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Friday, January 19, 2007

SLATE.COM: The Camera Phone...

Trinidadians and Tobagonians are all agog about recent revelations of schoolchild porn captured with camera phones, and apparently being distributed on DVD. In our usual fashion, my people are acting like they are the first to ever witness such a travesty, it making front page news and being to talk of the town after Vindra Naipaul and the waning wonder of Choc'late Allen. As usual though, we reach the dance after everybody else and getting on like the fete ain't start until we arrive.

The fact is that despite our wilful efforts to ignore the fact, children have been screwing children - indeed adults both male and female have been screwing children - from time immemorial. It is just that it is only recently that for a few hundred dollars anybody can become an amateur videographer or a porn star, whether intentionally or not. This is a fact to which a local journalist with a peculiar bent and several of his consorts can attest.

An article read recently at Slate.com written by columnist Michael Agger puts much of the ongoing debate and angst about camera phone technology into context. Titled, "The Camera Phone: The Gadget that Perverts, Vigilantes and Celebrity Stalkers can all agree on", the article posted at http://www.slate.com/id/2157736/nav/tap1/ begins:
Ten years ago, Philippe Kahn was walking around a hospital with a cell phone and a digital camera. His dadly mission: to share pictures of his newborn baby girl. With an assist from Radio Shack, he linked the two devices together and e-mailed photos to family and friends around the world. The day marked a twin birth of sorts: the cell phone camera and daughter Sophie.

Kahn regards his invention with paternal pride: "I built it to document the birth of my daughter. For us, it has always been a positive thing." So he was taken aback recently when, with the Saddam-hanging video circling the globe, an interviewer compared him to the inventor of the Kalashnikov. First there was Prince Harry's Nazi costume, then the shaming of Kate Moss, then the Michael Richards racist explosion, but, for some, Saddam's hanging marks the low point for Kahn's creation. A camera on a phone has only aided the perverted, the nosy, the violent, and the bored.

Mr. Agger presents a very balanced commentary, global in context despite the occasional U.S. reference. When you read the article, you will come to realise that we aren't the first to face the issues that are now appearing, and indeed, we have only just begun to see the ugly side. Perhaps though we can take lessons learned by other societies and try to make positive use of the technology rather than, as is also usual, import what the foreign metropolis has to offer wholesale, issues and all.

Perhaps though the exposure that the camera phone brings will force us to acknowledge some of the ugly things that aren't as out of the ordinary as we'd like to think.

Perhaps having things like under-aged sex caught on camera and thrust in our faces will make us think more about responsible sex education, and doing more than telling our children, "don't bring home no baby for mih to mind!" Perhaps it will make us take better care of our sons and daughters, helping us to help them to make wiser and more informed personal decisions about sex and sexuality...

But then, maybe the issue will fade away as just another nine-day wonder...

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