Tuesday, June 08, 2004


Predicting the ramifications of new technology is a nice cottage industry for some journalists but it's kind of like predicting the weather in Minnesota. The weathermen here are always incomplete (yesterday they said it would be warm; we ended up hitting a record); often they're just flat-out wrong. The bar being so low leads to an inordinate amount of amateur prognostication to add to all the professional missteps.

Take digital cameras. I guess it's predictable that gyms would start banning them, but it's a little surprising the New York subway system feels the need to follow suit (NYC Transit claims the ban will hamper terrorism)? And who would have thought that images shot by amateurs would spark one of the biggest news stories of the Iraq war.

It's a News of the Weird phenomenon: people actually use the cameras to document their own misdeeds! Which makes me wonder: does the presence of amateur photographers change people's behavior? Bad behavior could be staged solely for the camera's benefit. But it seems just as possible to me that taking pictures of behavior could take the place of committing even worse acts.

Today our local paper reported that after 2 squad cars collided "three or four teenage boys yelled at the officers and took pictures of them while the officers were disoriented." A "few members of the crowd were yelling that someone should take the officers' guns and badges. "That did not happen," said the police spokesman. Did the fact that the kids had taken the pictures increase or decrease the possibility of further mischief? Did it have any effect at all? We study the role of groups in leading to socially unacceptable behavior (sometimes it leads to improved performance). The effect of the ubiquitous availability of digital cameras seems also worthy of exploration.

Spitbull's prediction? It's gonna rain.


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