Before Mark Zuckerberg ever got his first computer, Josh Harris, founder of Jupiter Communications, had made many millions in the tech world forecasting Internet trends and predicted that we would share everything online. In 1994, Harris founded Pseudo Networks, a website for live audio and video webcasting with shows ranging from space, to hip hop, from fashion to sex. However, this was years before broadband, so the size of the show was no bigger than a postage stamp. In just a few short years, Pseudo would grow to 50 separate channels and generate 200 hours of original programming per month. By January of 1999, Harris had leased two adjacent buildings on Lower Broadway in Manhattan which would become the site of "Quiet: We Live In Public" - named one of the Top 10 Art Installation's ever by Art Forum - replete with 150 living pods, an 80-foot dining table, and a gun range. There were 110 surveillance cameras through the space, and every "resident" had their own channel through which to watch each other. Harris proclaimed, "Everything is free, except your image. That we own." Still hundreds lined up for a spot, donning uniforms and answering 500 questions about the most private aspects of their lives. This live-in social experiment was Harris' way of marking the new era he believed we were entering at the turn of the Millenium which he described as "Man Vs. Machine." I was there filming it all and recorded data that proved to me more than anything how willingly we trade our privacy and our freedom for the connection and recognition we so dearly crave as humans.
The resulting film WE LIVE IN PUBLIC chronicles Josh Harris before and for years after this bunker was shut down by the SWAT team on January 1st 2000, who perceived it to be a Millennial cult. The film is culled from 5000 hours of footage and shot over ten years. It won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival in 2009 and was acquired for the permanent collection at the MoMA NY.
Over the last few months, the chinatown gallery Amy Li Projects has curated "A Quiet Summer" - a series of exhibitions by artists and former participants including Alfredo Martinez, Jeff Gompertz, and Donna Ferrato. On Friday, August 29th the exhibition will feature "The Making of Quiet". This is my rough cut of never-before-seen footage recorded at the multi-level underground bunker as it was built and lived in during December 1999. Culled from hundreds of hours recorded in that bunker, it represents the highlights which were then whittled down to scenes that play in the feature documentary. It is the first time this footage has played publicly.
But whatever happened to the greatest Internet pioneer you've never heard of? Harris had all but disappeared for years before WE LIVE IN PUBLIC came out, until we brought him back to the US for the premiere - he arrived in desert combat attire, eyes darting about in snowy Park City. After receiving the fan fare five years ago, Josh Harris slipped from view yet again...
We found him recently while filming in Las Vegas for A TOTAL DISRUPTION (with Tech Cocktail and other companies that are part of Tony Hsieh's Downtown Project.) I was compelled to pause on my current ATD action and catch up with Josh at a boxing gym, to discover what he has been up to these many years and why Las Vegas is part of the plan.
Knowing Josh as I do, I didn't find it surprising when he told me that his time in Vegas is preparation for his latest project, Net Band Command, which Josh describes as a "Truman Show for everyone."
Here's a short film we put together to bring you up to date.