August 19, 2010
We Live in Public
Movie Review By: Mr. Roboto
Directed by: Ondi Timoner
Written by: Ondi Timoner
Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: Low
Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: Low
Overview. Josh Harris, ever hear of him? Me neither… not until I heard of this movie. The “Wharhol of the Web” came up with the ideas of Internet TV (Pseudo.com), statistic gathering, and the basis for many of today’s social networking sites. So why isn’t he mentioned as often as Gates or Jobs? Timing; The Internet wasn’t able to handle the bandwidth needed for his visions. Not until broadband became commonplace for net access. But by then, it was too little, too latte for Harris who left the high-tech scene and expatriated to Africa to avoid creditors.
Indie filmmaker Ondi Timoner spent 10 years with Harris documenting his rise as an Internet entrepreneur, to the Quiet experiment, and his eventual downfall.
Rise of a dot-com kid. Harris arrives in New York City with only a few hundred dollars in his pocket, an a couple of ideas for the Internet in his head. His first venture is JupiterResearch, an Internet research company. In 1993, he envisioned television on the Internet and founded Pseudo.com. Pseudo not only had television (more like early vlogging before anyone heard of vlogging), but associated chat rooms for the shows. When he sold Pseudo, Harris’ net worth was now $80 Billion US. Luckily for him, he got out before the big bubble burst, but he decided to use that money for a “little” experiment…
The experiment: In December 1999, under some buildings in Manhattan, Harris constructed a “bunker” where he would gather 100 people. The people would be living in a commune-type setting with “pod” beds while under constant surveillance, and be subject to “interrogations,” though they would have free meals and a shooting range. The experiment’s aim was simple; To see how these people would behave living in an Orwellian setting. Things start smoothly enough, then went downhill fast. Eventually, after the new millennium, the NY Police and Fire departments shut the experiment down believing the experiment was actually a doomsday cult.
Though that experiment was over, he wanted to test his theory further by moving in with his girlfriend and installing net-cameras in their apartment. An incident that nearly leads to rape causes her to leave, and soon Harris has a mental breakdown. While Harris is considered an artist by some, there are some signs that he may have been insane in the mainframe before the breakdown.
The Point of the experiments? It should be obvious now that the technology has caught up to Harris’ ideas what the point is: How much of our privacy will we sacrifice for connecting to others, or for fame itself?
If you’ve ever encountered targeted ads, you already have seen the tip of the iceberg. Worse yet, the information they gain from what you willingly surrender they can now sell to others. Harris’ “Quiet” experiment was a not-so-quiet warning about where we were headed… rather, where we are now.
Conclusion. Call Josh Harris what you want… visionary, entrepreneur, voyeur, prophet, ca-ca-cuckoo-for-cocoa-puffs… the message he sent with his experiments is only now being realized by a small handful of people. For the rest, they may not realize or even care about how much “exposure” they’re really getting for their 15 minutes. Looking for a treatise on the negative effect of technology? We Live In Public answers that question in no uncertain terms.