Friday, January 09, 2009

Gun Shots and Camera Shots

Aggregators of news from the urban streets have been recording reactions such as these responses from Oakland youth to the public death of Oscar Grant at the hands of the police while commuters on the Bay Area Rapid Transit system documented the event through the video features on their cell phones. Some of this footage ran on news stations before it appeared on YouTube, and sometimes it was retasked with links to anti-brutality websites like Berkeley Cop Watch.

This is one of the most striking videos that captures both the carnivalesque attitude on the trains and the user's unfamiliarity with how to use what she later described as a "brand new" digital camera. Toward the end of her filming of the sequence she shouts to police: "I caught you motherfucker!" Although the subsequent footage of her testimony to a reporter depicts what occurred with removed rationalism as she explicates the scene, witness journalism of this kind also shows the complex position of the viewer who may be engaging with other interactions before recognition takes place, responding with the crowd rather than serving as a dispassionate lens, struggling with user interfaces, and grateful for the mobility of these devices, given understandable fears of retribution if the assailants are in positions of authority.

YouTube's vloggers have also opined about the event as this video and this one show, as they analyze footage for signs of conspiratorial detail and debate each other through the mechanism of response videos. Some remixing of the file with music has also occurred.

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