Here on Awearness, we social change takes the form of vegan and eco-friendly clothing, but there are many ways of expressing new ideas.
With each passing year, I have a deeper appreciation for anyone who was at Berkeley in the late 1960s, on Wall Street in the mid-1980s, or part of any other era-defining scene of social change. Because unbeknownst to me 10 years ago this fall, I was joining a such scene myself, as a fledgling writer at a little magazine with big dreams in New York that covered the Internet giants of the age.
One such giant was Josh Harris, the founder of Pseudo.com, one of the Internet’s first — and doubtless its most vast — experiments in live-broadcast entertainment. Pseudo had various programs and self-made “celebrity” hosts engaged in all manner of zaniness, all in real time. But it almost didn’t matter what was streaming on the site; the fact that it was streaming was enough. Kind of like the first films of the late 1800s. People just liked seeing stuff move on the screen.
But as everyone now knows, the bubble burst and companies like Pseudo either imploded or seemed to evaporate into thin air. Harris’s imploded, but his obsession with the potential of cyberspace would lead to new ill-fated experiments in the unpredictable space where humanity and technology overlap.
A new documentary, We Live in Public, chronicles those experiments, as well as Harris’s own descent from the heights of Internet celebrity and wealth to the impoverished, anonymous life he leads now out of a friend’s pool house in Los Angeles. He was once worth $80 million; now he earns a living playing poker at a local race track.
Many of Harris’s seemingly insane ideas have been manifest in the ubiquity of sites like Facebook and Twitter: we really do live in public now, so why isn’t Harris getting any props for being way ahead of the curve? Just think of it: when Harris founded Pseudo, in 1994, the founders of Facebook were still in grade school.
The film was a hit at Sundance this year, and on Friday it had its New York premier at the IFC Center. I’ll go see the film as soon as I can, and I’m sure that while I’m there, I’ll feel a lot like someone who was at Woodstock feels whenever they see anything about that historic event: at once protective and nostalgic, like I’m watching a movie about my own life.