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Innovation

On bearing witness

It's a tragic, uncomfortable site, and while I'm glad I visited, I can't say I'd recommend it to my friends. Peter Gabriel's WITNESS organization provides video cameras (and training and support) to native people in a position to see and record human rights violations or their aftermath.
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Written by Ed Gottsman on
It's a tragic, uncomfortable site, and while I'm glad I visited, I can't say I'd recommend it to my friends. Peter Gabriel's WITNESS organization provides video cameras (and training and support) to native people in a position to see and record human rights violations or their aftermath. It was founded in 1992. Recently it began supporting video from camera phones which, since they're much more common than video cameras, will probably dramatically increase the amount of footage it acquires. WITNESS uses its data for advocacy and for evidence, and has sometimes achieved justice for people who might otherwise have been abandoned.

So what?

I just learned about WITNESS--I feel a little silly because I've been waiting vaguely for something like it and here it's been around for 14 years. It proceeds (perhaps unknowingly) from a George Bernard Shaw quote: "Put a rogue in the limelight and he will act like an honest man." Cheap, ubiquitous video camera phones will one day be a collective limelight that illuminates the Earth, making life uncomfortable, or even untenable, for various kinds of evil. But they won't be used just for evil. No: In the developed world, they'll be used for walking on the neighbor's grass, littering, telling politically incorrect jokes, speeding, and parking in the handicap spot. We'll become a nation of police officers...or, perhaps more accurately, a nation of informers. It sounds Stalin-esque: denouncing your neighbor to the authorities and watching as he's ticketed, sued or carted away. But it's going to happen and there's nothing we can do about it. Enemies of the state, beware.

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