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Cops vs. Cameras: Widespread Camera Use and the Rise of The New Media


In 1991 when the Rodney King beating was caught on tape it was a coincidence that someone happened to have a video camera with them. Today, nearly everyone carries one in their pocket. And the advent of social media means that a photo or video need only generate a few retweets before it goes completely viral. It seems that news — especially bad news — travels faster than ever; and it brings justice with it.

The Kelly Thomas case cited in the above video (be warned: it contains graphic images) shows how a simple camera phone can change the course of an entire investigation, unifying an entire county against its own police force. It shows that current events are no longer the territory of public information and public relations employees; everyday citizens and the cameras they have access to have taken that mantle and created what has come to be known as “the new media” — a media made up of amateur photographs, camera phone videos, and millions of YouTube viewers.

Whether or not this new media is a force for good is yet to be determined — there are no ethics organizations keeping private users from editing photos or videos to suit their desired outcome — but we can’t deny that the media has changed, and for better or worse it’s in our hands now.