“Joining us live from…” Experiments with Periscope

244530822_70d27ddc5aIt’s exciting and unsettling to me to watch the emergence of a new disruptive technology right at the cliff face as it were. I tend not to be an early adopter; I like a good solid evidence base and low risk before I take something on an adapt it to suit a purpose. So when my ‘Early Adopter’ colleagues started talking about Periscope I didn’t do too much. I didn’t have any experience with other live streaming tools such as Meerkat. I downloaded the app ‘for later’.

Then one of my colleagues @dotsandspaces began Periscoping his walk from car to office in the morning and vice versa at home time. Every working day. To be honest, I found it intriguing. Why did he do it? I logged in and joined him on his morning walk. So did a few random strangers from around the globe. I talked to him about it afterwards “It feels a bit weird if I don’t do it now” he admitted.

I watched an American Search and Rescue team do a Q&A and tour of their helicopter and base of operations. It was really interesting to get a little window into people’s lives in another part of the world; which is exactly what Periscope aims to give you. I thought about how that would be very interesting for outreach at the National Oceanography Centre where I sometimes work, showing people Deep Sea ROV’s up close on the dockside while the researchers talk alongside them, answerign questions from this invisible (only the broadcasters can read comments on a screen) audience and so on. A comment from one viewer during the Search and Rescue broadcast makes the point…”Tell them they are doing great; they look s*** scared!”.

BUT…Periscope raises all sorts of complex, and darker, issues too. These are around the content that individuals broadcast, behaviour of viewers within broadcasts (as it’s an interactive medium) and much wider notions of personal privacy in public spaces and copyright.

Anyone can broadcast anything, anytime. All broadcasts are saved for 24 hours before deletion. The titles of some broadcasts in the global list are dubious at best. Broadcasts can also be very short; most seem to be just a few minutes at most. There is no obvious ‘Report’ button on the interface, so alongside broadcasts from the green room of popular TV talkshows and Joe Somebody making breakfast, there is the potential to encounter something far more serious.

Anyone can join any broadcast, anytime. Well, not quite true. You can choose to broadcast only to your Twitter followers (not much use in reaching new audiences depending on your intent). If you open the broadcast to be truly public, you are unable to ‘kick out’ undesirable elements who may join and post inappropriate comments which are then visible to the whole audience. I have seen this happen twice; the approach of both broadcasters was to ignore the behaviour, but as a viewer it detracted from the experience.

At our ILIaD events we regularly post notices to say that we will be filming (with regular cameras) and taking photos; if people don’t wish to be filmed/photographed then they notify us. With smartphones in the hands of most of us, there is now a seemingly endless army of reportage film-makers in the making. What are people’s rights with regards to filming and being filmed in a public place and how will those rights be protected? Not everyone will seek permission before filming, and not everyone will have learned the smae sensitivities and techniques for filming in public as you would expect formally trained media crews to have been.

I finally Periscoped for the first time; the opening minutes of a keynote presentation. I wasn’t able to ask the presenter for permission beforehand; although I noticed many people photographing slides and sharing on social media (and frequently slides are made available to us online and publicly anyway). I only did a few minutes because I found it a distraction. I wanted to concentrate on the keynote, rather than be a conduit. I wanted to take notes as they occurred to me in real time, rather than watching the video later (before it was wiped). I’m still waiting for the evidence base that will convince me to embrace it – and there are changes I’d like to see to the interface/reporting, but for now I’ll continue some small experiments with the encouragement of colleagues.

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/35356997@N00/244530822″>DSC01849</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;


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