“Everything is free except the video that we capture of you… THAT I own.” No, this is not Mark Zuckerberg speaking. It’s the words of Josh Harris, the greatest internet pioneer you’ve never heard of. In honor of The Social Network film, I thought I’d share the story of the man who prophesied the whole shebang 10 years earlier.
Josh Harris was at the top of the mountain during the first internet boom. Pseudo.com was a United States internet website for live audio and video webcasting. With the expansion of the Internet and the release of streaming audio technologies by Real Media, Pseudo was made into its own company. They broadcasted audio programs from its website at Pseudo.com. If you remember the late 90′s, they threw several over-the-top parties at 600 Broadway. With the release of video streaming technologies, Pseudo evolved the shows to live streaming video with multiple cameras, broadcast graphics, interstitials and streaming video commercials. Basically, Josh Harris set up the first online television network, with channels on multiple subjects (from hip-hop to art shows).
(Josh Harris. Founder of Pseudo.com and creator of the social experiment, “We Live in Public”)
The documentary “We live in Public”, Directed by Ondi Timori (of Dig) breaks it all down. The real epic moment comes halfway through the movie. Flush with bubble money, in 1999 Harris dumped $2 million of it into building a multi-level underground stage for an art project of heretofore unseen scope. Called “Quiet: We Live in Public,” it was a giant stage completely wired for video and sound, where a hundred people would live in total surveillance. There was free food at a long banquet table, a bar with free drinks, a clear-sided public shower stall, long rows of cubicle-hotel sleeping racks, a heavily-stocked firing range, and (just for kicks) Stasi-like interrogation sessions. Most importantly, though: everything wasn’t just being recorded on film, all the participants could watch themselves and each other while it unfolded. It was an exhibitionist’s wet dream.
The “We Live in Public” project certainly fulfilled the definition of conceptual art… or rats in a cage theory, or both. One reviewer described it as: “the whole thing seems the perfect capper to a particularly narcissistic period in the history of a famously self-obsessed city”. Remember this was in 1999.
Recently, Diane Sawyer went to go meet Mark Zuckerberg. She solicited questions from her Facebook page before speaking to the 26 year old founder. How awesome is that? She begins her piece with a hard question:
“Is this the collasus that will mark the end of privacy or is the force creating a new democracy for the planet”. Big question, and big tradeoff.
(Diane Sawyer Takes No Prisoners)
She asks before she drills the Gen Y media giant on his personal and business decisions in life, pressing him hard to discover his honor code. Diane doesnt take any shit. She didn’t come here to do a “puff piece” on the 26 year old homeboy. She poses a fill-in-the-blank question: “Founding Father of ______ ” —– then she looks at him with a penetrating grin and says, “fill in the blank”.
Whatever Josh Harris intended to do with his social experiment, it prophesied todays culture — Youtube, Facebook, all of it. In the documentary, the people who served as lab rats for Josh (the “maker” of this world) nicknamed the entity Oz, because they couldn’t see him in the control room. Flash forward almost a decade later, the new Oz turns out to be Facebook Founder Mark… king of the social networks.
Watch the trailer: We Live in Public, Official Trailer
Graphic of Mark Zuckerberg: by Charis Tsevis for Wired Magazine