Mr. Harris founded Jupiter Research, which went public during the heady dot-com days, turning him into a multi-millionaire, at least on paper. He proceeded to pour obscene amounts of money into a web TV network, Pseudo, before most people had anything better than a 56k Modem.
In the months leading up to New Years 1999, Harris built a massive underground art experiment called Quiet, where dozens of volunteers ate, slept, shat and fucked, all recorded on webcam and watched by the internet masses.
Quiet was shut down by the cops, so Harris tried again, turning the cameras on himself and his then girlfriend in a 24/7 live streaming of their relationship. It was Ustream before Youtube. His visionary genius was chronicled in the film We Live in Public (go watch it on Netflix Instant now).
Eventually Harris had a psychotic break and burned through what was left of his fortune. First he left for a farm, then Ethiopia to escape his creditors. He returned to New York recently, settling in Williamsburg and making art.
But Harris has continued to dream of a world in which, like Quiet, everyone is being recorded and can watch everyone else. He pitched the idea to a group of young entrepreneurs during a fireside chat at General Assembly hosted by Betabeat.
“Kickstarter is a great way to prime the pump,” says Harris. The $25,000 from the project will build one sound stage on which people can record themselves. But Mr. Harris is also raising an angel round to create a company that will put a sound stage in every home in America, allowing people to record and broadcast themselves.
Wired City picks up where We Live in Public Left off. The money on Kickstarter will go towards building a capsule hotel that is actually a giant sound stage. 20 people in identical uniforms will live there, constantly being recorded and broadcast to the web. The flip side is that, to get on set, you have to graduate from broadcasting at home.
Anyone with a web camera can join Wired City. The more people watching an user, the more points they accrue. Users with high scores get to come to the main sound stage, which becomes the focus of an international public hungry for the next internet pop star. If all this sounds a bit crazy, it is. Harris is an unapologetic dreamer with a wild vision for what people want from a world of ubiquitous broadband internet and video cameras.
Since that first wild night at General Assembly, the Wired City project, has developed an altruistic component on top of this gaming platform.
On set we group people into twenty person “net bandstands” (workstations) each of which has has a conductor who then reports to The Wired City bridge (think Star Trek). Citizens at home follow suit by netcasting from their “home netcasting studios” using common physical backdrops, uniforms, electronics and video formatting. Citizens earn their way onto the Wired City cyber-stage by doing something special (saved the world, won a contest, built an audience or are on a mission).
As a group the virtual civilization will determine “missions” and then execute them (save the whales, fix the pothole on my street, hunt down cyber stalkers, etc.). Leaders will emerge from the audience and become the “Captain Kirks” of The Wired City (who guide the audience through voyages in cyberspace).