Recent actions by the police in the United States have been generating more publicity about the use of camera phone videos and the rapidity with which they can be viewed on the Web.
Reuters says, "Once regarded as a toy for rich teens, the ubiquitous camera cell phone is becoming a powerful community tool in the debate about police conduct.
"Some Los Angeles grass-roots groups are training citizens to use cameras, video mobile phones and the speed and Internet sites like YouTube to get their voices, and pictures, heard."
Cop Watch LACop Watch LA (see above) established a Web site three months ago to monitor police abuses in Los Angeles. Sherman Austin, a founder of the group, says in the Reuters article, "We urge everyone to have a camera on them at all times so if anything happens it can be documented.
"The concept of patrolling the police is something we are trying to push as a form of direct action."
(This is part of a larger mission, the Web site says. It is "is just one arm of the larger movement that we are fighting to build against Imperialism, Capitalism, White Supremacy and Patriarchy - and for the space to determine our own political, economic and social organization, free from oppression and domination." Reuters doesn't mention this.)
Inappropriate police activity?
Reuters reports that three videos show law enforcement officers beating a man, using pepper spray and using a taser. (The incident of the taser -- where University of California, Los Angeles, police stunned an Iranian-American student in a library -- has become some of a cause celebre on the Internet.)
The Guardian discusses the rapidity of publicity in the age of the Internet and the camera phone/video camera:
"Home videos of police excess have been around for a long time -- it is 14 years since the Rodney King video sparked the 1992 riots -- but the means to distribute them to a mass audience has previously been in the hands of corporate media.
"That has now changed....
"Forget police oversight commissions and the bulky, lethargic bureaucracy of officialdom.
"YouTube is up and running faster than a cop with a primed Taser, and it makes embarrassing viewing for Los Angeles law enforcement in all its guises."
The power of camera phones
The Guardian quotes a UCLA official telling the Los Angeles Times, "We will gather as many samples as we can find, from different sources. We'll use it for our own administrative investigation."
The Guardian comments, "If that sounds like a promise to adopt the old routine of sweeping an investigation under the carpet, home video has the upper hand. In the YouTube video of the UCLA incident, there are occasional glimpses of other students holding their mobile phones up to record the action.
"Reality has been brought to book."
Ever since I've been writing this weblog (three years) I've been saying that cameras/video recorders in phones are a revolutionary technology. Many people have shrugged them off as merely one more feature for cellular operators to make money by pushing poor quality photos and videos.
Even some cellular operators have been discouraged because MMS hasn't been raking in as much money as they hoped. They buried themselves so much in next-quarter's spreadsheets that they didn't recognize the value of wireless imaging.
Some short-sighted analysts (here and here) -- relying more on surveys and focus group rather than plain ol' perspicacity -- discounted the value of camera phones because they focused on the quality, capabilities and cost of "today" -- not "tomorrow."
Tomorrow is today
Some analysts have failed to take into account not just technological progress that improves camera phone image quality, but also the potential societal effects of omnipresent wireless imaging.
The naysayers are wrong. But even they are beginning to see the effects of a technology that enables consumers to document virtually everything that occurs around them and then let the world know about it.
"Tomorrow" is here.
Beyond stupid videos
Camera phones are more than just the mostly-moronic videos on video sharing sites like YouTube and the fuzzy photos of pets and high school parties on photo sharing sites. There is wheat among chaff.
Whether it's images of inappropriate police activity, terrorist bombings, military actions, student/teacher imbroglios, political gaffs, consumer activism, wanted criminals, automobile accidents, natural disasters or corporate incompetence, the effects of camera phones are being felt with increasing regularity.
And, even this is still the beginning of the wireless imaging revolution. As camera phones morph into being able to stream live videos to the world and receive mobile television, the impact of wireless imaging will become even more pronounced.
[Sent via TypePad wireless e-mail with RIM BlackBerry 8700g]