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Apr 15, 2015

Up Periscope - It’s The Human Show

In 1998 the film The Truman Show was released worldwide. The film, starring Jim Carrie, chronicled the life of a man who lived in a house, in a town, constructed by a TV production company. However, since he has lived there from birth, he is unaware that his environment is not real and that his every move is being broadcast to billions of people around the world - 24/7. In reality, his life is - a reality TV show. The film made many of us laugh, gasp and cry. More importantly its subject matter made us think.

  • What is reality?
  • Where am I?
  • Who am I?
  • What if my life is just a big televised experiment watched over by an alien intelligence in another the galaxy, somewhere out in the infinite Universe?

Well, that’s what I thought anyway.

Then, in 2001, the ‘real’ reality show Big Brother appeared on our TV schedules. Taking its cue from The Truman Show, the Big Brother format saw contestants ensconced in a house, in a TV studio, isolated from the outside world as their every feeling, thought and move was televised for the public to scrutinise. Competition was introduced where contestants were pitted against each other to win a selection of tasks and consequently the viewing public’s favour and vote

In 2005 You Tube was launched and, finally, everyone and their kitten could have their very own moment in the spotlight. On video, for all the world to see.

And now there’s Periscope.

This is an app that allows you to use your smart phone (or iOS tablet) to video and live stream the activities of any person, place or thing, anytime - day or night - directly onto your Twitter feed. This is the blurb from their website:

 

“What if you could see through the eyes of a protester in Ukraine? Or watch the sunrise from a hot air balloon in Cappadocia? It may sound crazy, but we wanted to build the closest thing to teleportation. While there are many ways to discover events and places, we realized there is no better way to experience a place right now than through live video. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but live video can take you someplace and show you around.”

 

All the world is no longer just a stage. It’s now a huge global sound stage where reality shows can be launched live by an app at the press of an icon. The Truman Show was released in June 1998. Periscope is the launch of ‘The Human Show.’ We can now all become amateur Richard Attenboroughs, peering into private nooks and crannies, watching our fellow humans in their natural habitats, doing all the things we know humans do, some we didn’t know they did and some – quite frankly we’re not sure they should. Who needs the BBC or CNN when we can be right where the action is and share our own view of the world, with the rest of the world - in real time.

There are some very famous early adopters already out there streaming themselves from close up. Magician David Blaine, tennis player Roger Federer, singers Mary J Blige and Madonna and even the aging ex Beatle Ringo Starr. In case we didn’t already know their opinions, beliefs and angles on life - they are using real time Periscope to live stream and share with us their unique perspective on their everyday experience. And that’s just what it’s for according to 26-year-old Periscope founder Kayvon Beykpour. He says

“We want you to see the world through other peoples’ eyes,”

Of course, as new technologies always do, Periscope will breed the downright banal to the delightfully sublime. The implications are incredible, the possibilities endless. The risks, the creativity and the invasions of privacy will grow - exponentially. 

But the Persicope team assure us that:

“Watching a broadcast on Periscope isn’t a passive experience like television. Viewers influence the broadcaster by sending messages, and expressing their love by tapping the screen to send hearts.”

People actually get to vote on the quality of your behaviour – just like on Big Brother then!

 So, it got me thinking again…

  • Does this really mean that anything I feel, think and do could be filmed and broadcast around the world by someone, somewhere at anytime - with or without my consent?
  • Will this really change everything in terms of anonymity and the ability to freely express yourself spontaneously in any situation?
  • How should we the people prepare for this?

Perhaps it will become necessary to learn the skills of a professional presenter or an actor before stepping out into the street. After all we all want to be seen behaving at our best. Especially in today’s transparent culture where our profiles can be raised and ruined online with one click. Reputations are basically built on how people perceive us, but sadly the gap between how we think we come across and how people actually experience us – on and off line - is often bigger than most of us are comfortable with.

So, what if we are walking in a major city and a stranger asks us for directions to a place we should know but we don’t. Or we get into a dispute with an unhelpful shop assistant, or worse we have an encounter with a rogue cyclist who jumps a light and crashes into us?

If they have a camera and we are unprepared to respond in a way that is media friendly, our ignorance and rage could be streamed live for everyone to scrutinise. Does this mean we will need to be prepared to literally play our ‘role’ in society with the deft skill of an actor?

Welcome to The Human Show!