There are two major characteristics of the world I've called the "Participatory Panopticon:" personal mobile networked cameras are everywhere; and a significant portion of what we see and hear gets digitally recorded. The first part is more or less already here -- and now we have another step towards making the second part real.
Unmediated reports that an Israeli company, Natural Widget, is now selling an application which will automatically record your mobile phone conversations. Although it's apparently dependent upon the limited storage built into your phone (assuming you have the Nokia Series 60 phone it works with), the application is being sold for precisely the reasons which I've argued will lead us to a world where everything is seen, everything is recorded, and not by the government, but by us all.
NaturalRecorder brings effortless call recording to everyone, allowing to bring back any important information that happened during phone calls. [...] Never forget important information relayed by phone again. [...] Think of NaturalRecorder as an extension of your own (brain) memory: instead of remembering (hardly) the last 3 minutes of conversation, you'll always have a ready-to-use recording of as many minutes as you want (depending of your mobile phone memory - about 60 kilobytes per minute).
The obvious next step with this will be the ability to offload the recordings, initially to removable memory cards, then (as high-bandwidth mobile networks roll out) to remote storage on one's personal computer.
The need to hang onto copies of what sees or hears is one manifestation of an information saturated, "attention deficit" culture. We are hammered by so many sources of stimulation, many specifically designed to attract our attention, that relying solely on fallible human memory can be risky. This situation is, sadly, more likely to get worse than to get better -- efforts to reduce the amount of attention-grabbing stimulation in general often has the perverse result of heightening the effect of individual sources of stimulation. We're more apt to see further development of coping tools, such as devices to automatically record what we say, hear and see for later review.
The Participatory Panopticon won't arise out of a single, clear choice -- it will come from myriad smaller, rational decision and technologies, all intended to solve very real problems. It's important to recognize when we've moved further along this road of good intentions -- and to think hard about the ways in which we can make certain our eventual destination gives us more than it takes away.