By Chris Rogy
At a desk densely populated by monitors in downtown Manhattan, I met Josh: Occupier, trendsetter, livestream aficionado. Josh was laid off on September 16th, the day before Occupiers arrived at Zuccotti Park. In the following days, the newly formed movement began to capture his imagination. He was incensed while watching the pepper spray events of September 24th and after was determined to get involved.
You may be asking yourself, what is livestream? And what exactly is Josh curating? Livestream is an emerging technology that allows users to broadcast and view continuous video on the internet. Josh is a livestream curator (but not in the museum sense), more like a TV programmer, the one who coordinates and embeds streams for viewing on a website.
I spoke with Josh about his role curating livestreams for the Occupy Wall Street movement and he agreed to share some insights and tips about livestreaming.
Interview with a Livestream Curator
Describe your knowledge and/or expertise of livestream before your involvement?
Josh: In my previous job I was livestreaming concerts 4-5 nights a week. Livestream has fascinated me for a couple years as a new, revolutionary media form. It enables the further democratization of media, as it puts the power of live broadcasting in the hands of the people. Livestream’s ease of access and low barrier entry, compared to institutionalized media conglomerates and news crews with satellite trucks, make it scalable worldwide.
Highlight your objectives and main tasks:
Josh: In the beginning, I was primarily concerned with the actual camera operation of livestream – running down the streets or up the Brooklyn Bridge and letting the world see what I was seeing. Since then, we’ve had talented people join our team, so I’ve stepped back slightly from that role to build infrastructure. Right now, we are brainstorming new ways of editing and curating content. I am focused on decentralizing and improving our data/video systems and building a more cohesive network of citizen journalist/livestreamers.
Do you work collaboratively or in a team? What are the roles of your teammates and how is labor divided?
Josh: Yes, we work collaboratively in a team. Roles include: producing, shooting, and support. People take on all roles as we teach them to each other. In this way, we maintain horizontal structures. In the future I would also like to explore having on camera personalities who could be an interface between viewers and participants.
To what extent do you coach or direct videographers?
Josh: I’ve been teaching people about the theory behind the tech we’re using, so that they may understand and use it better. But, other than asking them to keep the camera steady or narrate for our viewers, there isn’t too much coaching. We trust and therefore allow the videographer to cover the event as they see fit. Sometimes we re-deploy our videographers as an event develops based on information we get from contacts on the ground as well as social web.
How do you determine what feed to curate?
Josh: That is up to the individual producer. Again, we trust and therefore allow our producers to use their best judgement. When we first started our livestream coverage simultaneous multi-camera mixing wasn’t possible. Since then, we’ve refined our process to allow viewers to watch several angles at once. In the future, I’d like to let users curate their own viewing.
What apps, programs, or software do you use?
Josh: Procaster – for basic video encoding and broadcast to livestream server. Also used for screen capture to enable simulcasting of other channels. Wirecast – used in conjunction with Desktop Presenter and a network of computers to do multi-feed displays and more flexible editing. Bambuser – dead simple application for Android and iPhone that allows anyone to livestream. Even works on 3G networks. Mobile streaming is, in my eyes, the future of citizen journalism. Twitter/TweetDeck – to set up alerts and to track events and livestreams around the country.
In which ways and to what extent are you concerned about your safety and security?
Josh: Well, we are usurping Mainstream Media’s power structures with ad hoc gear and shoestring budgets, so I would imagine we’re pissing off some executives. We’re also able to broadcast police repression in real time which, when severe, sets off a chain reaction of social trending. It’s also evidence that is a lot more difficult to destroy or suppress. I’m sure that pisses off police departments and the Feds. But, citizen journalism is not a crime (yet) so I guess I should have nothing to fear, right? I understand the risks I am taking, but I do not fear them because for me it is more important that the truth of this movement be told.
What do you wish someone had told you before you started? In other words, what advice do you have for others creating content like yours out there?
Josh: Keep the camera rolling. When I shoot edited pieces, I pick and choose what I record. Early on, I made the mistake of ending my recording because I thought the stream would be saved. A server error caused a beautiful interview to be lost forever. You can do it. Livestreaming is so much easier than people think. I encourage anyone who may have thought about it, to download Bambuser on your smart phone, head down to your local Occupation to be a live citizen journalist.
During our conversation it was clear that Josh views our political and economic systems as the root cause of the suffering of many. In his words “we are a species blessed with the power of creative problem solving; surely we can imagine and create a better, more just world.”
Chris Rogy is the Tools & Tactics intern at WITNESS. He is a Master’s student focusing on Social Media and Social Change at the The New School. His current projects include a new media documentary called “Re-Fusing Refuge” about the deportation of Cambodian American refugees and a participatory research thesis that develops radio drama practices with community leaders in rural Cambodia.