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When I first saw the trailer to We Live in Public several months ago, I was anxious to see the film. It had all the ingredients, a documentary, about the Internet, about a pioneer of the Internet, a madman, perhaps a genius, or just someone exceptionally bright with a leaning toward experimentation, psychology and human behavior.
The documentary is fairly straightforward. It is about the life of Josh Harris, dubbed the "Warhol of the Web," who in the early nineties founded a company called Jupiter. Jupiter turned out to be a cash cow precisely because it was an early adopter of using Internet technology to collect personal data. Harris was also involved in selling online chat software to Prodigy, the early competitor of AOL. With his millions of dot com dollars, Harris founded another company called Pseudo.com, which marketed itself as an Internet television network.
I don't remember Pseudo.com, but according to the documentary it was a promising startup. Think MTV for the web. With dozens of web channels, catering to young audiences, Pseudo attempted to leverage itself against major television networks. Harris believed that this type of technology, TV on the web, would overtake ABC, NBC, CBS. He was an ardent believer, almost to the point of delusion, in any project he started. Pseudo did fairly well for a time, and its stock market value increased. But Harris's public persona was giving the company a bad name. Harris was what you call an eccentric (he dressed up in a clown suit as his alter ego Luuvy).
After Harris split with Pseudo, he went on to conduct two big experiments with surveillance technology and the Internet, funded by his millions of dollars. He
and perhaps the only snag was that the development of video technology for the web had not matured to point where it's at today. "In the future. with a television attached to their bunk bed that allowed them to watch each other.was estimated at having over 80 million dollars during the dot com era. eating. and an interesting subject in relation to this documentary. but as social experiments. The only tradeoff was their privacy--Harris recorded his subjects with hundreds of video cameras. Each person had a pod where they slept." Harris's second experiment was on himself and his new girlfriend. In his first experiment.com. "Everyone will have 15 minutes of fame every day. sleeping. The video was streamed to the web where users could comment in a chat box beside the video in real-time. At one point in the movie. and they developed bonds to the anonymous users who watched their . He was obsessed with video technology. he funded and architected the "Quiet" project. having sex. shitting. Often Harris and his girlfriend communicated with the chat room. everyone will have 15 minutes of fame. But he staged his projects after Pseudo. a social experiment of Orwellian proportions that involved over a hundred people living together in an underground bunker in New York City. not as businesses. and that's why this documentary offers a provocative reflection of our times. gave them free drinks and created a 24 hour party atmosphere. Harris's business acumen is questionable." Harris says. His obsession with surveillance is taken to the obvious extreme when he decides to record every minute of his life by rigging his apartment with 70 surveillance cameras. He had visionary insight into the future of the web. Harris fed them. entertained them. etc. He was fascinated with the effects of technology on people. Harris says that Andy Warhol was wrong about his statement.
the immense growth of social media in the last five years has ushered in a way of life that carries the same implications as Harris's experiments. it hasn't always been this way. While it's obvious we're not being filmed in our bedrooms. riding the bike. We may be anonymous on Twitter. My life has changed dramatically since I began using social media .most intimate activities. The "Quiet" project eventually got raided by the police. And his relationship with his girlfriend ended in bitterness and loathing. and often much more than that. I remember when I didn't even have Internet at home. This often comes at the cost of creating a life for ourselves offline. having conversations. I am the poster child for the Internet's obsession with social media. not to mention the tensions that were building inside previous to the raid. Shortly after he stopped the project entirely. I'm constantly . . taking walks. But since then I've quit my job and invested in the website Escape into Life. I did everything from a computer at my job. . with our every action streamed to the web. but on Facebook people know our names. practical level. We begin to feel attached to the manufacturing and sustaining of our web identities and personas. Suffice it to say that the results of Harris's two experiments were not happy endings. Real-time communication through Twitter implicates us in a public virtual life. Twitter is basically a technology that effects Harris's experiments on a realistic. or just being away from a laptop or smartphone. Increasingly. on the web for all to see. I couldn't help but think of how Harris's experiments with web technology have actually become very similar to how we live now. our lives are being uploaded on the web in one form or another. I can tell you.
Audiences on the web are fickle. But when I come back. My past is ugly. there's a big debate between folks who love our modern. I exult in the freedom to publish my thoughts. then maybe they won't want to sponsor me. how many views we receive per day. such as future sponsors for Escape into Life. requires me to be on the Internet all the time. If they see my life laid out here. My last post is especially revealing. emailing. Technology has given me one of the greatest gifts as a writer. and the development planning and coordination. tweeting. digitally enhanced lifestyle and those who are unsettled by it . The Blog of Innocence will tell you many private things about myself. Certain things about this worries me. though. how many fans or followers. which means we become obsessed with our standing. As we upload. blogging. . we become more attached to the medium we're using to advertise ourselves. People who are thrilled by personal technology are the ones who have optimized their process-they know how and when to rely on machine intelligence. post. Clive Thompson writes: These days. . and publish more of our lives on the web. They've tweaked their .promoting the site on Twitter and the production behind the site. how much traffic. Or does it? I can't imagine waking up in the morning and not immediately checking my email. I am living in public through my blog. The web has so absorbed my daily life that I must break routinely during the day to leave the house. I return to the online world. and I don't shy away from talking about it. In a short article in the latest issue of Wired that talks about the relationship between humans and technology. It's scary how narrow my life has become as a result of my regular use of the web. a platform to stage my writings.
but I feel it's fairly more complicated than that. trained up the AI recommendations they get from Apple's Genius or TiVo.73 billion Internet users worldwide (Sept. those who feel intimidated by online life haven't hit that sweet spot. There are staggering numbers that show how much our online lives have increased in the last five years. and more capable. 2009) 400 million people on Facebook 4 billion photos hosted on Flickr 1 billion videos served by YouTube in one day 182 videos per month that the average Internet user watches in a month (USA) Optimization is not going to change the fact that we are living larger chunks of . 2009) 126 million blogs 27. more focused. The upshot is that they feel smarter." Thompson reduces our relationship to technology to an "optimization" process.Facebook settings. Just to give you an idea of how many people are on the web.3 million tweets per day (Nov. 2009) 234 million websites (Dec. In contrast. And crucially. micro-configured their RSS feeds. They feel the Internet is making them harried and--as Nicholas Carr suggested in The Atlantic--"stupid. here are a some statistics I picked up from "The State of the Internet": 1. they also know when to step away from the screen and ignore the clamor of online distractions.
virtual life begins to replace lived life. keeps her iPhone at her side at all times and she's constantly checking it. for example. But my online life and my offline life are virtually indistinguishable at this point. to be influential. My younger sister. and look to what is left for me. When I turn away from the online world. and at the younger ages. to be connected. I believe Escape into Life is doing a good thing for artists and writers.our lives on the web. We may lament over these losses of freedom. I can restructure my life so that it incorporates more aspects of living beside online communication and work. with few ties to his family. Perhaps that's why we cling to technology and unconsciously allow ourselves to become so wrapped up in it. Living online has temporarily made us forget that we're alone. I truly enjoy the networks I participate in and the networks I support. This is the plight of the modern individual. no girlfriend. you can already see this happening. CRA 4/11/10 . I see a person who is isolated. After awhile. But here is what I'm afraid has happened. and little social interaction. to be heard. We're alone. but what is the alternative? On a basic level. and therein lies its elusive promise. There is a gulf of emptiness waiting for us on the other side.
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