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Catfish and Cod
Friday, October 24, 2003
Citizen reporter.
(Link path: BuzzMachine)

Jeff Jarvis wants the perfecting reporting tool -- something that's a camera, a microphone, a web-enabled PDA with word processing and wireless connectivity, and a phone, all in one.

Such a thing is imminently possible; all the components have been invented, we just need a bright boy to put it all in one box, figure out the ergonomics and power requirements and manufacturing, and sell it. At first they'd be expensive toys for all the international reporters. But then economies of scale would kick in, and local newspapers would start buying them. Then the public would buy them, especially if they start competing with camera cellphones.

This could be a paradigm shift in the way David Brin talks about in The Transparent Society. Brin points out that cameras are becoming so cheap and easy to manufacture that they will soon be everywhere, and discusses the resultant social effects. He argues that since "the cameras are coming" anyway, we'd better make sure they aren't controlled by any large organization (including the government and corporations) that could use the power of an all-seeing eye to establish a tyranny. Thus, he advocates a world where everyone can access all the public cameras.

But there's more. Even with many competing powers that be, even with free camera control, if commentary and eyewitnessing remain reserved to a controlled elite ("The Fourth Estate"), there can still be effective blockage of ideas in society. Jarvis' all-in-one do-it-yourself report-o-blogging machine would solve that problem, by throwing open both reporting and punditry -- news and analysis -- to the masses. Democracy would then be possible on a mass participatory scale never before seen.

Cool, huh?