Amanda Oleander smiling and surrounded by art auction attendees who are doing various activities with their phones

Amanda Oleander with art auction attendees and lots of mobile devices streaming lots of Periscopes.

I went to Amanda Oleander‘s Artiscope event in Santa Monica tonight. Oleander’s a prominent and frequent Pariscope broadcaster and many other Pariscopers were in attendance. This was definitely a party where no one had to apologize for using their phone! Artiscope’s goals included celebrating emerging artists, meeting up with Pariscopers, and benefitting The American Disaster Relief Foundation.

Broadcasting for Mere Mortals

If you look at the top 20, or top 100 on Twitter, you’ll notice that these lists are heavily dominated by music superstars. Katy Perry is #1 in the world. A rare non-musician, Barack Obama is sandwiched right between Justin Bieber & Taylor Swift. (Perry: 71 million followers, Bieber: 64 million, Obama: 60 million, Swift: 59 million)

Periscope ranks users not by followers but by “Hearts,” the taps of approval that viewers give to the Scopes they watch. If I counted right, Oleander’s current 24,945,684 hearts make her the 6th most popular broadcaster on Periscope. The other top Periscopers are also a bit less globally famous than the likes of Perry, Bieber, Obama & Swift. Or, of course, Kardashian-West and her husband.

Photo from Artiscope 2015 at Seasons 52 in Santa Monica, CA. Image shows auction attendees chatting and one woman using two phones at once.

How many phones do you have?

New Media is New

I might not be Justin Bieber’s greatest fan, but I sure do appreciate his deep understanding of our New Media Landscape. He spoke out early and forcefully against SOPA / PIPA. If you can have the kind of global success that Perry & Bieber do, that’s great. Still, the 20th Century kind of mastered that top-down gatekeeper system of Music A&R Executives, Film & Television Studio Heads, Book & Magazine Publishers. What excites me about New Media is that it’s New. I don’t claim that New Media is always “better” than Old Media. Or even that it’s as good. What I do believe is that it’s New. That awesome or lame, by exploring new forms we ride the waves of human culture and human consciousness into undiscovered possibilities. Whatever problems new media might be fraught with, I’d rather stumble along the new and less traveled road, than repeat the safety and predictability of the road more traveled.

Given that, it’s a little disappointing to see the stars of old media at the top of the lists of new media. Perhaps it’s irrelevant. Your Twitter community doesn’t have to include Perry or Bieber at all for it to be relevant to you. Still, it’s exciting and refreshing to see a platform like Periscope be dominated by fresh voices born of, and living in, these New Media Spaces and Places. It’s inspiring to see Oleander and her peers rise to the top of Periscope.

Marco Traniello & Christina Amato Periscoping from their phones at Amanda Oleander's Artiscope 2015 in Santa Monica, CA

Two days ago I watched Marco Traniello & Christina Amato Periscope their way thru Disneyland. Tonight they, like so many other Periscopers, are here at Amanda Oleander’s art auction.

The Secret Lives of Insects

Obsessed as so many of us seem to be with Social Media, our 2015 culture of selfie narcissism has been getting a lot of flack for years now:

The art of conversation is lost.

This is the most narcissistic generation ever.

Me, me, me!

Is The Internet making us stupid? Are we hopeless narcissists? Will another gaggle of cultural institutions get on the Selfie-sticks are banned bandwagon next week?

Perhaps.

But we also admire social insects like Ants and Bees. We appreciate their communal culture and selfless dedication. But when it comes to humans, we fear that kind of community. Star Trek’s “Borg” were not a Utopian culture, but the ultimate loss of humanity and self. Why?

Might it be that our myriad new Web and Mobile tools are tiny bridges, tiny neuronal connections in our emerging global brain, on our way to a more cooperative, communal, and sharing culture? Yes the relentless “show boobs” comments that smart and attractive Periscopers like Oleander are often plagued by are disappointing. But you also see Oleander and others working to shape their community: to praise intelligent speech, ignore mildly objectifying speech, and block the most rude viewers. For all the banality of Social Media, might it be the awkward path to a brighter future?

The Road Ahead

It doesn’t behoove an emerging generation to placate the world view of those who came before them.

Hennessy Youngman

When I ask my students if they feel “empowered or enslaved” by their mobile devices, the majority say “enslaved.” When I ask how many would give their phone up, almost no one says yes.

At my mom’s Easter parties the “old people” hang out on the patio and chat about their aches and pains. The “kids” sit in the living room and play with their phones.

Will this cultural divide, this culture of selfie, find it’s way to stronger, more inclusive communities? Or breed a generation of introverts? Can developers like Periscope’s Kayvon Beykpour and Joe Bernstein lead culture to a brighter future? Can Periscopers like Oleander sort out centuries of misogyny and objectification and find a more inclusive future?

I don’t know.

Don’t you love stories with unpredictable endings!?

Photo of a cell phone running Periscope sitting on top of a painting of a Panda bear wearing 3D glasses

Amanda Oleander’s phone sitting on top of her Panda with 3D glasses painting and broadcasting a Periscope stream as Oleander is off greeting auction attendees.

Update: In the time it took me to write this, Oleander got nearly 20,000 more “Hearts” to bring her Periscope Love up to 24,965,446.


References

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Written by Glenn Zucman

BA, Psychology, University of Hawaii, MFA, Intermedia Art, Long Beach State. Host of American Public Media's "Border Patrol." Host of KBeach Radio's "Strange Angels." Interested in Identity Art that explores our Oracle-at-Delphi-like straddling of corporeal and virtual realms in our new media century. Civil rights in online space. 10 years...
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