Media Lab Europe
Human Connectedness research group


an audio/photographic tool for conveying minimally-mediated impressions of everyday life

Joëlle Bitton, Stefan Agamanolis, Matthew Karau

Records and accounts of everyday life in our pasts and presents are often mediated by numerous third parties (researchers, producers, editors, and so on). We feel this mediation degrades the full sense of awareness and appreciation we could achieve of other peoples and places. The goal of the RAW project is to develop a new kind of recording tool, together with a method for processing and presenting the material captured with the tool, that enables a more direct, minimally-mediated relationship between its user and the later audience, possibly in a far away place or time.

What happened in that minute before you took a picture?

RAW is a system combining a tool and a process for capturing and conveying audiovisual impressions of everyday life. The project aims to enable a relationship between the user of the tool and an audience in a different place or time with an absolute minimum of editorial mediation by a third party.

The RAW tool consists of a digital still camera and a high-quality digital stereo audio recorder that captures the minute of sound before and after a picture is taken. The relationship created between sound and image forms a disjoint flow and opens a new field of audiovisual expression. These previously uncaptured moments in time can be kept as personal artefacts or archived for later study.

Audio is recorded binaurally using high-quality miniature microphones that are placed in the user's ears. The apparatus strives for the closest possible recording of what the user of the tool is hearing while they are taking pictures. This design was chosen in an attempt to enable the later audience to immerse themselves "into the shoes" of the person who originated the content they are experiencing, and to place greater emphasis on the subjective point of view of this original source.

We chose the African country of Mali as a starting point for thinking about the RAW project because we feel this country has a particularly rich and diverse culture that is not well recognized or understood within Western societies. We conducted a large scale workshop over three weeks in August 2003 in three locations in Mali: Bamako, Timbuktu, and Ségou; and worked with 23 people. The content gathered by these and other participants from other workshops is presented in an interactive installation.

We are currently working on further prototypes of the RAW recording tool as well as refinements of the archiving and presentation process. We also plan additional workshops for capturing new RAW content, as well as exhibitions of this content, in different areas of the world. Please contact us if you or your organization would be interested in hosting such a workshop or exhibition.

We wish to thank the Association pour le Dialogue et l'Orientation Scolaire (Paris), African Refugee Network (Dublin), Mauro Cherubini, and Alison Wood for their participation in initial trials of RAW. Special thanks to the Everyday Learning group at Media Lab Europe for Matthew Karau's involvement in the project.

Publications and Links

  • Visit the RAW web site for more details on the project, videos, and a full list of acknowledgements.

  • Joëlle made a presentation about RAW in a session called "Narratives, Subjectivity, and Interaction", part of the "Critical Interaction Design" sub-theme at the ISEA 2004 12th International Symposium on Electronic Arts, Baltic Sea, 14 - 22 August 2004.

  • Joëlle Bitton, Stefan Agamanolis, and Matthew Karau, RAW: Rethinking the editing process and mediation in audiovisual narrative experience, ISEA 2004 12th International Symposium on Electronic Arts, Baltic Sea, 14 - 22 August 2004. (link)

  • Joëlle Bitton, Stefan Agamanolis, Matthew Karau, RAW: Conveying minimally-mediated impressions of everyday life with an audio-photographic tool, Proceedings of CHI 2004 Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, Vienna, 24 - 29 April 2004, ACM Press. (PDF)

  • View a RAW experience sample (Quicktime, 27 MB, 3 minutes). This video dub of the RAW presentation screen is of a medium quality to allow web publishing and is not interactive. We advise you to listen to the sound with a pair of stereo headphones.

    RAW exhibitions have been mounted at: