Miami Beach, Florida: Field Research

     For my field research, I decided to observe the onlookers of Miami Beach, Florida. This took place during spring break on March 3, 2014 The precise location was on the sands of Miami. Two of my friends were alongside me, however I decided not to let them in on the project, so they also are included as the people I observed. The closest location address I can give is the marker of 3rd Street and Ocean Drive.

      I would describe the view of my location as very spacious. I was out in the open, however I could only describe the sunbathers that were closest to me. I could hear their conversations the best and observe the types of mobile media that they were using much easier. There were advertisements around us. They were very subtle and easily overlooked. Sun umbrellas that were lined up along the beach donned the names of various hotel resorts on them. Surprisingly there were no unsightly blimps floating in the sky. (I suppose that I’m used to the cheesy advertising of Atlantic City and the Boardwalk.) Beverage cups and food packages showed off the names of where they originated from. The space itself did not necessarily encourage mobile media, however many people had their cell phones, tablets, iPods, and even radios at the ready. 

      There was a variety of different people at this particular section of the beach. They were all different colors and sizes. There were men, women and children. There were singles, couples, and families. A large majority of the people surrounding me seemed to be in their 20s to 40s. Almost everyone was wearing swimsuits. The only time they were not dressed that way was upon their arrival and/or departure. Some people had visible tattoos and some did not. The singles, couples, and groups of friends seemed to be the most interactive on their media devices. It seemed like most families simply came out to enjoy the weather. (The parents were usually too busy watching their playful children to be concerned with any devices.) 

     I zoned in on a few people who did not necessarily fit the mold. I observed a young woman (possibly between 25-30 years of age) reading a newspaper on the beach. That seemed a bit unusual given that there are so many vibrant sights on Miami Beach to look at. I took note to a group of people who seemed to be tourists like my friends and I. They had so much gear that had logos of “Miami Beach” or “Miami Spring Break 2014” written across them. They had t-shirts, beach bags and towels, all promoting the city. It dawned on me that this was also a form of mobile media. They were communicating to those around them that they were visitors. When they returned home, they would communicate to those who would see their merchandise where they had been. There was another couple that I observed. There was an older man (40-45 years old) and a young lady (22-25) sitting side by side and looking at the ocean. They were of Latin descent based off of their language dialect. Beside them was a battery operated radio that was playing American Hip-Hop music. 

     The most common form of mobile media that I took notice of were cell phones. Most of the users were the people I grouped into the 20s- 40s age bracket. They were taking “selfies” and updating their social media website pages. Many of them had iPods or were listening to music through their cell phones. Along with use of a cell phone/ tablet came the constant complaint that there was bad cell phone service. Pictures could not be uploaded in real time, and statuses were denied update. The agony! I encountered this problem a couple of times while using my own cell phone actually. Another incident that I took mental note of was the caution that the people would use when they neared the water. I repeatedly saw people stop just at the point where the water met the dry sand to take pictures of their friend(s). If the subject in the lens wanted a close up, the camera holder would use their zoom feature to get the shot. If a person holding their camera wanted a shot of the luxurious yachts and cruise ships, then again they would use the zoom feature. The problem with zoom is that the shot often comes out blurry and ends up looking like a zoomed in shot.

     What I took from this observation was that people were being limited to capturing clear images of objects that were honestly not that far away. This connects to my app idea. When people are recording important events, they should be able to rely on their built-in camera devices. My idea was to build some sort of extension to the camera. I had in mind a way to increase the usability of the camera because pictures/images can create profound messages. They are crucial in the realm of mobile media. From this, I thought of an app that is specifically used for zooming. It would eliminate the strain of capturing far off images. The app would have an advanced zoom feature that could not only zone in on images, but smooth them out once they are captured. All of this could be done in the app, and then the photo/video could be uploaded directly to any social media site. Looking past the issue of only being able to get your toes wet when taking a photo at the beach, this tool could be major for those who have an urgent message. For example, people who spot flying objects. Even those who are witnessing some sort of crime but want to maintain their distance would benefit largely from this.



One thought on “Miami Beach, Florida: Field Research”

  1. Well, I can’t say I’m not a little jealous of your spring break travels, but I’m glad you were able to do some observations outside of the greater Philadelphia region. I also appreciate the expansive notion of mobile media you make use of (tying it back to earlier classroom discussions).The impact of environment on how people could use their devices was also important to note. You talk about people being careful with their devices around water, but there is also the issue of what to do with expensive devices while at the beach (particularly if you are alone and have no one to watch your things while you go into your ocean).

    The app design you suggest is ok, but it’s not clear where the social justice is in the design. It’s also unclear how it innovates beyond phones that are specifically designed to take better pictures (Nokia and Samsung’s dueling high-end camera phones for instance). Is the idea that you would create a technology that would allow *any* phone to take higher end pictures? If so you’d need to talk through the practicalities of that. Some accessories already exist that would inform such a design. Regardless of those particularities, you do still need to connect the plan back to social justice in some way.

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