10 Camera Phone Videos that Shook The World

“A camera on a phone has only aided the perverted, the nosy, the violent, and the bored.”

Thus proclaimed Michael Agger writing for Slate in January 2007, just as “cameras on phones” had really begun to hit the mainstream.

Adding video capability simply increased the “madness,” according to Agger. The most prominent uses of these devices that he could dig up at that time included “happy slapping,” “streetkissing,” and “old-fashioned humiliation,” leading him to conclude that “In glorious retrospect, it seems like a terrifically bad idea to give the world a spy camera that looks and functions like a cell phone.”

Even as he wrote that, YouTube, as the platform that made it easy to actually share camera phone video content, had been blocked in Thailand. Since the platform’s launch in 2005, it has been taken seriously enough to be blocked in at least 12 countries – not to mention by corporate firewalls and in school districts across the USA.

So many of us now produce and consume camera phone content as a matter of course and hardly think of it as “madness.” Yet if Agger’s swift dismissal of the camera phone strikes you as silly today, try this trick: substitute the words “Google Glass” (or maybe even “dashboard camera”) for “cell phone camera” in that Slate article. It works. And will probably continue to work, every time a disruptive new technology is introduced.

I’ve had a keen interest in the transformative power of being able to create and share content easily — equally relevant inside an enterprise such as SAP (where I work) as out. In 2010, I conceived and managed a project that made it easy for anyone to share a video inside SAP. That project achieved astronomical success and came to be known as Media Share, now formally “productized” on our corporate portal. Yet we also had our naysayers from the outset, insisting we would get in trouble for allowing people to share whatever content they pleased.

This was in fact the thing I liked best about working on Media Share: helping people represent themselves who could not before. You could always publish a video and share it – if you had funding and your content was vetted. To be sure, we’ve seen slick promo videos, formal training courses, official communications and corporate advertisements alike (not to mention our powerful and meticulously produced It Gets Better: SAP Employees) – all of which stand to gain from the ease of distribution on video platforms such as YouTube and Media Share. These things of course have their place — but sharing raw footage from your hand-held device cuts more profoundly to the bone.

Why?:

  • It’s ok to be an amateur. It might even make you more credible.
  • You don’t need to be a corporation or have funding to create content. You don’t even need a fancy camera.
  • You don’t need anyone to tell you it’s ok.
  • You can – in fact, you probably will — easily share your content, whether or not your content “goes viral.”
  • As you take your hand-held device around the world with you, you are a witness, a reporter, a human.
  • This changes EVERYTHING.

Agger did concede in Slate in 2007 that some camera phone videos can “testify to the power of first-person witnessing, and how a digital copy of that witnessing can upend neat narratives and certainties.”

What Agger failed to contextualize is that this “upending” is more than just bored hooliganism. This is “Truth 2.0.” When you represent your world by sharing your camera phone video, you do more than put the You in YouTube – you MAKE the news.

Sure – with over 60 hours of videos uploaded to YouTube every minute, there is more footage than anyone will ever see and perhaps care about, but you need the dinner parties, the elephants, the fire-breathing kittens, the everyday moments of life to have the really big moments that shake the world. In short: You actually need to be human.

And if you still doubt that the camera phone has changed the world (and not just for perverts and the nosy, violent, and bored), or rather – that you can change the world because you are a human using your camera phone, browse the list and remember the moments below, listed in the order in which the events they recorded occurred.

As beloved San Francisco Bay Area radio personality Scoop Nisker used to say: “If you don’t like the news… go out and make some of your own.”

 

December 26, 2004
Indian Ocean Earthquake & Tsunami

This is just one of many videos about this event, which was “the first global news event where the majority of the first day news footage was no longer provided by professional news crews, but rather by citizen journalists, using primarily camera phones.”

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zPUlU3Uwi2g%5D

 

April 23, 2005
Me at the zoo

YouTube co-founder Jawed Karim in the first YouTube video. Ever.

“Elephants have really, really really long trunks!”

Because… without elephants we would have no YouTube. Or something.

[youtube:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jNQXAC9IVRw%5D

 

July 7, 2005
London underground bombings
Perhaps the first major news event captured by ordinary people using their cell phones. Changing news forever.” (Despite Wikipedia already calling it in 2004, above). “CNN executive Jonathan Klein predicts camera phone footage will be increasingly used by news organizations.”

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y3266GdfvMI%5D

 

April 29, 2006
The Hong Kong “Bus Uncle” video

“I face pressure. You face pressure. Why do you provoke me?”

It’s not only famous people and world leaders who face pressure. Every-day “normal” people, all around the world, face pressure. Whatever our differences, we are united by this common thread: We Are Human. Respect your fellow travelers.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H20dhY01Xjk%5D
January 1, 2009
Oscar Grant – police shooting at BART
I almost included this Rodney King video in the list. Since the videographer, George Holliday, used a Sony Handycam, it violated my rules. But this was 1991 – years before camera phones. In many ways, the Rodney King video set the stage for much of the citizen journalism that was to come.

Oscar Grant’s story is a good companion story. Like Rodney King, Oscar Grant was shot and killed by a police officer.

Unlike Rodney King’s story, in a chilling difference: With improvements in technology, the Oscar Grant video was easily more viral. And the officer involved was convicted.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bmJukcFzEX4%5D

 

June 13, 2009
Iranian election protests

Before Egypt, before Syria – there were the Iranian election protests. This was one of its first viral videos.
There are too many videos to list here (see Mashable’s list of 10), and many are more graphic than we can ever hope to experience, including the precedent and inestimably earth-changing recording of the death of Neda Agha-Soltan.
If you look at the footnotes at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2009_Iranian_election_protests there are countless citizen-generated videos bearing witness to police gunshots into crowds. Not only did “Major news outlets, such as CNN and BBC News, gained much of their information from using and sorting through tweets by Twitter users and videos uploaded to YouTube,” but this galvanized and sparked a “Persian Awakening.”

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=54XQ7Vf-bVY%5D

 

January 18, 2011
Meet Asmaa Mahfouz and the vlog that Helped Spark the Revolution

I realize this may not be a hand-held camera phone, but at the very least the revolution this sparked was propelled by camera phone witnessing. “As one Egyptian activist succinctly tweeted during the protests there, ‘We use Facebook to schedule the protests, Twitter to coordinate, and YouTube to tell the world.’”
More on the story: Asmaa Mahfouz & the YouTube Video that Helped Spark the Egyptian Uprising

[youtube:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SgjIgMdsEuk%5D

 

November 18, 2011
Police pepper spraying and arresting students at UC Davis

Not only is this another in a series on the watchdog capability of camera phones , but to many, the incident became the iconic badge of the Occupy movement itself.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WmJmmnMkuEM%5D

 

2011-2012
People & Power : Syria: Songs of Defiance

User-generated content becomes mainstream and goes underground at the very same. This is a remarkable compilation of footage from an Al Jazeera journalist’s cell phone camera. “An unusual but compelling first-person account of a country in turmoil and a revolution in progress”

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VnvPXspjLtU%5D

 

 

November 6, 2012
2012 Voting Machines Altering Votes

Never again should the validity of your voice and your vote be subject to doubt.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=QdpGd74DrBM%5D

 

Footnotes:

 

I’ve been working on this list for a long time. Above are just some of countless examples. Since I began thinking about this, there are other such lists – including an excellent compilation from linktv of Top 10 Raw Videos that Changed the World (which contains many images too rough for me to stomach) – and the 15 YouTube Videos That Changed The World (deliberately not all camera phone footage).

I’ve left out incredible historical videos of events that changed the world way before camera phones and YouTube. And clearly I’ve omitted many other notable social movements including Pussy Riot, Gangnam Style knock-offs, and “the funniest kitten you will ever see!”

Have I left out something important from your camera phone? Let me know!

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Media Share in the Social Intranet

Ich bin veröffentlicht (albeit in a small way!). Below you can read pages 274 and 275 of a book called Social Intranet: – Kommunikation fördern – Wissen teilen – Effizient zusammenarbeiten. (Cited by permission from Dirk Dobiey, one of the book’s chief authors.)

Social Intranet talks about the many aspects of SAP’s successful internal communications platform — our “social intranet” — which is managed by the organization called Knowledge Management Competency Center.

This chapter talks about Media Share, the project I am pleased to have shepherded into existence at SAP. In this project, we identified the need — and then set out to fulfill it — to help people easily share videos inside the company. While it’s easy to share media externally on countless social internet channels, internal sharing comes with its own challenges, which are both technological and business-related. We ended being part of a vibrant communications platform backed by an avid community and a company that demands new ways to be open and transparent internally. It has been a real privilege to be involved with this project.

Video sharing with Media Share is only one piece of the social intranet pie at SAP. Check out the whole book for more details on the vibrant platform inside SAP (if you read German since it’s only in German at this point).

Key excerpt auf English:
“Critical to our growth was listening to our community of users, seeing how they were using Media Share, and responding, as well as learning of the many bright ideas out there on valuable ways to use a video sharing platform,” Moya notes.

This Week in Video and Politics

I’ve been working on an internal video sharing platform at work for over a year, and now everything from music to politics to diversity to news to family and more directly seems to relate to video sharing platforms.

This week, two videos in particular have caught my interest at the intersection of Video and Politics. Let’s start with Charlie Crist:

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s4k13LmlcUE%5D

A colleague passed along the news story behind this to me: Crist, Byrne settle lawsuit over campaign song.

We know a bit about the potential issues of music copyright infringement through our work on our video project, so it’s surprising that this video was ever made. Charlie Crist should have known better when he used the Talking Heads’ song Road To Nowhere in his campaign ad, but in the realities of political campaigning he (or likely his campaign) could well have realized a “cease and desist” order might not have even taken effect until the campaign was long over.  Seems anything goes in the fast lawless heat of political campaigns.

On the other hand, Prop 8 proponents are targeting Judge Vaughn Walker over his public use of videotapes from the trial in the long long journey of Prop 8 through the courts. Seems back on February 18, at an event on courts and new media in Arizona, Judge Walker delivered a session called Shooting the Messenger: How Cameras in the Courtroom Got a Bad Wrap, and during that session he showed pieces of the videotaped trial, including testimony from a Prop 8 proponent.  C-SPAN was there to record it, which amounted essentially to “broadcasting the testimony on TV,” which is of course what the Prop 8  folks never wanted in the first place.  Since a stern motion about this apparent “illegal” release of videotape was delivered today, you should watch it there while you can (I can’t get a version with embed strings but will come back and embed if I find one).

The Ninth Circuit Court later had no problem showing the Prop 8 trial live on C-SPAN. You can watch it in its entirety to this day:

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tO_HoF1EBfw%5D

Beyond Walker’s district court however there are no live witnesses to testify. All records of people’s motivations are preserved back in the district court.

For the moment let’s ignore the the obvious question “What do Prop 8 proponents continue to want to hide?” I used to think that The Law was one of the next biggest areas of disruption in the “Web 2.0” space. Now that I’m involved in a video project, naturally I think video is the current huge disruption in politics.

Of course — none of these things are new, but whereas Law seems to be purposefully designed to be slow in a fast-media world, Politics is far from it.  A quick campaign ad released the day before an election can change its course.  Thankfully, checks and balances are however still in tact. A targeted attack on a meticulously prepared, thoroughly researched and fairly tried case (or the relevance of the case’s judge’s sexuality) will amount to nothing except passing fancy in the “court of public opinion.”

Video however? Video can reveal to anyone who cares to see the real motivations behind Prop 8 as revealed in the courtroom from its proponents under testimony, and you can try to pull it down, but the record is cast. The Internet will continue to remember. And we’re here to see it.

As Video Extends its Reach Across the Web, What Is TV?

I haven’t blogged on the SAP Community Network for work in several months, so I’m happy I finally wrenched that elusive set of hours away that it took to put together my report on my recent trip to Los Angeles for video-related conferences:

As Video Extends its Reach Across the Web, What Is TV?

Usually when I go online at conferences and events, I’m reporting on Web 2.0 events or social justice activism or just plain existing. In Los Angeles, the landscape was both unfamiliar and immediate, and it was and still is for me a bit of a reach to put together the growing, stunning implications of the past, present, and future of streaming media on the Web and what it could mean for television — whatever THAT is. I could think of no better place from which to contemplate this disruption than from this center of stardom, the birthplace of celluloid dreams. I welcome your read and thoughts!

Family watching television 1958
By Evert F. Baumgardner [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

TED at the Web 2.0 Expo: “A platform for spreading ideas”

Interesting keynote from TED's June Cohen on viral spread of TED talks via video #w2eJune Cohen’s Web 2.0 Expo talk — Ideas Worth Spreading: TED’s Transition from Conference to Platform — just ended and it was so incredible I have to immediately commit these thoughts to a post.

TED has realized its incredible value not only as a conference but as a platform.  Largely through capturing videos of their incredible sessions and then making them available worldwide for free viewing afterwards, they’ve been able to harness the power of an amazing viral spread of enthusiasm.

Cohen used the example of Hans Rosling’s incredible talk jettisoning him into unlikely-internet-stardom, so from a content standpoint TED has a goldmine — and they want to share it.  This is where the technological and philosophical elements come in.

Technologically, they facilitate this worldwide viral spread in part by making sure the videos are subtitled into multiple languages.  Not only are the videos subtitled, but the full transcripts are available. One excellent feature Cohen pointed out was that you can click a word in the transcript and the video automatically scrolls to that point.

And if technology and awesome content weren’t enough, TED is pursuing a fully open philosophy.  “In pursuing the strategies of openness, all of the unintended consequences have been explosively positive,” says Cohen, while announcing TED Open TV Project — a network of partners that can use TED talks for free and build broadcasts around them.  The bottom line for TED?  “TED has evolved from a conference to a media company to a platform for spreading ideas.”

Definitely staying tuned to — and rewatching — this one.