In a medium where everyone seems to be putting themselves up for public display comes a web serial known simply as I, with the premise of a man, who discovers his life is being mysteriously broadcast over the internet…against his will. Created in early 2007 by New York-based filmmaker Craig DiFolco and the series lead actor Micheal Izquierdo, I has become known as YouTube’s answer to The Truman Show, the twist here being audience interaction. The show’s producers craft episodes and directions based partly on viewer comments, some of which show up in the shows themselves.
In Episode One, “I,” sits in front of his computer, slowly realizing his every move is being broadcast by cameras he can never locate or turn off. When he relates this to his laid-back older brother, the problem is greeted with enthusiasm rather than horror. But I doesn’t want to be “famous,” at least not in this way, and not with anonymous viewers passing judgement on his life via text messaging.
The series is filmed by stationary webcams always in the right place to track I’s every move, giving it a voyeuristic feel, somewhere between documentary and drama. Jump cuts and electronic music heighten the sense of paranoia, but the issues dealt with are personal – love, family, relationships – and not very concerned secret agents or uncovering a vast government conspiracy.
I never really settles into his role as web-based entertainment. Eventually more complications ensue, girlfriends and ex-girlfriends and angry boyfriends of said ex-girlfriends arrive. In Episode Fourteen, I must deal with relentless text messages from his fan base, sent by real-life viewers, telling him what to do next in choosing between an old flame and a new arrival.
The mysterious force behind the webcast has not yet been revealed, but this hardly seems the point. Rather the issue is whether I will allow himself to be guided by his unseen audience or make his own decisions, but I’s free will seems to be losing out to mob rule.
By Episode Nineteen, I has grown somewhat accustomed, if not completely accepting, of his strange situation. He openly solicits advice from his unseen audience about how to deal with his girlfriend problem. He is thrown the response: “don’t ask us what to say. It’s your life,” reminding him that not everyone wants to choose the direction. Sometimes its just better to sit back and watch what happens.