IN the 1980s, for our TV production class, we had to shoot our video assignments with a monstrous, hideously heavy U-matic camera.
The camera settled like a baby whale on the shoulder. An umbilical cord attached the cameraman to his or her assistant, who lugged a recorder, which resembled in size and weight today’s CPU with a strap.
Since our crew also included the writer, production assistants, talents and the inevitable director on panic mode, it was impossible not to notice us when we shot on campus. Even if you ignored our querulous bunch, you could still trip on one of our cables.
Had videography stayed at the level of state-subsidized TV production classes, would we be having today’s problems with surreptitious recording?
In an operating room and itching to record while a medical specialist removes a canister inserted in a body orifice during sex? You’d think twice with a U-matic camera seesawing like a baby Orca on your aching shoulder.
Tempted to preserve more than memories of a private encounter? You’ll have to blurt your aspirations to star in a homemade video romp when you enlighten your partner that the cables hanging from the ceiling are not exotic vines to swing from for bedroom acrobatics.
However, unlike confused mortals, technology follows only one arc: from advanced to more advanced.
In just four decades, the world has had a whirlwind affair with its toys. After its fascination with the U-matic, introduced in the 1970s as the world’s first videocassette system, the world moved on in the 1990s to discover the digital video camcorder, then the digital camera, the camera-ready phone and other gadgets.
Even to the technically inept like me, one difference stands out in the march of technology: the more sophisticated the gadget, the smaller it becomes, as if the infinite objective of technological advancement is to reduce the physical to the point of invisibility.
I wouldn’t be surprised if my future grandchildren will chuck away my storybook present for one of those nifty spy dots with which they can betray their parents so the State can lock them up for life and kids can sleep whenever they want to, with no curfews and no homework checks.
We can’t pine for the past as we can’t blame technology for our quandaries. The Canister Case wasn’t brought on by a camera-enabled phone and You Tube; a breach of professionalism and an utter lack of compassion led to that end. In every sex video scandal, the public outcry is over the public humiliation, not the private depravation.
Accessory to our crimes, technology is also a witness to the sins we publicly embrace and the ones that remain unconfessed.
There is now a hue and cry for laws to regulate cyberspace and curtail video pornography. Where are the confessions for deceptions and betrayals? One man can righteously accuse another for using technology in a “betrayal of womanhood;” the same accuser dismisses his own lapses as “weaknesses of the flesh.”
Why, because there is no videotape? Only the deed that is captured in digital images, replicated, pirated and downloaded demands a public breast-beating? Do we know atonement?
As technology tests the limits of visibility so does our sense of guilt. The infinite goal of our morality is to be, like the mobile phone, thin, thinner, gone.
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* First published in Sun.Star Cebu’s May 24, 2009 issue of the “Matamata” column