The Public Space


The Public space as we know it, almost always involve a form of media broadcast. When we are sitting awkwardly in a medical centre waiting room, there is a television playing a morning breakfast show or infomercial or it’s a news program. This screen that we are all watching is an element that we are all familiar and have freedom with in the private space. So when we start bringing these technologies into the public space what rules and ethics and codes of practice are expected when sharing this space. I found myself asking the same question the other day when I was in the gym. The gym a place of health and fitness, a place where we turn to for our well- being is also a public space that is having a hard time balancing the ethics and privacy that we expect.  I first go on the cycle’s machine and while I look around, the gym is relatively busy most of the people on the cycles are glancing at the television screens on the wall in front of. Channel 9 is playing on one screen and channel 7 is playing on the other, both with closed captions on as there is music playing over the gym speakers. The music is more stimulating than the boring networks breakfast shows however it begs the question the need for these screens. I find myself also watching the TV’s on the wall, struggling to understand what is actually happening, though it almost has a hypnotising effect on me. As described in the lecture for this week, the TV is an ambient object in this environment.

The TV is not the only screen culprit I witnessed. People using their mobile phones in public spaces have become an ordeal for many. I look around and see people watching YouTube videos while running on the treadmills, people texting and people taking selfies in the gym mirror (probably to post about their current whereabouts). This is a cultural trend that we all now seem to take part in, which is taking selfies and feeling the need to document and broadcast every single moment in our lives on social media.

As I’m taking conducting my ethnography in this public space, I must be aware of ethics. Ethics are important in a public space as the privacy and identity of my subjects must be kept safe.  The type of ethnography I’m conducting is participant observation; this is a type of qualitative research. So when taking photographs I must be careful not to breach the privacy of my subjects.

Some top ethics in public space photography include:

  • Don’t harass or make people feel uncomfortable when trying to photograph.
  • If someone asks not be photographed, this MUST be respected.
  • Do not use somebody’s photograph to publish or exploit in any way.

Interesting fact, when a photo of you is uploaded to social media, like Facebook, you can claim ownership over that photo; however Facebook has the copyright of that photo.


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