Hours after the horrific scene at Dawson College ended, shooter Kimveer Gill's face glared from the front page of Canada's newspapers.
Portrait Of A Killer, said one. Video-Game Killer, said another. Most of the stories revealed that Gill had a blog where he vented his sociopathic tendencies, and that he loved first-person shooter video games.
In this light, technology was cast as a villain - video games as conduits for anti-social behaviour, and blogs as refuges for angry geeks. Some outlets, such as Radio-Canada in Montreal, even trotted out psychology experts to explain how blogs and video games are turning our kids into murderous balls of seething anger.
In the same breath, in their harrowing descriptions of the day's events, reporters cast technology as a saviour. Many revealed that students inside the college were warned of the shooter's presence by text messages from friends. Cellphones allowed frightened students to contact their families within moments of leaving the building.
Within 12 hours, footage of the event appeared on YouTube, a site devoted to amateur video.
Caught on a cellphone video camera, one clip, broadcast on CNN, shows police just outside the cafeteria where Gill ended his own life. Another, again shot with a cellphone, is so shaky it's useful only as an audio snapshot of the mayhem in the building as the students tried to flee.
The technology surrounding such events can't be cast as either villain or hero. Tools like blogs, cellphones or even first-person shooter video games get their value from the people who use them, be they quick-thinking CEGEP students or sociopathic murderers.
The way people use technology tells us a lot about human nature. The real news isn't that these videos were shot and posted for all to see.
What's astonishing is that there aren't more of them, considering that most of the 7,000 day students had cellphones.
The fact is, in such gut-clenching moments of crisis, thoughts of Internet stardom are far from people's minds. Technology always takes a back seat to our immediate instincts and fears. It takes journalists years of training to think of their cameras at critical moments.
Currently, YouTube has dozens of clips of the Dawson College shooting, consisting mostly of feeds from CTV or CNN, with still shots, mostly from local media, interspersed throughout to create a collage of images. Except for the two cellphone videos, amateur footage comes from after the shootings, capturing a street full of stunned teens shaking with fear.
In the aftermath, local media were scrambling around interviewing staff and students to get a decent sound bite.
One student, caught in the glare of camera lights, stared at the microphone thrust in front of him. The reporter asked why he thought the killer had targeted Dawson. After stumbling over some words, the kid just said, "I don't know. I just want to be here right now."
Meaning, no cameras, please, or distancing technology of any kind. The time for technology comes after, as part of our dialogue with ourselves when we're trying to put together a picture of what happened and why.
There are many video diaries posted on YouTube now by teens with friends or family in Montreal, and even a few clips profiling the killer, rife with cut 'n' paste imagery lifted from his blog, showing Gill posing with guns.
One bizarre tribute cuts between a flying dove and a burning candle for almost five minutes under a Celine Dion song.
Here, the newest tech tools allow people to communicate, categorize and try to understand the events in a self-conscious way. In this sense, the power of technology lies in its use as a reflexive medium. '