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"Smart Mobs" | Theory/practice of a team-based approach to media acquirement

A brief summary regarding Howard Rheingold's new book, and a lengthy piece about the theory/practice of acquiring media from multiple sources.
This evening I attended a talk by Howard Rheingold at Powell's Technical Books. He was promoting his new book "Smart Mobs":

"Smart mobs emerge when communication and computing technologies amplify human talents for cooperation. The impacts of smart mob technology already appear to be both beneficial and destructive, used by some of its earliest adopters to support democracy and by others to coordinate terrorist attacks. The technologies that are beginning to make smart mobs possible are mobile communication devices and pervasive computing - inexpensive microprocessors embedded in everyday objects and environments. Already, governments have fallen, youth subcultures have blossomed from Asia to Scandinavia, new industries have been born and older industries have launched furious counterattacks."

thats from www.smartmobs.com

I'm going through the site now, rather interesting. Now, to make a connection here, I was reading about the individual being taken into custody recently for allegedly vandalizing the Army recruiting station while he was videotaping a protest. It's my theory that he was singled out for apprehension _because_ he was videotaping, and the tape may include valuable counterintelligence material.

Theories aside, what I think would be a novel approach in the future would be to develop individual teams or units of people who's goalwould be to record media from a roughly set distance and particular angle. This can include video as well as audio (which can be obtained in a much more clandestine manner).

As an example, take Critical Mass. If 3-5 individuals worked as a team, they could cover quite a bit of the event. Some possibly with a bike-mounted camera (gun cam!), others stationed along the route, possibly offset from the route in order to avoid police harassment and other entanglements. They can cover a large area from a safe distance, and if something occurs within their 'firing arc' (do forgive me for my clearly militaristic terminology/approach to this) they can zoom in and capture the event. Ideally, the 'firing arcs' (range at which the recording device can record input relatively well) of each device in its class will overlap so there are not considerable gaps.

This might work well for events or actions where you and your team are aware of the location(s) and times. You might even run tests, scope out and discover ideal positions to setup your cameras, do dry runs. You would want to consider though spontaneous actions, where you get a call that something is going down and you try to get the team assembled to record it. Then you'd be much more fluid, and would want to have considered this ahead of time. You want to arrive and have each team member deploy in a predefined radius.

For instance, Unit-A will always be North of the situation, trying to keep distance and remain concealed. Unit-B will always be South and within say 30-40 feet of the event. Unit-C is in an Eastern position (horse stance!) 60-80 feet away. Unit-C is in the West, right on top of the event.

While this example only uses 4 people and 4 points, you could mix things up quite a bit. Of course everything can go right out the window when tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets start flying, but the point is to try to record things from many angles. This tells a greater story and can also prevent single points of failure, such as when Officer Friendly arrests you or smashes your gear.

In the future, you might even be able to broadcast from the camera right to a remote location's hard drive, or straight to streaming video sans editing. This might be possible right now via IRC (text) and wireless networking if its available in the area. (squatted IPs!)

*whew* Ok, I'm fairly new (5mos) to Portland and wanted to open up a discussion on this issue. Think about what it would have been like to have 3-8 different angles of Bush's visit showing what _really_ went down before, during, and after the pepper spray went off.

I would be happy to work on the development of such an indy media team if others are so inclined.

good ideas 07.Nov.2002 00:12

indymedia activist

good brainstorms. thanks for sharing them. some folks have been working to coordinate coverage of actions, but i'll let you know that not too much of this type of strategizing should be discussed online like this, 'cause the cops read it too. i suggest you start meeting some of the folks who always have cameras at events and discuss these ideas there. thanks for posting anyway, though! i'm not discouraging that!

and btw, there *are* 3-8 angles of some of the stuff that went down at the Bush protest. 3-4 anyway, and yes it is very effective. a documentary is currently being produced by local activists, and will get shown around town when it's done.

building on the function of a unit 07.Nov.2002 13:50


here here.

all people have to do is go where they are needed, no need to coordinate with imc because anybody can be imc.

at past events, it seemed to be *known* who was an imc/independent media correspondent; such persons have been jacked out of crowds and detained (i was with an imc videographer who was actually working on behalf of a major network affiliate when they and i were snatched up) and i've never once heard of a cameraman being charged, but w/ the silly laws and the silly people applying them, this may soon change.

let people grab a camera, a recorder, a pen and a pad, and head on down to the show. the funny thing about post-WT099 protest gatherings is that there are always a few spies for either side; either for the establishment, or for the people. i've stood next to police intelliigence while they posed as shoppers--bags and all--and filmed a peace rally/march.

in terms of the logistics of information gathering at an event...well, figure it out :)

what a fucked up world that sometimes one has to think like an "intelligence" officer just to try and insure the personal safety of certain people. it gets to be a bit ridiculous.

Transparency 07.Nov.2002 22:11


Wile I have little doubt that law enfarcement and federal services review these boards, I must say I welcome them.

What I proposed was nothing more than cinematic and film making techniques. It violates no laws, does not encourage anyone to break any laws, and puts no one whatsoever in danger. In fact it may even prevent people from being put in harm's way.

Whether I know about them, or participate in them or not, I do hope that others form teams such as this when conducting media coverage. The forces of Justice in this country should be well aware that they too are being watched and not just by the cameras they see. And certainly this can be applied to any military or law enforcement body in the world.

They should understand that what they do will be recorded and that they will be held accountable for their actions.