Chirpbug and Occupy the Street

Janine Ditullio is the head writer for SuperJail! on Adult Swim. She also works with coder Pat Rogan to develop technology she calls Chirpbug. It lets people interact with live events. It was originally designed for stand up comics to get feedback during performances (to fuck with the comic, naturally). You could rate the comic as they performed live and create messages for them to read if they looked down at the monitor. The comic could hear the pre-programmed laughter or jeering from speakers on her end of the live video feed. Last week, Janine connected with the Occupy Wall Street movement to create Occupy The Street [From Your Couch]. Essentially, they have cameras filming the NYC protests. The cameras are connected to speakers and monitors. As their camera guy walks around and films the protests, you can interact live. You have your choice of four chants and can make your own sign to flash next to the camera.

Without getting into the politics of the movement, this is really cool to application to play with. There is live chat, chanting (which grows louder when more people join in), and interviews all the time. The chatroom seems to be active 24/7 and is a hotbed of discussion for all sorts of political issues. When the feed is live, the moderator at the protests tries to incorporate questions from the chat window into his interviews with the protesters.

This is an interesting example of interactive media. Once the coding was complete, all it took was a camera, a monitor, speakers, and an Internet connection to take Chirpbug directly to the protesters in NYC. Imagine the possibilities for using this at other events of interest.

Book signings and readings could be fully interactive with a wider audience than could ever fit in a single store or auditorium. Red carpet correspondents could direct the celebrities to answer questions from live viewers at home. Producers running awards shows and live broadcasts could tweak content to meet the needs of the home viewing audience. Musicians could take requests from all over the world for concerts. So long as interaction is appropriate, the Chirpbug technology could potentially be coded for a new kind of event.

Will we see that level of expansion anytime soon? I'm not sure. The technology is in its early stages of development. Ditullio didn't seem to imagine it going past comics at first and almost viewed the expansion to the Occupy Wall Street protests as a joke at first. "Why can't I join in on the protests from my couch?" She seemed excited, however, by the response the site received when it opened. When asked if the application was available for mobile phones yet, she laughed and discussed why it was only web-based. The project can only move so quickly with two people involved (only one is a coder). Still, I could see this slowly being rolled out with new sites and feeds to interactive with in the next two years.

Thoughts? Love to hear them.

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