Justin Kan first strapped a camera to his hat and began broadcasting Justin.tv live, 24/7 in March of 2007. “Lifecasting” was born. Since then every comparison to films that question America’s TV-addicted culture have already been made. Yes, we are living in a hyperreality, but we haven’t yet passed the threshold of disambiguation – the point where we can no longer tell real from fake. At least not yet.
Lifecasting might blur the line between “real life” and “performance” if the life it showed was blown to epic proportions – like that of Ed.TV or the Truman Show. But Justin’s just your average Silicon Valley entrepreneur with a strong work ethic, a novel concept, and excellent marketing. What makes Justin.tv epic isn’t Justin, it’s the idea.
Having a camera on your person and broadcasting a live show to the world all day, every day is new, interesting, and technologically very cool. Justin was the beginning, feels real, and shows that even life not completely infused with entertainment can still be entertaining. As the show’s slogan goes, “waste time watching other people waste time.” A lot of people have wasted a lot of time.
Yet now, with an almost inevitable turn, lifecasting has progressed out of the experiment phase of the product life cycle, rocketed into the franchise, and lost a little something in between.
In late May, Justin.tv launched its first spin-off – Justine.tv. Freelance graphic/web designer and video editor of Tasty Blog Snack fame, Justine Ezarik is a unique, charming personality that’s easy on the eyes. Her blog, flickr account, last.fm page, and 24/7 streaming webcast picture a life that’s obviously very different than Justin’s. Still, it’s not as good to watch. The concept’s already been done and sequels are hard to make.
But that hasn’t stopped others from joining in. There’s at least a dozen more lifecasters currently on Justin.tv, and though I admittedly haven’t watched all of them – and I’m sure at least a few have their moments – I doubt any are interesting enough to pique any real interest or generate more than micro niche appeal. Well, with one exception.
New York City’s Naked Cowboy (a.k.a Robert John Burck) started his own lifecast on Justin.tv about 6 days ago. I mention the man who plays guitar in his skivvies in Time’s Square not because of his body, but because he’s the closest thing to celebrity that’s online, broadcasting his life 24/7.
“Waste time watching other people waste time” can only go so far when the people you’re watching are “normal”, but Burck’s eccentricities make him enticing. He’s played guitar nearly nude in Times Square from 11AM – 4PM daily for the past nine years, has appeared on American Idol, and if you mosey over to his MySpace page, you’ll see he’s busy juggling an impending underwear line with Wal-mart, and also in the studio working on an album. Fans can call in “day or night” at 917-270-6901 to request a song for him to strum and sing or just to talk, and he loves it when they do.
But how much of NakedCowboy.tv is Burck and how much is Naked Cowboy? What’s real and what’s a show?
Burk’s lifecast is as epic as Justin.tv gets, and that’s what makes it better than the rest. That’s not to say that there won’t be a place for “normal” lifecasters, but that’s not the direction where the phenomenon is headed. The Real World morphed from a voyeuristic look at what happens when interesting people “stop being polite, and start getting real” to a post-college, frat party that’s seemingly cast with “reality tv actors” instead of “real” people. Lifecasting may soon become even more of a sensationalized performance.
Hows that for hyperreality?!