Kevin Cheng  

Lifecasting is Not Interesting

May 11th, 2007 by Kevin Cheng :: see related comic

“Lifecasting” is a term used recently to describe the process of broadcasting everything you see and hear from a mobile camera. In particular, this resuscitation of similar movements going as far back as ‘95 started with [Justin.tv][1]. The live streaming site featuring Justin Kan’s life is old news - it launched on March 19, 2007 - but we haven’t been around lately to make fun of things in a timely fashion and oh my, the internet and design community was generous with their fodder.

When Justin.tv first launched, I checked out the site description. It read:

> Justin wears the camera 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Even in the bathroom. Even on a date.

Being the kind of person I am, I immediately thought of about 10 other things I’m more curious about whether he keeps the camera on for. A date is nothing. What about the bank? Or you know, that part after the date? Or heck, what about if you don’t get a date for a long long time and you have uhm … certain needs to fulfill? The entire promised seemed poorly thought through and I figured it would be in the order of months before he broke the spirit of this exercise.

Sure enough, within a month, Justin.tv’s “commitment” was brought into question. The most talked about was when he did “[get lucky][2]”. To me though, the bigger offense was Justin taking the day off and having someone substitute for him. What does 24/7 mean, exactly, if you can _take a day off_? Some argue that Justin needed to make sensitive business deals around the whole venture but if that’s the case, shouldn’t you have somebody else as the camera boy instead of the guy who needs to run the business? In [The Truman Show][3], Jim Carrey’s character is not the guy who gets sponsors for the show. He is a character, a star even, but a pawn. Somebody else behind the camera does the other work.

Did I mention poorly thought through?

Friend and sometimes [Valleywag][4] writer [Nick Douglas][5] writes about [why shows like this might be appealing][6]. He mentions the rawness of the material and how shows like The Real World are too heavily edited and polished.

The editing room exists for a reason. A movie or TV show, scripted or not, is carefully edited to maximize your attention and interest because there’s a lot of things that are _not_ interesting. Even Quentin Tarantino’s dynamic character dialogue in [Death Proof / Grindhouse][7] was oft criticized for skipping over the editing room and that was _Quentin Tarantino dialogue_ not a conversation at a Web 2.0 party about which social bookmarking site is better.

Very few people’s lives are interesting enough to broadcast all day and all night, down to brushing their teeth and picking their nose. Even people who have led lives interesting enough to warrant autobiographies are jotting down the highlights and lowlights, not every minute occasion.

At least for a month there, I admired Justin’s goals but that was so short lived that I can’t even call it a disappointment so much as a sigh.

Let’s face it, my life may not be scintillating. But living it is more interesting than watching yours.

[1]:http://justin.tv
[2]:http://valleywag.com/tech/justin’tv/how-webcam-sex-nearly-saved-the-world-251633.php
[3]:http://imdb.com/title/tt0120382/
[4]:http://valleywag.com
[5]:http://lookshiny.com
[6]:http://valleywag.com/tech/justin%27tv/hes-just-a-camboy-so-why-cant-i-stop-watching-247327.php
[7]:http://imdb.com/title/tt0462322/

5 Responses to “Lifecasting is Not Interesting”
Thomas wrote:

Absolutely true. Lifecasting would have been interesting if we got to see something special, something, like the secret moment of justin or whatever. Now we see nothing interesting at all, just a guy doing his daily routine.

How boring are our lives if we would actually think that was interesting?

Thomas wrote:

Oh and by the way, nice seeing you publishing new stuff again. Hope you can keep your weekly schedule!

Stan L. wrote:

I agree, though a lot of poeple still login to watch and chat. I found that logging in to mystreams.tv and streaming with my friends is a lot more rewarding than watching a stranger.

Alfie wrote:

Yeah, of course most people’s lives are drop dead boring enough to blow one’s own brains out on principle - shit, just watch Justin.tv at any time. That’s not the point, the point is that it’s a feasible step forwards towards complete life chronicling (technologically speaking), for those disciplines in which it is useful. Look at Charlie Stross’ post on this for what I mean.

Now let’s consumerise that process. As long as the necessary privacy restrictions are in place, I’d be really quite happy to have all my shit (hehe) recorded, maybe one day it’ll come in useful. The point I’m trying to make is that sure, what’s here now is rubbish, but it’s interesting, and probably useful (and inevitable) in the long run.

Issac wrote:

I am sure the whole point of this “stunt” is to garner publicity. I wonder how many people actually watch more than 10 minutes of this stuff or come back regularly to check in. I am sure there are a few but more importantly (for Justin) is the amount of people blogging about it ( even you gave him 6 + paragraphs) and mentioning on their newscast.

Good to see you back.


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OK/Cancel is a comic strip collaboration co-written and co-illustrated by Kevin Cheng and Tom Chi. Our subject matter focuses on interfaces, good and bad and the people behind the industry of building interfaces - usability specialists, interaction designers, human-computer interaction (HCI) experts, industrial designers, etc. (Who Links Here) ?