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Context in Citizen Video Whistleblowing

The SF Chronicle catches up with a somewhat old story today with a piece called “Creeps beware: Web gives women revenge / Catcall recipients share their stories — and men’s photos” — an article focusing on the way female bloggers are using the HollaBack sites to “post pictures and videos of guys who harass them in public.”

There’s something both great and creepy about this practice. Great, because it may deter some bad behavior, after all.

But it’s creepy to be imaging that our every move in public places (and, increasingly, semi-private places we once assumed to be free of surveillance from Big or Little Brother) is now under observation and being recorded. Moreover, a video taken out of context can be used to embarrass anyone.
A key quote in the Chronicle story, from a man who worries that flirting could put him in an unfriendly light on the Web, applies to almost everything we find in the media today, but particularly important in this context:

In the Information Age, when even the most trivial missteps by ordinary citizens can be exposed — from bad parking to letting their dogs poop on the sidewalk — people should realize what they read online is just one anonymous person’s opinion…

A video is more than an opinion. But even videos can be distorted to create false impressions. We need to remember context, and we need to remember that not everything we see or hear is a fair reflection of reality.

1 Comment on “Context in Citizen Video Whistleblowing”

  1. #1 Delia
    on Feb 10th, 2007 at 2:39 pm


    I took a look at it. Yeah… I think it would be better if the context was recorded also! (such as an audio file of the whole exchange) Who knows, a recording function for cellphones may become standard in time.


    P.S. The women contributing to the site seem to get a lot out just *telling* the story… (some of them don’t even have the picture) so it seems to me that in most cases embarrassing people (whether they deserve to be embarrassed or not ) it’s not really what they are after… D.