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.