3 Stars Movies

Businessman, artiste, or madman? We Live in Public

If you dig the deeply cynical TV series Black Mirror, you’ll love this documentary profile of businessman/artiste/madman Josh Harris. Love, hate, or pity him, Harris is undoubtedly a fascinating individual who succumbed to information-age and surveillance state delusion back during a time when we still used terms like “cyber-surfing the information superhighway” to describe the arriving networked world. Ondi Timoner’s documentary We Live in Public argues the point that however mad and irresponsible Harris may have been, he was definitely a visionary who saw what was coming over the horizon.

Of particular interest to me was the story of his venture Pseudo, where I worked for a few months in 1999-2000. This was after Harris left the company and launched his underground hotel project, so the doc necessarily omits this interesting phase in the company’s history. Going by this film alone, you’d get the impression Pseudo continued operating as a non-stop orgy right up to the end. But in actual fact, it did receive a large investment, followed by a major effort to mainstream itself as a serious company. When Pseudo finally burned through this cash infusion and went out of business, it was considerably a more sober and normalized operation than the wild bacchanalia it may have been in its early period.

As a footnote, I found it amusing that a documentary about the destructive effects of technology on society and the individual psyche would ship on a DVD encoded with a form of DRM (Pixeltools) that prevented it from playing on my totally run-of-the-mill DVD player.

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