Photo: Josh Harris
Internet pioneer Joshua Harris is back again, trying a new cut at his idea for a 24/7 Internet broadcast of people’s lives.It’s called Net Band Command.
The fanciful name is an allusion to the modern day example of a ’60s rock band. But instead of watching a band perform music, the band performs a common task, or mission, in unison.
Harris is most famously known for his starring role in We Live In Public, the award-winning documentary that explored Harris’s experiments in programming people’s lives.
Those experiments ended disastrously, culminating in Harris losing a lot of money, undergoing a mental breakdown, and fleeing to an apple farm in upstate New York.
Harris had previously started Jupiter Research, one of the first Internet-analysis firms, and an online video network, Pseudo.com, which he later claimed was a fake company, during the tech boom and bust of the late ’90s.
He subsequently tried to launch a video-chat service, Operator 11, which went out of business shortly after launching and ate up most of Harris’s remaining resources.
Now Harris is updating his ideas with the buzzwords of the moment, like “cloud” and “gamification.” Net Band Command, formerly known as The Wired City, is an online television network that will program both a 24-hour news network and a reality television show that encourages people to compete against each other.
“Nowadays everyone wants their fifteen minutes of fame,” Harris says. “Everyday.”
Harris describes Net Band Command as The Truman Show for everyone, a reference to the film starring Jim Carrey as a person who grows up as the unwitting star of a 24-hour-a-day reality TV show.It is different from his other experiments notably because of the gamelike elements: Participants—”citizens”—will compete against each other from their in-home studios to get onto the official set by living everyday lives on screen, pursuing missions for points, and interacting with other players.
Here’s an example of a mission, as described by Harris: “Sophomore high school girls from around the world go to class as clones…they put on their make up together (time zone by time zone), dress the exact same way (e.g. wear the NBC standard issue uniform), do the exact same thing through out the day (the more exacting the better). They of course transmit their day to the appropriate NBC chat video cloudcasting environment.”
Once on the official set, an environment akin to the Star Trek bridge, they’ll compete for more privileges, powers, points and ultimately, Internet fame.
“If the Net Band Command format is correct, which I’m sure it is, then people will be very much induced to turn their home office and mobile environments into home studios,” Harris says. “They’ll have all kinds of reasons and motivations for doing it and in fact, in the future of things, it’s the whole idea that the world is a sound stage.”
Harris envisions collecting hundreds of hours of video daily and then broadcasting the best 60 minutes of it on television. He plans to monetise the platform by getting sponsors on board to create content within Net Band Command.
For example, Harris says that Coca-Cola could sponsor a nightly toast moment where everyone holds up a can of Coke. The system would recognise the logo from the can and then subsequently give points to those who participated in the toast. Citizens could then use those points toward a mission, such as asking fellow citizens to record video demanding that the mayor fix a pothole in their neighbourhood.
Harris is looking to raise $1 million for Net Band Command and launch an alpha version in the second quarter of next year.
Is he for real this time? We’ll have to wait and watch.