Friday, January 19, 2007

When camera phones attack.

Michael Agger at Slate vilifies the camera phone, citing the recording of Saddam Hussein's execution as the peak in recent shameful uses for the phones:

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. Peeping Toms quickly realized the potential for upskirt pics and shower-room souvenirs. Chicago tried to block cell phones from gyms, and a California legislator has proposed a law requiring the cell phone to make a shutter snapping sound or flash a light when a picture is taken. We have trained ourselves to be wary when a cell phone is pointed at us, but the device's relative inconspicuousness still creates problems. In Saudi Arabia, women have been taking pictures of other women unveiled at weddings and e-mailing them to matchmakers, a practice that has caused uproar in a culture in which any sort of image can be cause for loss of honor.

Technology can't be blamed for the bad uses that people dream up for it. Camera phones, like any other technology, are ethically neutral. People decide what to use it for, and people should be blamed when bad decisions are made. Although Agger does describe some positive outcomes involving camera phones, he sticks to his argument that we'd be better off without them.

He gets this part right:

One consequence of this is an altered perception of the gravity of our day-to-day routines. We are now more aware of ourselves as observers of "history." When a van catches fire in front of our house, we and our neighbors are now out on the lawn recording. We e-mail this to our friends, who testify to the enormity of the event, and then we all await the next sensation. This impulse can be positive, but it also fuels the increasingly destructive American habit of oversharing. The snapshot speaks with a small voice: I'm alive and I saw this. The cell phone camera picture or video is a shout from the rooftop: Check out this crazy thing that happened to me.

Technology does seem to bring out the narcissist in people.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Please, please, PLEASE look up the word "enormity" and use it properly, if you must use it at all. I judge you when you use words improperly.