The metaphysics of the cell phone camera
The cell phone camera. To most, an innocuous bit of technology that doesn't work well enough to be significant, in either a good or a bad way, to our lives. To some, however, it's a crime-stopper. According to the NY Post:
Get set for the YouTube version of 911. Mayor Bloomberg revealed yesterday that the city plans to equip 911 emergency-call centers to receive instant cell phone photos and videos from New Yorkers who record a crime as it's happening.To others, it's a singular socio-cultural event, changing the way we perceive ourselves, our place in history, and the behavior of others -- mostly for the worse, which surely encouraging people to take pictures of crimes will only exacerbate. Says Slate's Michael Agger:
There have also been news reports of graphic videos showing beatings and accidents, such as an unfortunate boy in Birmingham, United Kingdom, who impaled himself on his bicycle. ... In glorious retrospect, it seems like a terrifically bad idea to give the world a spy camera that looks and functions like a cell phone.Whoa. Seriously? Are we really talking about something unique to the mobile cam? To me, it seems like the most interesting innovation is the delivery, not the phone. YouTube and 3G networks, for example, deserve the credit here. After all, cameras and the Internet have been around for a while. Heck, so have oil paintings and carrier pigeons. It's the fact that there's a super-easy way to share images that's significant.
And by the way, would your cell phone cam actually take a legible picture of anything not right in front of it, in full sunlight? Mine wouldn't. These, however, might do the trick.
You miss the point with your "oil painting and carrier pigeon" analogy, especially pertaining to the use of camera phones to record crime. The point is not that it cannot be done before, it is that it's so much easier to do now.
Question: how long does it take to paint an oil painting of a crime in progress?
Now do you get the idea?
Sure, digital cameras and the Internet have been around for a while. But how many people carry digicams in their pockets on a daily basis? Mobile phones, on the other hand, have become a necessity for many people, which they have on them at almost all times.
This changes the way people behave and govern themselves. On the one hand it can be seen as a crime deterrent. On the other, it brings us dangerously close to finally realising the Big Brother vision of Orwell's 1984.
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