Abstract

 

Video made with a lens (and therefore presenting viewers with 29.97 photographic frames a second) will be the concern of this chapter – in particular, a very particular form of video, that generated by Tasers (electrical stun guns) when they are equipped with recording devices. In particular, police forces are encouraged to equip their Tasers with this capacity so that the conditions of their deployment can be reviewed later. I call this tasercam video. I will discuss, briefly, the landscape of legally relevant video and then discuss the characteristics of this kind of video in particular, concluding with some thoughts on why, even given its extremely potent and limited nature, we need a sophisticated theory of media effects in what might appear to be the realistic medium of tasercam video. This discussion is centered on American legal culture.

 

Legal practitioners, like many people, can betray a naïve belief that photographs are direct representations of “the real” and that a picture will communicate facts about reality directly to its audience. This arises from a belief that these pictures will reveal truths about which we can all agree because they describe a commonly shared perceptual reality captured by a mechanism that we believe has no desires of its own: the camera. Photographs are commonly understood to have been caused by the phenomena before the camera, light carrying information and imprinting it on a sensitive surface that can the enable the picture to be prepared for display. Photographers know that this is a misconception but the general public does not seem to share that awareness.