In Iran, the combination of citizens and cell phone cameras has been revolutionary.
But in Boston, the story of a man using his Blackberry to record the potentially dangerous actions of a bus driver has raised a question about whether communications technology can ever compel someone to be responsible.
The bus was in route from Boston to New York, when front row passenger Shelomo Alfassa became alarmed. The driver had his eyes off the road and both hands off the wheel while he tore, folded, and processed tickets. The driver also used his cell phone for calling and messaging.
Alfassa says he called the bus company in route, but was unconvinced they would do anything to stop the driver’s behavior—or the bus, which was speeding down the highway with dozens of passengers.
So Alfassa recorded 20 minutes of video with his Blackberry. After arriving in New York, Alfassa says he tried to speak to the bus company several times, to no avail. Two weeks later, he posted his edited video on YouTube, supplying captions about the driver: “He is either texting or reading e-mail on his cell phone.”
“My goal is not to get this guy fired,” Alfassa said. “My goal is to get these guys, as a corporation, to be responsible.”
But many readers of the Boston newspaper that reported the incident said Alfassa’s actions had little to do with responsibility and everything to do with technological tattling and video vigilantism. “This looks like a case of overreaction by someone who feels empowered with a cellphone,” wrote one. “Is the busybody passenger who taped this incident a professional driver?” asked another. “Sit down, shut up, read, sleep, whatever,” blurted one more, “but leave the…driver alone. Did he not get this ‘hero’ to his destination unharmed?”
Alfassa answered back unequivocally: “This is not ‘video vigilantism’, this is being a responsible citizen.”
Tell us what you think: Did Alfassa do the right thing? Can technology ever force responsibility, or enable it?