Many years ago I thought how cool it would be if you were to go out with some friends each with a camera strapped to our heads, record an afternoon then to play it back on a split-screen.
You’d see what each person was focussing on at any time. Imagine a car journey for example: one person might be looking out of the window while the other three are engaged in conversation. Then suddenly that person might zone into what’s being talked about, and who’s to say, maybe their contender in the group would then zone out. Maybe the leader would be the person looked at the most: or the least. One person might be totally involved in the group. Another might be slightly distanced. Or perhaps the entire group would react the same way. It would be illuminating. It would be fascinating.
I never actually achieved this because at the time VHS cameras were the size of bricks and apart from the logistics involved – gaffer-taping bricks to our heads, incurring neck pain and instant, premature, substantial, painful hair loss – it would probably also have influenced our behaviour. But now technology is unobtrusive enough to allow such experiments to happen. And now we have broadband streaming video access, someone has taken advantage of Tuvalu’s fortuitous domain name to turn themselves into a media brand.
Justin.tv is a guy walking around with a video camera strapped to his head. All the time. Right now I’m watching him at the laundromat.
I heard about him earlier today on The Message, a Radio 4 programme covering the media from the viewpoint of journalists, producers and writers. David Quantick roundly criticised Justin’s activity, calling him a ‘dork’, his site ‘mind-numbingly dull’ and – amusingly – suggesting that it would be more interesting if he had a camera in his head and no one had told him.
David Quantick is an arse. What he doesn’t realise is that this is ultimate TV. Everyone who speaks to Justin knows what’s going on. He’s the Ultimately Famous Person. Everyone who talks to him sees their potential stake in his brand. When they nurture him, they nurture his brand, and therefore themselves. It’s exactly the same as real life except they know that they’re being watched by many people online. Person and brand – online, one-to-many brand – become indistinguishable. It’s the closest thing to really Being John Malkovich currently available.
This isn’t wrong, and it isn’t right. It just is. Justin just is, and you can see him being. I’m not suggesting for a moment that our lives are so empty that we must live them through Justin. But we know what he’s looking at and listening to and if you want to walk around in someone else’s shoes – which after all is what Harper Lee urged us to do many years ago – then you can do it, now.
OK, so he may be a moron. But we owe it to ourselves to know what it’s like to be one.