Camera phones are the new guns.

Today’s Guardian features an editorial bemoaning the rise of camera phones, and specifically their users — a generation of happy snappers mindlessly capturing every moment of their lives rather than actually experiencing them.

This may well be true (as the endless stream of party pics from my Facebook friends would suggest), but it’s a small price to pay for the convenience and empowerment that you get with a connected camera in your pocket.

There’s an old adage that the best camera is the one you have with you. I personally own both a standalone point & shoot plus a digital SLR with three additional lenses, and I haven’t used either since last spring. Furthermore, during a recent once-in-a-lifetime trip to Southeast Asia the only camera I had with me was this Nokia N86 8MP. Not only did it take fantastic photos and video, but I could instantly share them online with friends and family. At this point I wouldn’t even consider purchasing a camera that didn’t have some kind of wireless Internet connection built in.

Last year Internet users saw the first images of a US Airways emergency landing in New York City’s Hudson River come from a mobile device via Twitter. And perhaps more importantly, images and video of the ongoing protests in Iran have been made publicly available through uploads from mobile phones, despite the media lockdown in that country.

This is where the true power of the camera phone lies as an equalizing, democratizing weapon — especially as local authorities like those in the UK move to record every angle of public space with cameras of their own. There is continuing friction there between the rights of citizen photographers vs. the rights of police, and it’s an important fight.

If there is going to be a Big Brother, isn’t it better to have many of them than just the one? And isn’t that worth the minor annoyance of a camera phone momentarily blocking your view?

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