Cellphones: 'The Dagger at the Throat of the Creaky Old Regimes'

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The Times has a short piece on the importance of cell phone video in fomenting unrest in the Middle East. It's a clean, cogent explanation of a phenomenon that we noted in detail in Tunisia. The basic premise: when everyone has a video camera, it's harder for governments to control the narrative in their countries.

A novelty less than a decade ago, the cellphone camera has become a vital tool to document the government response to the unrest that has spread through the Middle East and North Africa.

Recognizing the power of such documentation, human rights groups have published guides and provided training on how to use cellphone cameras effectively.

"You finally have a video technology that can fit into the palm of one person's hand, and what the person can capture can end up around the world," said James E. Katz, director of the Rutgers Center for Mobile Communication Studies. "This is the dagger at the throat of the creaky old regimes that, through the manipulation of these old centralized technologies, have been able to smother the public's voice."

Read the full story at the New York Times.

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he oversees the Technology Channel. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer calls Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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