Tonight, my weekday evening ritual started as they usually do. I drove home, just beating the rain, grabbed a salad for dinner and sat down at the Mac to do a little work on my part time job. Given that all this fun usually starts sometime between 6 and 6:30pm, I get some quality time in with my favorite radio show, Marketplace, followed up by a rebroadcast of my second favorite radio show, All Things Considered. Yes, I am an NPR junkie. Weekends are Cartalk and Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me!!!!
Marketplace comes and goes and now I’m getting some ATC. Being the techno-geek that I am, I am drawn to a story I first heard a few days ago on my favorite tech site, arstechnica.com, how people with iPhones are getting iRageous bills from AT&T. Despite understanding the reasons for AT&T sending out 300 page bills, I still can’t help but find it absurd, especially when it relates to something as iTastic as the iPhone. (Yes, iI iWill iStop iIt iI iNow.) I’ve got an unlimited internet plan through Sprint and not ONCE have I gotten a bill over 10 half-size pages, and even that had nothing other than 3 lines on the bill denoting the fact that I did have an unlimited plan and how much it cost.
So, NPR was bringing up the rear in their reporting, something that is fairly common for their technology reporting, but I honestly didn’t see this as a big enough story for them to even cover it. Once I heard a bit about who they were interviewing, things started to make a bit more sense.
Meet iJustine. Yes, I know I said I’d stop with the iIs, but this time its not me! She actually refers to herself in this manner, and while I know it was said in partial jest, I honestly wouldn’t doubt she’d change her name if it brought just a bit more publicity. Justine (sorry, not even I can keep up with the ‘i’ on this one) refers to herself as a “Mac user, blogger, internet lover and new media connoisseur.. ” but I think a better way to refer to her would be as an Internet Exhibitionist. See, what Justine does is put her entire life up on video, for anyone who visits her site to see.
A few years back, a man moved into his house on January 1st, ordered furniture to be delivered, groceries on which he could subsist and anything else he needed to live, all on the internet and all filmed for the world to see. On December 31, the cameras went dark on this experiment and I presume the internet guy went back to a semi-normal life, as I haven’t heard anything about him since then, nor would a quick Google search turn up even a mention of him. I can’t help but think that Justine might have that future to look forward to, once her 15 minutes of fame are all used up.
But while she is with us, I thought I would give you a few of my thoughts on Justine and what it means to watch her video feed for about an hour. Ok, I really didn’t watch it, but I flipped over to it occasionally, as again, my part time job just isn’t that interesting.
First, despite being a bit envious in that she doesn’t have a straight job and makes cash of doing nothing, I just couldn’t do this. Oh, it has nothing to do with some desire for privacy; I gave up on keeping secrets a long time ago. If you want to know something about my life, just ask, but be aware that I WILL tell you about it. No, my reason for being unable to do this is more basic, namely that I’m not a young, fit, fairly attractive blond girl in my early 20s. Being a slightly pudgy, hair thinning, two job working guy in his early 30s tends to decrease my photogenic persona. Its hard to admit that, but sometimes you just have to suck it up and admit the truth. Well, that, or realize that when all your neighbors pull the shades on their windows that face your house, it probably means you’re simply not cut out for spending your life with other people watching your every move. Hey, if they don’t like full frontal nudity, that’s what their shades are for. Prudes!
Back to Justine… she really needs to learn how to drive. Or at least park. The parking garage incident, as she attempted to fit her car into a spot was quite amusing, if a bit sad. There are lots of driving schools in the country, and I’m sure Pittsburgh has at least one, and it could be a good adventure to film, too. Of course, her constant texting probably didn’t help her driving skills, either.
Lets unpack that last paragraph a bit, starting with that car she was attempting to park. A later portion of the video to which I was alerted by the cessation of her car radio, was a look at the exterior of her vehicle. New or at most a couple years old. Not a Mercedes by any means, but it wasn’t cheap looking, either. Given that her website had no banner ads, one has to think that she’s got some kind of corporate sponsor. Not only that, the fact that her twitter status showed her doing a CNN interview in the past few hours, and her interview with NPR, its obvious someone has to be promoting her, or at least using the fortuitous cell phone bill as an excuse to promote her. Corporate welfare and all she has to be willing to do is let voyeurs like you (don’t try to play like you didn’t click that link over to her site!) sneak a peak. Her website claims that she is a free lance graphic designer and tech evangelist, but unless you have some big backing, neither of those necessarily pay very well, especially if you’re just starting out. Kudos to her getting some backing so early in life. Of course, I’m sure that all those Flickr pics have nothing to do with it at all.
Second point from watching her drive is her cell phone. She was constantly text messaging or chatting. It definitely explains how she got that 300 page phone bill. However, after she got out of the car, she met her friends for what seemed to be a fairly upscale party where she, wait for it, shoved the camera down in a large bag with only the lens sticking out, and keep waiting for it, text messaged through her conversations. In all fairness, her texting frequency did go down when she met up with her friends, but she still kept at it. I can’t be extremely critical here, as I’ve been known to text once or twice in an evening out with friends, but not once or twice every five minutes. I can’t imagine how rude that her friends would think her, if it were not for the fact that the camera usually ended up being focused in on them instead of Justine. I guess that’s just a bonus of having her as a friend, lots of face time with hundreds of strangers.
And it is exactly that technology that brings me to the next two points… first, the positive. Despite so many tech evangelists talking about how far the web still has to go, it has still come a long way. Sites such as Flickr, Twitter and Wordpress, not to mention Adobe’s Flash technology which powers her video feed, have enriched internet technology greatly over the last few years. The Justine Experience is considerably more rich with Web 2.0 technology than it would have been just a few years ago.
Hand in hand with that praise comes the down side, exactly how much further the technology really does have to go. The afore mentioned parking garage took out the signal completely and killed the video feed. Regular hiccups in the data stream would distort the audio by lowering or raising the frequency, causing Justine, her friends and her car stereo to alternate between singing bass and being an alternate for the Chipmunks. Video quality was awful, and while you had a general idea of what was happening, Justine turning around with the camera in her purse gave a nice blur to the entire image. We’re getting better, but we have so very far to go.
When I ended the video stream, in order to write this blog entry, Justine was schmoozing at her party, and the topic of conversation with just about everyone started with her asking, “So, have you been seeing any of my recent exploits?” Not my idea of a way to keep a conversation going, and it didn’t seem to do much for those mingling, either. I never heard the same voice for more than a couple sentences before the long silences, or rather long periods of background noise. Self promotion is good and no publicity is really bad, but at some point you should probably ask yourself if you take your job a bit too seriously.
I’m almost done, I swear. If you’ve read this far, keep with me, its all coming together soon. Only 2 more points.
Given that Justine’s life is constantly publicized, it means she needs to be constantly thinking up new ways to entertain. People will get tired of watching her paint her toe nails for the 16th night in a row. Ok, most people will get tired of that, but I’m sure that some guy in his early 40s, living in his parent’s basement, gets his kicks out of that kind of thing. During all those adventures, she’s bound to meet new people and end up explaining why she’s got a camera pointed at their mug and what she does for a living. Exactly how would that conversation go? “Hi, you’re on camera right now. No, its not Candid Camera. No, I’m not an undercover news reporter. No, I’m not a documentary film maker.”
And finally, after having caught snapshots of her life over the span of an hour, I have to just admit to exactly how normal, and boring, her life really is. It is no different than was my life in my 20s. Going out in the evenings with friends, attending parties, hanging out at the beach and just being young. Justine really isn’t that special in the scheme of things, just like all the rest of us. Yes, she has hit on something that will give her a bit of fame, and maybe a bit of cash, but in the end, she will get older and the novelty of it will fade, but for her and for us. She’ll meet a guy who she really likes but who really can’t stand being filmed 24/7, or she’ll decide that the site is now costing her more than it is making for her, or her sponsorship will dry up, and she’ll be back to a camera-less life, and that’s not a bad thing for her or us.
So, everyone raise your glass in a toast to iJustine. May your youth be remembered fondly and may your recordings bring you only good memories. Enjoy it while you can, because it is fleeting, and whatever replaces it, may it treat you equally as well as this has done.