MayJune 2015 SXSWorld


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4 8 S X S W o r l d | M AY / J U N E 2 0 1 5 | S X S W. C O M hen the movie The Age of Adaline held its Austin preview screening on April 15, attendees were urged by a message on the screen to do the sort of social media promotion that has become commonplace these days: Tweet and Instagram using the hashtag #Adaline, tag the film's account at @ AgeOfAdaline, shout-out the film's stars—but also to do something new: "Live stream your screening reaction on Periscope!" the mes- sage implored viewers. It's unclear if anyone actually did that, or what it might have looked like if they had—presumably, someone holding their phone in front of them and talking for a moment about a film they've just watched— but it speaks to something that seems at the core of the new live streaming technology that has appeared in the first quarter of 2015: Everyone knows that Periscope, Meerkat and other live-stream-from-your-phone apps are the future, but nobody is entirely clear about what exactly to do with them just yet. There are a lot of people invested in figuring that out, though. Periscope stunningly gathered its first million users in just 10 days; it took Twitter two years to hit that mark, and even a free service with obvious utility like Spotify took five months to achieve that milestone. Meerkat, meanwhile, hit two million users in early May, roughly two months after launch. Right now, that is mostly a lot of people playing in a live streaming sandbox. Periscope and Meerkat both have big, world-changing ambitions: Periscope's press materials make reference to the "Hands Up Don't Shoot" protests in Ferguson, Missouri, while Meerkat founder and CEO Ben Rubin talks about the influence that his app might have on the 2016 presidential race. But so far, the live streaming services are mostly places to watch your friends' dogs at the dog park, or to watch comedians like Nick Kroll or Andy Milonakis as they go on a shopping trip. Still, as uses for new technology go, that might be enough. Omar Gallaga, who writes about tech culture for the Austin American- Statesman, points out that Twitter wasn't much more than a place for people to tell a handful of strangers where they were eating lunch in its first year, and that has worked out pretty well. "If you care about what celebrities are doing, it's already useful," Gallaga says. "I like getting that glimpse into people's lives—I like seeing someone in China right now, or all of these people streaming sunsets. It's a neat window. I'm very positive about it, because I've already seen neat things that I wouldn't have seen any where else." Gallaga dabbles as both observer and broadcaster on Periscope, and finds that the strongest reactions he gets from other users is when he's showing them something that takes advantage of the live format. It can be simple—one popular activity he tried was to put an LED smart bulb on the wall, and let viewers determine what color it would be. "The way I've been trying to play around with it is to make it as interactive as possible," he says. "I've been playing with it as an interactive game." Gallaga can see a future for Periscope that gives people a uniquely intimate way to interact with anyone who is doing something inter- esting. "It takes the sort of interactivity we see on Twitter to a visual level," he says. "I think it could serve a role like a reddit AMA, talking to people with a stream of questions coming in." One person who's already had a lot of success in finding ways to use Periscope to communicate that she hadn't found on pre-existing plat- forms is Amanda Oleander. An artist and illustrator from Los Angeles, Oleander had tried to build a following via the now-traditional social media channels—YouTube, Instagram, Twitter—before coming to Periscope. On YouTube, Oleander has fewer than 200 subscribers; on Twitter, she has around 3, 400; on Periscope, though, she's a bonafide celebrity, with more than 81,000 fans watching as she answers questions, wanders around L.A., and paints live. Oleander admits that the fact that she was an early adopter on Periscope—she joined the network on its second day—probably helped her find an audience, but right now, every- body on Periscope is an early adopter. So what does she do differently on Periscope that she didn't do on YouTube or other platforms? "You go on Facebook, and you go on Instagram, and you go on Twitter, and there are so many filters, and people just trying to show the best part of their lives—and everybody has amazing lives on the Internet," she says. "The thing that I love about Periscope is that everything is so raw and real and live—you get to see people in a whole different light. It's not the same as going through somebody's Instagram where people are using filters and editing. When I speak to people, I like knowing the real them. I like seeing things that are live." In other words, after almost a decade of social media being about curating a document of our lifestyles, apps like Periscope and Meerkat are about broadcasting a decidedly uncurated experience, where the user isn't in control of making sure the angles are always flattering, or their "ums" and "ahs" can be edited out. As social media evolves, it appears that it might be evolving away from documentation, and toward broadcasting. Live Streaming Apps: Social Media's Next Big Thing? by Dan Solomon W

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