As digital video has become more consumerized over the past year, there is now increasing discussion regarding the evolutionary process. Live video is certainly considered one of the next steps. Here is a great piece from TechCrunch a few months back about the live video landscape.
One of the discussed areas of interest within live video is “lifecasting.” This form of digital video has the potential to be transformational in many regards. It is, potentially, a critical next step in social media, broadcasting, blogging, chat, podcasting and, according to lifecasters.tv, the complete decentralization of media.
What is lifecasting? Think Blair Witch Project from the summer hype of 1999 and, to a different degree, Truman Show . Lifecasting is literally the practice of walking through one’s daily life with a camera in hand, or strapped to one’s head. It is the informal, unedited visual documentation of life from the individual’s perspective.
There are a few players in this emerging space but Justin.TV appears to be getting the most notice thus far. Justin.TV, started by a recent Yale grad literally named Justin, has several hundred “viewers” at this point–camera-ladden individuals roaming the earth. It’s a different version of sites like Stickam or Break.com which are more about UGC and live social media. The live social media arena is dangerous space to tread when YouTube controls 60% of the marketplace and has steadily maintained that place for nearly 18 months now. I have generally negative perspectives on Justin.TV today (see below) but at least it’s differentiating itself from many other digital video players today.
I liked Jim Carrey’s Truman Show from the summer of 1998 and the concepts behind the film. I hated Blair Witch Project despite the originality. The difference between those flics, which reflects a similar issue here, is structure, editing and editorialization. Lifecasting today is generally producing random, low-budget and low-quality programming. I’ve gone directly to Justin at Justin.TV’s viewing camera several times the past few days–often times, his camera is perched in a still position on his desktop at work looking at empty space. Only Beavis and Butthead would derive enjoyment from such an experience. I, personally, had to journey away from the site the other day when I found myself watching someone vacuuming a room for more than 20 seconds. (I will admit that Beavis and Butthead would have laughed alongside me as I just watched a guy nearly spewing as he downed hot mayonnaise.)
However, with some structure to it, and some engaging personalities, I’m starting to envision the potential to lifecasting. Real World, which shockingly has been successful on MTV for nearly 20 years, is lifecasting to a degree with structure. Stories are woven to make it flow better. It also hasn’t hurt the Real World’s popularity to increasingly have voyeuristic sub-plots riddled throughout the season. It’s a natural to assume a similar development occuring, with the right set of personalities in place, for lifecasting sites. Over time, if the practice or certain websites got popular, it’s not too far fetched to envision celebrities partaking in some capacity. I can imagine there would be many folks interested in a lifecast from Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton or a Will Ferrell as they wander through their lives.
In my opinion, for lifecasting to work, it has to be more Truman Show and less Blair Witch. The paradoxical question essentially becomes, can lifecasting decentralize media but simultaneously provide sufficient structure to keep the programming interesting? I could see lifecasting becoming transcendant but, on the other hand, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see it become a mildly trendy, cutesy thing, just as the Blair Witch project was back in 1999.