Snap Judgments: How Students Search the Web for their Rights to Photograph in Public

Authors: Robin Hoecker and Eszter Hargittai

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Citation: Hoecker, R. & Hargittai, E. (2012). Snap Judgments: How Students Search the Web for their Rights to Photograph in Public. Communication Review. 15(4):253-273.


Citizens need civic literacy to make sense of the laws that govern them. How do citizens learn about their rights in an age of abundant online information? This study examines how a diverse group of 65 young adults - a generation of people who grew up in the digital age - use the Internet to assess their rights to public photography. The laws surrounding the right to photograph are complicated, yet these laws potentially affect many people as more and more carry devices with cameras and take pictures in public. Study results suggest that despite vast amounts of content available online, people turn to just a small number of sources, often accepting the advice without verification. A few respondents, however, recognize the potential complexity of the situation and approach the task more critically, sometimes consulting multiple sources.


The authors are grateful to the generous support of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, which made this research possible. The authors thank Ericka Menchen-Trevino, Gina Walejko, and Heather Young for their help with data collection. The study upon which this article draws would not have been possible without the research assistants and staff of the Web Use Project group in 2008 and 2009. We are especially grateful for help provided by Jason Gallo. The authors thank James Speta for inspiring the title and acknowledge helpful support from Ann Feldman and Tom Moss.

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