Friday, August 28, 2009

Citizen Media In Action - A Few Examples

Here are some links to citizen media in action – namely, citizen video being used to publicize important issues and to defend groups of poor and marginalized people now threatened by our official economy.

  • Minnesota Homeless Denounce Health Care Cuts...on YouTube!”, Allvoices, Evidently, activists with cameras are teaming up with homeless people in the Twin Cities area to raise the issue of lack of medical care for the poor. This is a fitting antidote to the spectacle of shouting right-wing shills at “town-hall meetings” now being shown by the mainstream media. There is a link at the bottom of the article that allows people to see all the YouTube videos produced by the homeless advocacy group.

  • Homeless fight back with high tech,” St. Petersburg Times, 2 February 2007, This story is a bit old, yet it shows how homeless people were able to fight the breakup of their encampment by shooting video of police actions using cheap, disposable, 2007-vintage digital cameras.

  • Jailers Accused of Forcing Recorded Inmate Boxing Matches,” Inmatesworld, It appears that last year, jailers at the Grant County Detention Center in New Mexico forced inmates to engage in multiple boxing matches with each other (yet another evidence of the corrosive effect of our prison system on the prevailing American culture). The jailers were caught and indicted due in part to videos taken by a cell phone belonging to one of the jailers.

  • Citizen Videos Spread Online Showing BART Police Officer Shooting Unarmed Man To Death,” boingboing, 6 January 2009, This was an horrific event; yet the good thing about the abundant citizen video is that the wicked man wearing a police uniform – the man who committed this murder – now has no cloak or excuse for his deed.

Lastly, allow me to introduce a term many readers may not have encountered before: “sousveillance,” which can be loosely translated as “watching from underneath.” Sousveillance is inverse surveillance in that, as surveillance is typically understood as the watching of ordinary citizens from above, that is, by people in positions of power, sousveillance is the watching of the holders of power by ordinary citizens. It is the act of keeping tabs on people in high places and their agents, by those who are underneath. Sousveillance is a form of self-defense for poor and working-class people.

Most of us can now engage in a bit of sousveillance, due to the availability of cheap yet capable digital cameras and cell phones with video capture capability, along with YouTube and blogs in which video can be embedded. And there are vendors selling digital cameras optimized for output to YouTube (see the Slippery Brick review of an entry-level camera: And for a more in-depth discussion of sousveillance, see these articles:, and

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Some other items: I have taken a few more steps to reduce my dependence on the breaking systems of the official economy and its energy sources. This week I got LASIK surgery. So far, everything seems to have turned out fine, and hopefully I'll never need glasses or contacts again. I am also superinsulating my house. (Sooner or later I've got to finish building that chicken coop...) It's good to make oneself resilient and to prepare oneself for doing without, as I think most of us are going to have to do without shortly.

Our office had warned me that I might be laid off. That was over a month ago. Yet miraculously, work has continued to dribble in. I feel a bit like a man on death row who's been given an all-you-can-eat buffet ticket for his last meal, and who likes to chew a hundred times before swallowing each bite. Anyway, I still have a job...

Dave Cohen of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil (ASPO-USA) has written a really interesting article about the huge inequality in income between the richest 10 percent of Americans and the rest of us. It's titled, “The New Gilded Age,” and it can be found here: It's a good read if you want to see yet another example of our thanatoeconomic system and how the fortunes of the rich rise whenever the livelihoods of the rest of us are taken away.

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