And it’s you!
That’s the premise of a film that I’ve just watched last night. We Live in Public, a documentary styled film, that’s just been released in the UK yesterday, through DogWoof is a truly insightful film.
I find life so amusing at times. Thursday evening, I was at the YesAndClub listening to Shed Simove, the editor for Big Brother. The following day, I was sat watching We Live in Public, seeing how the original Big Brother idea had been done, long before, in New York by a man named Josh Harris.
Josh Harris, a name that most people nowadays don’t recognise or know, was a man who was far ahead of his time. In the early days of the internet, Josh was already creating streaming video content, embedded with chat windows, and real time conversations. The film takes you through Josh’s various projects, and businesses, some hugely, lucrative, others massively successful, and some which just seem completely off the wall.
He started off with founding Jupiter Research, after understanding what sort of market survey data was needed in the Internet sector, then following the trends, and knowing the direction that things were headed, after he became a success with Jupiter, he worked with Prodigy and established their chat rooms. Being given creative license, and the freedom to be a little more risque than the traditional corporate types would have been comfortable doing, he got sex chat rooms going, and eventually ended up having close to 25% of Prodigy’s traffic happening as a result of people in chat rooms. From there, he went on to founding Pseudo.com where he started live streaming video, and having chat rooms alongside the live video. As you watch We Live in Public, you really start to see how even though this was all happening across dial up modems, and this was the late 1990’s Harris really had a vision of what would be emerging, or the direction that things be going in from an industry and tech perspective.
At it’s peak, Pseudo was creating multiple channels of live streaming content each with their own embedded chat rooms, and each one on different topics or subjects. It was an achievement, if you look at it, like no other. He had managed to create more channels than were publicly available through any other medium at the time, and because the tv channels all ran autonomously, the folks producing and editing the shows had an unprecedented level of creative control, and came up with some compelling viewing. But being so far ahead of it’s time, Harris was unable to sell Pseudo off to one of the bigger players, and never really established the dominance in the market place that other media channels had at the time.
Following on from Pseudo, Harris launched into a project called ‘Quiet Place’ which was essentially a ‘closed environment’ live in community in the depths of New York, having taken an old factory, and repurposed it internally to accomodate his ‘under ground’ experiment. Being notorious on the New York scene for throwing wild parties, and perhaps in an effort to further his ‘work’, Harris recruited in something like 100 people, who were each interviewed, screened, and then became inhabitants of this underground community. Everything you wanted was supplied, for free, including food, drink, drugs, and even firearms. But once you came into the community you couldn’t leave, and everyone had to wear the same clothes. Josh himself was a member of this community, but subversively so, as he would often be shown ‘off set’ behind the scenes, getting feedback from a group that was helping him enforce control, and order in the environment, from outside.
The set up was impressive, in so much as it was a full ‘Big Brother’ style experiment. There were cameras everywhere. From the loos and showers, to the beds, there wasn’t anywhere that you couldn’t go, or hide, and not be seen. But more interestingly, he had set up a ‘pod style’ bank of beds, essentially a hundred bunk beds all stacked tightly next to each other, and each contained a tv screen in one corner and a camera in the other. From any bed, you could flick through all the channels, and see what people were doing in any of the other beds, with the idea being that if two people were watching each other at the same time, then there would also be live audio between them. The experimental community ran for the month of December, 1999, right through to the Millenium New Year, but given that they also had a ‘church like’ room, rumors reached police that there was a massive cult and that there would be mass suicides, and so came down to investigate on the morning of either the 1st or 2nd of Jan (the exact date escapes me). Fortunately for Harris, he had grown tired of the project, and so it was the perfect excuse to just shut things down and move on.
His next experiment was in living in public (hence the title, We Live In Public). He found himself a ‘girlfriend’, and played out the drama of being a couple under the scrutiny of the camera. It’s interesting in the movie that the filmmaker Ondi Timoner chooses to show Harris’s girlfriend/public romance as being something that genuinely happened, and genuinely fell apart. In Harris’s own words, after the film, during the Q&A, he confirms that he had pre-meditated the whole experience. Deliberately finding someone to recruit into the role of ‘girlfriend’ for his staged experiment of living publicly. He even claims to have the footage of him going over the moral dilemma of putting someone through that experience, and clearly, as is evidenced by the snippets of footage that’s shown of the experiment, he didn’t hesitate to follow through. Eventually the relationship breaks down, and Harris is left ‘alone’ with his viewing public which whilst at it’s high of as many as a 1000 people when he and Tanya, his girlfriend at the time were in love and all lovey dovey, drops to as little as 10 folks.
Eventually he leaves that experiment, packs up, and just disappears. Later it turns out he had bought an Apple Farm up north from New York, and was just working the farm, working the land. Almost as if he was unplugging himself from the grid, and just getting back to nature. It’s interesting, as I was watching that I was thinking about the Schumann Resonance and how as people we tend to ‘feel better’ in nature, because we get to discharge all the energetic charge we’re carrying from being exposed to technology and the ‘stresses’ of modern life, and have our energy almost ‘neutralised’ or ‘grounded’ and end up just feeling more peaceful or calm in the presence of a natural environment. (As an aside, some folks would also chalk that upto the ‘Aura’ being grounded in a natural environment, and all the energy that hadn’t been properly anchored or discharged from being in an electric and tech filled physical space, and from being deprived of being exposed to the natural base background frequency/radiation gets all balanced out, the way nature knows how to. But since this isn’t a review of Aura’s or energy fields, I’ll leave that as an initial thought for now – will perhaps one day write a more detailed review of some of the evidence to suggest it’s existence.)
After working on the Apple Farm, eventually Josh Harris ends up selling up, upping his roots, and disappearing to Ethiopa, where later we discover he’s bought himself some land, and has made his home. Deliberately living somewhere that isn’t wired up, and technically as forward, it affords him the opportunity to rediscover community, and his own humanity which almost feels like he’s lost at times, when living under public scrutiny in some of his experiments.
The film itself, whilst chronicling some of Josh’s past, and background, doesn’t do justice, in my opinion to his vision, or inspiration to create these experiments in ‘public’ living. After the film, we’re fortunate to be able to have a Q&A with Josh Harris, the ‘subject’ of the movie, and slowly it starts to become evident that Harris really sees himself as an artist, rather than a technologist, or futurist, though it seems he’s aptly positioned to fill any one of those roles. But unlike Orwell, and his vision of Big Brother, in 1984, Harris’s visions, and ‘experiments’ were attempts to understand our own innate desire to watch and be watched. Harris describes post screening how he wanted to capture the experience of losing yourself in the collective consciousness, of the people that are observing you, and relates how in the couples experiment, living with Tanya, in a flat, when he pushes her a touch too far, she goes completely out of character, and acts out the suggestions that her fans provide her, through the chat rooms. It seems that everyone else in the chat rooms is starting to influence Tanya’s thinking and behaviour, and she insists that Josh sleep on the couch, and that she get to stay in the bed. Eventually Tanya makes the decision to leave the flat completely. But Josh identified the moment where Tanya forced him to sleep on the couch, as a direct consequence of the user feedback and not something that she would have otherwise considered. It’s this nature of hyper connectedness, that your own mind, and your own control over what you say or do gets lost in response to the community around you that Harris was trying to capture, understand and express, through these experiments.
Whether he does that or not is a different matter. But it’s understandable why some folks would liken him to the ‘Warhol of the Web‘. Especially if he describes himself as an Artist, and when asked what his motives were he shares that he aspires one day to be in the major Art Galleries, being exhibited. He does make a valid point, that most great artists are never appreciated in their own time, and even shared that he was almost hoping that his content will one day be looked back upon and seen by people as being the revolutionary, ahead of his time visionary that he seems to be, by documenting and capturing in such detail all the content from all of these cameras from all of these experiments in living publicly. He also jokes about the cost of storing all this information, and refers to the half life of the video medium he’s stored all this content on, describing museums as being those repositories that are paid to store our history and keep our art alive.
Personally I had so many questions that I wanted to ask of Josh, but given that the Q&A was for a limited time only, and that there were other people in the audience, I didn’t ask more than a few questions of him, but as I let the fullness of the film sink in, and start to take some of my own background/experience and perceptions into account, I really get a sense of just how cutting edge Harris was with his work, and how his latest project, which he’s now pursuing, since the film is opening doors for him again, is really an attempt by Harris to understand and see through his project who’se name escapes me at the moment. It’s an attempt to recreate the ‘Quiet Place’ experiment, but this time to have ‘work’ for the people to do. Harris reflected that one of the reasons why Quiet Place descended into anarchy and chaos was partly because there was nothing to occupy people’s time and attention, and so apart from being ‘watched’ all the time, people had nothing else to do.
His latest vision is of a ‘wired city’ which will have everyone being watched under the camera, given everything, and also be given work, or tasks and activities to occupy them.
In brief, I think the guy is trying to create real life experiences of what might happen if everyone’s thoughts became conscious and everyone was plugged directly into each other. He even suggests that perhaps that’s what they Mayan 2012 is all about a firmware upgrade of the human CPU, so that we no longer operate as single autonomous units, but as an interconnected hybrid type massive parallell computer. Personally I’d been saying the same thing to my own friends. That all this technology like mobiles that allows us to be uber connected all the time, in any place, at any time is a way for us to physically train ourselves to start experiencing that ‘always on’ moment in preperation for some form of mass telepathy to emerge that will allow us to always be connected with each other. Some folks are already talking about such phenomenon through Indigo Children, and a coming of a new age type talk.. Others recount Mayan prophecies and ‘end of times’ type forecasts to mean just a transform of such a scale that it’s unprecedented, and beyond our imagination.
The one other insight that occurs to me, when reflecting on this film was Sheldrake’s work on Morphogenetic fields, and the sense of being stared at. What if we do communicate information by putting our attention on something. What if when we look at something we’re communicating with it, energetically, and telepathically, but our sense are so numb, and dulled, that we can’t perceive that communication. There’s always stories of Aborigines being able to communicate with each other over vast distances, and even traditional indigenous people having a ‘hyper connectedness’ that allows them to perceive and understand the natural world in a way that escapes most of us urban city dwellers.
It’s indeed an interesting perspective that Harris offers up, and indeed only time will tell how true a visonary, artist, or prophetic futurist he was, but given his track record so far, I wouldn’t disagree completely with him at all. In fact my own thinking and understanding are very much in line with the tack that Harris takes on the subject.
My final thought will be to leave you with an excerpt from The Foundation for the Law of Time, where this is expressed far more eloquently than I ever could:
In its essence, time is a frequency expressed as a mathematical ratio constant, 13:20. This constant defines a whole new realm of reality, the synchronic order. This is the fourth dimensional realm where synchronicity is the norm and can actually be mapped out by mathematical codes based on the ratio constant 13:20.
By means of this constant it can be demonstrated that the present civilization is not coordinated by the universal frequency of synchronization, but by an artificial timing frequency which is a major factor contributing to the present global crisis.
Rooted in an irregular 12-month calendar and a mechanistic 60 second/60 minute timing program, this artificial timing frequency (12:60) drives the human species ever farther from the natural order with alienating effects on human consciousness. In this analysis, the evolution of the human species is dependent on a return to the natural timing frequency.
For this reason the primary social application of the Law of Time is the Thirteen Moon/28 day calendar. By making the Thirteen Moon/28-day cycle the harmonic (13:20) standard of everyday time measurement, replacing the irregular twelve-month global standard, the Law of Time establishes a new foundation for the reformulation of the human mind and its systems of knowing.
If you’re reading this, and the film is still showing, I thoroughly recommend you get out to the cinema and watch it. If you happen to read this on Saturday the 14th November, I believe the 6.30pm screening at the Odeon in the Panton Street Cinema in London will include a Q&A with Josh Harris, after the film, and if you feel so inspired, I’d thoroughly recommend you get down there to watch it, and ask him a few of your own questions 😉 If you happen to live outside of London, there’s also nationwide screenings next week, for which you could win a ticket by entering the draw here.