Saturday, March 6, 2010

Released Tuesday on DVD: "We Live in Public"

Grade: B-plus

This documentary tells the story of Josh Harris, an Internet entrepreneur who made millions during the era and channeled his money into weird experiments in public living. He started a community, known as Quiet, in which people lived in a pod, surrounded by 24-hour surveillance, with absolutely no privacy. He followed that up with, in which everything he and his girlfriend did was broadcast over the Internet (including sex and bathroom activities).

Filmmaker Ondi Timoner documented Harris’ exploits for a decade, and the result is We Live in Public, a kind of rise-and-fall story, in which Harris goes to the limits of exhibitionism and public living and discovers nothing but a void at the end of that journey. Harris, who appears throughout in interview footage, is an interesting mix — someone with a serious inability to connect with other people and yet, at the same time, someone with a consistent ability to see the future.

The one thing in particular that Harris anticipated was the Internet’s capacity to feed relentless exhibitionism, through blogs such as this one, social networking Web sites and YouTube. Harris saw this brave new world more than a decade ago — and liked what he saw. To watch We Live in Public is to wonder if the world we live in is just a reflection of one man’s neurosis — if Harris’ mix of emotional distance and rabid self-promotion has simply gone viral.

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