - even without any particular order to do so - take the risk of being photographed only to get even closer to their targets. While this doesn't happen without a sort of compulsion, the players are largely unaware of it due to the strong competitive consciousness that is at work here.
Finally, "architecture" is the special property of the mobile phones' camera functions. For example, taking photos with a mobile phone always involves a clearly audible shutter release sound, so the photographed person easily notices even when being photographed from ambush. Then there is the problem of start-up time the camera needs before it is ready to shoot, making photographing in rapid succession impossible. Although a mobile phone's camera comes with such various obstacles, most users accept these as given. The same applied also to environmental factors at the venue, such as the positions of walls and stairs among others.

Community in advanced information society
By basically combining the above-mentioned approaches, our society/community is trying to strike a balance between order and freedom. Nonetheless, as highlighted by such problems as illegally copied digital contents, in this age of advanced informatization the approaches themselves are subject to change, and while laws are strengthened to maintain order, this has given rise to a situation of increasingly impaired freedom. Through this process, workshop participants experience the above-mentioned approaches while witnessing first-hand all their advantages and disadvantages, and learn about methods for communal operations in today's advanced information society.
Tour Information
  • August 1, 2013 Magic Art Museum: Light Art Is Fun for Everyone
    Venue: Contemporary Art Museum, Kumamoto (Kumamoto)

  • August 19, 2011 Venue: Kawasaki City Saiwai Civic Hall (Kanagawa)

  • December 12 - 13, 2009 Venue: Marugame Genichiro-Inokuma Museum of Contemporary Art (Kagawa)

  • January 31, 2009 Venue: Media Seven (Saitama)

  • May 27, 2006 Venue: Tama Art University (Tokyo)

  • May 14, 2006 Mobile Image Life
    Venue: Skip City (Saitama)

  • October 8, 2005 Visions for Education
    Venue: Benesse Corporation (Okayama)

Cooperation: Koichiro Eto, Miki Fukuda
System Design: Koki Yamada


Organized by:

  • Yamaguchi City Foundation for Cultural Promotion

In association with:

  • Yamaguchi City
  • Yamaguchi City Board of Education

Co-developed with

  • YCAM InterLab

Produced by:

  • Yamaguchi Center for Arts and Media [YCAM]
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