A young woman is on a train. Creepy guy in a trench coat sits down across from her. She looks up. He flashes.

Last century: She moves away, feeling eight shades of humiliated.

This century: She takes his picture with a camera phone… and blogs it. brooklyngirl’s blog post goes viral, and the tables are turned: the flasher is the one whose privacy and personal space have been yanked away.

A lot’s been written about how camera phones are changing the way we get our news. But maybe that’s thinking way, way too small.

Camera phones won’t just transform news, or blogging, or photography. Combined with blogging, they’re going to transform the way we relate to each other, especially when those relations aren’t happy ones.

A snap of a camera, an upload to a blog, and suddenly we’re able to take conflicts — ranging from the petty and mundane to the serious and large — to a jury of our peers. (I’ve been tempted to do this with the jackass in my parking lot whose SUV consistently straddles two “Small Car Only” spots.) They may not be able to enforce a verdict, but they can certainly render one.

Someone cuts you off in traffic? Videoblog their ass, complete with license plate. Jumps in front of you in a lineup? Smile — click. Tries to con you in a door-to-door scam? Check out my blog in three minutes, buddy.

(It’s not hard to imagine this being used for nastier purposes, too — harassment and bullying jump to mind.)

Affirmation from a close circle of friends may be all you want. But if you need more — the knowledge that an image proving your side of the story is circulating widely, for instance — then you’ll have to command more attention. As this trend continues (and it will), only the most compelling stories will draw the kind of audience that can give the sort of satisfaction I hope brooklyngirl is feeling right now.

And this isn’t without cost or risk. brooklyngirl had to sacrifice a little of her privacy to tell her story. And while hers has a pretty clear protagonist and villain, others whose disputes are more ambiguous may discover that the jury rules against them… very publicly.

(Hat tip to Darren Barefoot.)