Humanity has made great strides in technology in our lifetime, but none is re-engineering our lives more rapidly than the mobile phone and its camera.
If mobile phone cameras did not exist, the world would not have known about the cold-blooded killing of the African American named George Floyd on May 25, 2020.
Floyd was murdered in broad daylight, as the middle-aged man cried for ‘mama’ while a policeman dispassionately drained life out of him with a knee on the neck, hand in the pocket.
Although many black persons have been similarly killed by law enforcement officers in the United States in the past decade, this one was remarkable.
The nonchalance was captured on cameras held by onlookers.
Racial oppression is carried out through the police in America.
The 401-year system is rooted in slave control, as it was organised to chase down runaways and prevent slave revolts.
But this occasion was different because the phone camera captured every moment of that event and broadcast it around the world.
It allowed all of humanity to see the US policing system as it is.
Videos upon videos formed a mosaic of evidence which is crystalizing into new discussions about American law.
The George Floyd killing kicked a dust that has not settled.
The availability of various angles of the videos from several onlookers has refuted every normal lie of the police department, making the incident ring around the world.
The mobile camera has initiated a global conversation about the worth of black lives in Western countries.
Even after George Floyd’s death, countless misbehavior by US police against protesters continue to be on camera.
When the mobile camera exposes you, you have no defence.
There is no argument. The mobile camera leaves too much evidence to contradict.
In Nigeria, the failure to adhere to COVID-19 social distancing rules at the burial of Nigerian presidential chief of staff, Abba Kyari, in April this year was on mobile camera.
The evidence was so overwhelming that the Buhari administration could only apologise.
Smartphones are impacting our lives in ways never imagined.
In the hands of the man on the street, the phone has become a weapon and a voice, a whisper of freedom and liberation
In fact, they have become man’s best friend.
The first mobile phone with camera was sold 21 years ago in Japan, just as phones were becoming personal and smart.
However, it is within the last decade that its revolution of society began.
There are now an estimated one billion users of smartphones worldwide and 2.5 million apps.
As the phone technology matured, so did it become potent as the agent of change.
The camera, with an ability to produce pictures and videos, and send them to other connected phones through social media, is empowering people and causing an explosion of news.
Camera quality, apart from battery life and storage, is a key reason why most people constantly change phones.
Some buy more expensive high-end phones with features such as telephoto, wide-angle sensors, multiple cameras and periscope lens using a combination of optical and digital zoom.
However, even low-end devices will record a decent video.
In the hands of the man on the street, the phone has become a weapon and a voice, a whisper of freedom and liberation.
Since man developed that wisdom to mount a camera onto a device small enough to fit into a pocket, it has become a trouble maker for the powerful and liar, but a solution for the oppressed.
Cameras have been used to expose wrong-doings in high places.
Without phones and their cameras, black lives would still not matter, and systemic racism in the United States would not have received worldwide attention.
A problem of 401 years is unraveling for one simple reason – mobile cameras.
This mobile gadget is probably the most valuable property for the average person.
It has become the most used personal asset for the rich or poor, the intimate friend that we cannot do without.
Small as it is, it could be your wrist watch, your radio, your television, your telephone, your camera, your voice recorder and your mirror.
It can be your calendar, your weatherman, your books, your timer, your personal post office, reminder, alarm, diary, music library and player.
And it can serve as your computer, where you store digital files and do word processing, graphic design, work management or meeting slides.
The phone has replaced atlases and maps and can guide you to anywhere you need to go without asking another man.
It is your market as well. Just login to an online store with an app and you can buy goods anywhere around the world.
It can hail your taxi ride through services as Uber or Bolt, and tell the taxi driver exactly where you are.
You can use it to order food without stepping out of the house.
Your phone is partly your bank. On it, you can send and receive money, request services and transact business with others.
Smartphones are replacing human memory too.
If you don’t think that is true, try to phone 10 of your friends without using their saved contact numbers.
The smartphone presents a significant cultural change. With it, you are now connected to family, friends and classmates in an instant.
It is the village square where you meet every day and participate in the community of humans.
The global village that communication scholar, Marshall McLuhan, predicted through advances in modern technology is upon us. All the world is linked.
Communication is immediate and direct.
Without phones and their cameras, black lives would still not matter, and systemic racism in the United States would not have received worldwide attention
You can switch from group to group throughout the day and never miss a discussion. You keep a dynamic network of friends and stay in constant touch.
But the real revolution of the smart phone is this ability to connect the world instantly in pixelated accuracy through images and videos.
Having a mobile phone capable of taking high resolution pictures and videos in the twinkling of an eye is bringing the world together to watch local events.
These recordings have become not just news stories from the ordinary man but evidence where there is controversy.
The common man is taking control of narratives during disasters, resistance and rights violation.
Any local activity has a potential to go as viral as Covid-19, because we are all plugged to the phone. We virtually live in it.
Amber Case, a cyber-anthropologist and CEO of mobile platform Geoloqi, said in a 2010 lecture, “We Are All Cyborgs Now,” that smartphones – and the connection they represent to a global social network – have become more than just a device in our pockets but something closer to a digital extension of ourselves.
“This is the first time in the entire history of humanity that we’ve connected in this way,” she says, adding “We’re just increasing our humanness and our ability to connect with each other, regardless of geography.”
The George Floyd murder in America testifies to the assertions since it beams a global searchlight on all nations, digging into history, and looking to correct wrongs.
It not only unearthed America’s four centuries of racial injustice, it is unraveling the legacies of historical figures like Christopher Columbus, General Robert E. Lee and Winston Churchill, whose monuments are being defaced or destroyed.
What the camera has started will be hard to stop.
It represents power, reality, democracy and human freedom. In the United Kingdom, colonialism and racial injustice are becoming hot topics.
Privacy is being redefined with billions of camera phones in the hands of large populations of humans. People record from cars, homes, offices and the streets anything that is of interest to them, when the actors may not even know they are on the stage.
When William Shakespeare wrote in ‘As You Like It’ that “All the world’s a stage”, hardly could he have appreciated the truth of his statement.
Smartphones will continue to find greater meaning to the modern society because its increasing computing power is ushering further use cases.
We may just have been scratching the surface about what it will do to us.
If all it achieves is to turn the clock on racial profiling in the United States and force discussions about race relations around the world, the mobile camera will have done enough.
The world owes so much to this tiny device.
You are probably reading this article on a phone.
If that is true, I need not say more.
Salute your phone.