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July 11, 2003

The future will be in full view

Here's some breaking news...personal media creation and publishing can be controversial.  In one short week we've seen this story ["Camera-Equipped Phones Spread Mischief"] that people are using cameras built into cell phones in unexpected ways...from the benign (capturing snapshots of public events) to the nefarious (sneaky snapshots inside locker rooms) and lots of places in the gray area between (snapping photos of magazine pages to send to a friend).  Then we hear (by way of Dan Gillmor) that Samsung has banned video phones in some of its facilities in an effort to prevent industrial espionage.  People are worried about their privacy being lost.  Companies are worried about their secrets being leaked.  Publishers and media producers are worried about their markets being undermined by actions that fall somewhere between fair use and copyright infringment.

What's odd about seeing these developments this week is that it comes right on the heels of William Gibson's excellent commentary that appeared in the New York Times last week.  In The Road to Oceania, Gibson takes on the notion that the power of surveillance and data mining has created an Orwellian world of hopeless disempowerment for the ordinary citizen.  Instead, he notes that the technology of information creation, information sharing, and information finding are available to all of us.  He says "It is becoming unprecedentedly difficult for anyone, anyone at all, to keep a secret."  In short, like it or not, you have no privacy.  None.  But neither do "they". 

William Grosso, over at O'Reilly, notes that these instruments of sharing information are becoming woven firmly into the fabric of society:

Cameras aren't what they used to be. Increasingly, they're not about long term persistent storage and "saving precious memories." Instead, they're visual aids for real-time social interaction.

Putting the means of personal publishing in the hands of all of us might be "democratizing". Even more so, it might be invasive.  For sure, it changes all the mechanisms of society that relate to information scarcity (including publishing) and secrecy (including government, business, and expectations of personal privacy).  We can fight it, but there's no fighting it...the rules are changing as much as they did when the printing press became available.  That particular innovation was used for everything from copying other people's work to spreading misinformation and propaganda to enabling a society that was informed enough to establish democracy and fuel the industrial revolution.  Anyone who's tried to outlaw or regulate printing presses may have bought some time, but they've lost out in the end.

So, in the face of technology like cellphone cameras, P2P networking, and Google, companies and governments try to contain information, limit distribution and control access to their copyrights and secrets. Individuals everywhere try to preserve their privacy. I wonder what society will look like when they fail.  

Posted by larryb at 07:00 AM [permanent link]
Category: Personal Video Publishing , Weblogs
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