The Null Device

The street finds its own uses for things

Xeni Jardin writes in WIRED about the emerging social applications of camera-equipped mobile phones.
Whipping out a cheap phonecam at the height of a late-night bash, a Michigan frat boy snaps his own Girls Gone Wild shots and instantly uploads them to an online gallery accessible by anyone in the world. At a Los Angeles convenience store, a woman witnesses a holdup - and with the press of a button, she captures the thief's image and zaps it to 911. In Hong Kong, a mobile phone user photographs the apartment complex of a neighbor suspected of carrying SARS. He posts the pictures, details, and GPS coordinates to an unofficial database designed to do what the government won't: collect and provide data about the spread of the virus.

As William Gibson said, the street finds its own uses for things. Most of the uses, unsurprisingly, are of a prurient nature:

"Upskirt" phonecam voyeurism in Japan is already a growing challenge for law enforcement. The device's low profile makes snapshot-sneaking easier and detection harder. (The devices are already banned in some Hong Kong changing rooms.) Portals like Cam7.com or uboot.com's SMS network - which allows users to view webcam images on their smartphones or share phone-captured pics and video - seem destined for pornographic deployment. And fans of photo showcases like PhoneBin are already competing in hot-or-not picture wars. Inevitably, the image with the most skin wins.

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