Spontaneous Togetherness?

There has been a lot of buzz about “life streaming” apps, which allow people to broadcast live video streams to people who follow their twitter. Now you can live like a Kardashian, except without the millions of unearned dollars.

I don’t really see the attraction of this product, but then I didn’t see the point in twitter, either (and still don’t). But, clearly a lot of people find something worthwhile here, so what is going on here?

The basic idea is petty pedestrian, e.g., Periscope “lets you broadcast live video to the world. Going live will instantly notify your followers who can join, comment and send you hearts in real time. The more hearts you get, the higher they flutter on the screen.”

Basically, the same as twitter except you can natter away and give them horrid video instead of just horrid still images and illiterate text. As Claire Kowa says at the Future of Storytelling, “SXSW attendees used Meerkat to document panels, live music, parties, and the other cool things they did that weekend”.

Whatever this is, it can’t be video, per se, that is important. It must be the streaming, and mainly the liveness. This is unedited, raw video from me, right now, as it is happening to me.

Intimate. First person. Unfiltered. (Don’t ask me what the business model is, I haven’t a clue how this would make money.)

The Meerkat people argue that the social network aspect is at least as important. These services use Twitter (or something similar) to advertise the start and end of streams. So this isn’t a broadcast into the ether, it is a multicast to a “social graph” of network followers.

The “liveness” is emphasized by the lack of replay or storage. You either see it as it happens or not at all. If we are watching it, we are all watching it together, and the receivers are “together” with the sender.

Meerkat coined the term “Spontaneous Togetherness” which captures these ideas. They believe this is deeply profound,

Live video over social graphs generates new emotions and feelings that are different from those on existing social networks. Feelings like drama, anticipation, uncertainty, unpredictability, presence and empowerment to change are new.”

New Feelings = New Habits = New Medium = New Message = New Graph

Well, probably not.

I can see what they are driving at, sort of.  This is certainly a potentially intense and personal communication mode. (I’m not sure how it works if you want to have multi-way conversations, or have more than one friend broadcasting at a time. I also suspect that most people don’t have enough “cool stuff” to be interesting for long, even to their friends. But lets not quibble.)

But:  I have trouble swallowing this as a form of “togetherness”. If we are really together, as when we are in the same place at the same time, we have no use at all for this medium. It is only useful when we aren’t together, but perhaps wish we were.

I can imagine some very interesting situations as people who have been “intimately connected” through “spontaneous togetherness” meet in person for the first time. this could be quite a shock. 🙂

What will we notice about the other person, once we actually can fully sense them, and they us? How does it feel to actually touch each other? How do we present ourselves live, in person, without an “off” button?

And, taking Meerkat’s notion, just how “dramatic” is real life?

Wouldn’t this be a great psychology experiment?

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