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We Live In Public

Posted by 40deuce on 8:40 PM in , ,

I was planning on writing my year end blog tonight, but I'm now saving it for a few days so that I could write about this great documentary I saw yesterday.

Yesterday I was invited over to some friends' place to watch the documentary We Live In Public. It's dubbed the story of the greatest internet pioneer you've never heard of. The tag line does not lie.

We Live In Public is the story of an internet entrepreneur named Josh Harris. Josh Harris was a leader in the dot-com scene/ explosion in the end of the 90's. He started the first internet television network called Pseudo, but was obsessed with the idea of putting people's lives on the internet. He hit the hight of his obsession with two projects, or experiments as he called them, both with the title of We Live In Public.

The first "experirment" was actually called Quiet: We Live In Public. For this project Harris took 100 people and had them live in an underground bunker like building he specially built for a month. Inside the bunker he had set up pods for sleeping and hundreds of cameras and TVs that only showed what was on the cameras. The people were given free food, drink, board and even artillery (they had a shooting range in the bunker) in exchange for Harris being allowed to tape everything and probe for information from the inhabitants. The thing that was unclear to me was if this whole thing was streaming to the outside world on the internet, but I assumed it was given the nature of the man. It looks like it started off fun, but people eventually started to go a bit nuts with their whole lives being viewed publicly 24/7.

The second "experiment" Harris tried was just called We Live In Public. This was the first ever reality show almost. For this project Harris wired up his entire home with cameras and streamed the life of him and his then girlfriend to the world along with an interactive chat feature. Again, the pressure of being in the eye of the public 24/7 proved to be too much and his girlfriend left him and he eventually became frustrated with it and shut it down.

While these experiments on their own seemed really interesting, it was the commentary of the film and how ahead of his time Harris was that really struck me.

Today, social media is exactly like Harris' dream of what the internet would become. It's people talking about and sharing their lives with complete strangers via the interwebs. Through the use of blogs and Facebook and Twitter and YouTube and Flickr and other forms of web 2.0 we are all sharing our lives. Some more than others, but still enough of us that it's become almost the norm. Harris saw this happening over 10 years ago.

I don't want to ruin the whole film for you because I really think that everyone who lives and plays on the interwebs should see this film, but I need to give you one more quote from the movie. Harris makes a great play on Andy Warhols' famous "15 minutes of fame" idea by saying (and this may or may not be an exact quote as I'm working from memory), "people want their 15 minutes of fame... every day." I think that perfectly summarizes how some of us internet folk are everyday.

Yes, we do it for the social interaction and to share ideas in ways we couldn't 10 or 15 years ago, but we also do it for personal reasons. We all want to do something extraordinary and more than that, we want to be recognized for it. Even I'm guilty of this. In a world where we can be known around the world for something small, why wouldn't we constantly try to stand out?? Why wouldn't we try anything to be in the eye of as much public as we can if we have the means to??

The question will soon become though, like it did in the movie, how long can live our lives in public?? How long will social media be like it is?? How much of our lives can we share before we NEED to pull back??

Check out the trailer for We Live In Public here:




If you've seen the movie, leave a comment and let me know your thoughts about it. If you haven't seen the movie, see it, then let me know what you think. If you haven't seen the movie and don't want to see it, I'd still love to know your thoughts about living our lives in public through the internet, so leave me a comment and lets talk about it.

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