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Citizen CCTV is capturing all the rage

Phone filming

By Duncan Wilson

Is 2012 going to be the year of beat-ups caught on cam?

That's a question I've been posing myself since the Port Hills mountain bike incident surfaced on the internet over Easter weekend.

For those who haven't seen the video, 24-year-old mountain biker Jordan Brizzell was out riding the popular Christchurch trail on April 8. Helmet fitted with a camera, he soon encounters another rider. He makes his presence known, expecting the slower rider to pull over and let him pass, as per off-roading etiquette.

Sure, Brizzell makes his frustration known in the video; sure, his bike gets close to the other rider's at times; though, neither warranted the response that appears to unfold on camera.

Upon stopping, Brizzell remarks "that was really rude of you", which seems to set the other rider off, who responds with a line from an R-rated B-movie. What then occurs is unclear, although I'm certain a scuffle of sorts broke out between the two men.

Police obviously think so too, because today they've arrested a 45-year-old Christchurch man and charged him with assault. The arrest comes a day after Craig Platt, star of last month's extreme-sport-rage-video-gone-viral, has confirmed he has checked in to an anger management course - something much of New Zealand felt he needed, as we sat and diagnosed him from our armchairs.

Platt was arrested and charged with assault after a video of him shoving a 15-year-old off a skateboard went viral.

Anyone arriving from a past time, taking note of these events, could be forgiven for thinking we'd become angrier as a peoples. These are pretty isolated incidences, brought to greater attention by the leaps in technology of the last ten years. We've always been violent beings: Just ask any former Gladiator.

This marks a shift in the news-media continuum. Eyewitness accounts have long been used by the news; even mobile phone footage must be rolling on to its decade anniversary on-the-air; but amateur recordings of events themselves, as they unfold? This is a very new territory we're in and one wonders what it's born of.

I'm no stranger to being watched. I mean that in a totally non-weird way. I'm from the UK and, at last count, we were the most-surveyed and watched country on the planet. That's right, Britain has one CCTV camera for roughly every 2.5 New Zealanders (I found figures ranging from 1.85 million to 4.2 million to 5 million).

New Zealand hasn't gone down quite the same path. Instead of heaps of unsightly, local-council funded cameras popping up everywhere, providing distant, grainy, black and white footage that's about as much use as a bird as an eyewitness, we in NZ have opted to do the filming, from ground level, ourselves. In colour and in HD.

Rather than have our local authorities arrange for a pigeon-poo cleaner to keep our publicly-owned lenses clean, we've all gone out and bought iPhones. With our smartphone at the ready in our pocket, we're primed for action.

Once the deal is done, the perp snapped to perfection, we don't even need to visit the local cop-shop to make a complaint. Simply upload your alleged-crime-footage to the popular video hosting website of your choice, share on a forum to stoke the anger a little and the news media will do the rest - as long as you don't mind losing a few hits from their use of the clip on the telly.

It's the new running order.

Oh, but before you post, remember to make sure your vid has a clearly defined good guy and bad guy. It will only work if we, the public opinion, know who's side we're on.

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