As time has elapsed, technology has become more and more advanced. Naturally, a trickle-down effect subsequently takes place in which the consumer has more access to greater technological advancements. As more of these new tools become readily available, the more an individual has access to documenting what goes on in everyday life. Technology has given people the ability to expose their own stories, capture moments that would have otherwise remained hidden from the public eye, and post them in a public forum. It is this ability that has changed the way that people live in this world. Nowadays, many people use their phones to paint themselves in a different light, whether it is from posting something on Vine, to completely documenting one’s life on YouTube. People also tend to use their phones to capture controversial moments, which can lead to both positive and/or negative reactions that come from these videos. These new technologies have allowed us to view a different, often uncensored, part of the world that was at one point kept silence from the public. With this in mind, one has to ask his or herself whether or not these developments are better for society as a whole.
We have become witnesses to what the world has to offer. The modern day cell phone (or smartphone) allows us to have an amateur camera crew right at our disposal. Since our phones come with such advanced specifications, we can document what is going on in our life and in other’s. More and more, if something “crazy” happens, we are inclined to document the events on our phone to show to family, friends, and even the world. We might even ignore the actual situation just to record it and be the person who documented it. This has increasingly become the case in the world of street fights and, in general, weird occurrences. As a result of the interconnected world we live in, the potential for something to become viral is significantly higher than in past times. Part of the major hike in the popularity of viewing street fights online has been a website called Worldstarhiphop (WorldStar). The founder of this site calls it the “CNN of the ghetto.” This website is one that often posts videos that the user sent into the website, such as fights, disputes, or any abnormal things that may have happened in the course of the day. WorldStarHipHop is one of the reasons that some are able to enjoy the meme of Sharkeisha, a young woman who was filmed landing a devastating(warning: violent video) blow on another young women as the two were seemingly arguing over a male. As a result of the video, which was taken via a phone, there was a new audience(another violent video) who was able to see the video who otherwise may have never seen or heard have this video and person. There are many other videos that appear on the website that basically show similar situations. In some cases, the website puts out fight compilations, which are a bunch of fights that are sewed into one video. As a result of the rising popularity of WorldStar, videos that are taken by the average individual via their cell phones often, at one point (or multiple points) during their video, verbalize the phrase ‘WorldStar” to shout out where their video will eventually end up for thousands, sometimes millions to see. This form of surveillance can be viewed in a negative light, and could cause someone to see this as being bad for society. Videos of fights often paint a harmful picture of those who are participating in it, as well as the setting of the video itself. The people who watch these videos also can be viewed as promoting violence. For example, the Sharkeisha video has about 24 million views on Worldstar alone, which is significantly higher than most videos posted on the website on normal days. An argument can be made that the success of these violent videos only encourages both fighting and documenting fights on a cell phone, because the subsequent amount of attention brought by the video can help its keep players make broader connections with a large amount of people as well as communicate with those who they could not have otherwise.
(A spoof of what WorldStar fights often look like)
Being a digital witness can also be used in a positive light. For example, someone filming a video can help attempt to bring the truth to light in various controversial situations. One high profile example of this is the BART police officer shooting of Oscar Grant. Grant celebrated New Year’s Eve with his friends, and was on his way to his next destination. After the police received reports of a fight breaking out, Grant and his entourage were detained by the police on the platform, much to the disgust of the passengers on board the train. As what has become quite popular today, some passengers who were close to a window took out a cell phone or a camera to film what was going on outside of the train. Grant, who was allegedly disobeying officers, was about to be arrested for resisting an officer. One of the officers told another that he was going to tase Grant, but as he reached for the taser, he pulled out his gun instead, and fatally shot Grant in the back. Grant would die later on that night. Many people on the train caught the footage with their cameras from different angles. These different perspectives caught by these different cameras were used to spread Grant’s story in the news, in Oakland, on YouTube, and around the world. These videos were also reviewed to reach a verdict on the actual trial. In this way, being a the person behind the camera really helped to spread the end of Oscar grant’s life, as well as being able to possibly help Grant’s family and court reach closure and a decision. The officer who shot Grant was not found guilty for murder, instead guilty for involuntary manslaughter. The video, which one can perceive as police brutality helped spark riots over the court’s decision. So as a subsequent reaction from people’s inclination to record an event down, a court case reviewed the videos, the news showed the videos, and the world learned about the controversial death of Grant, which would later be turned into a movie. The witnesses to this video taken by this digital tool helped spark riots to an injustice that a couple of years ago may have only taken up space as an article in a newspaper. Instead, it became something major, and people have raised up to voice their disbelief.
Therefore, we can conclude that these new technologies have created new ways we experience the world. These technologies have given us various alternative modes of entertainment, up to the point where a subculture of filming fights has become acceptable in society. There are even pictures and videos encouraging you to hold your phone horizontally while filming a video, a minor detail that often infuriates commenters on comment sections. People even get arrested after being featured on one of these videos, in which police officers become witness and appropriately survey what is going on in their communities. We are indeed living in a society where increasingly people are learning how to create their own art through minor videos. Everyone is gaining a voice when having possession of a smartphone, and can push whatever agenda they please out to the masses. I believe that people taking videos and allowing people to witness daily life is necessary, as it helps to paint what reality actually is instead of the often hyperbolized messages painted on television shows, therefore bringing about a positive effect on society.