GET ready for your close-up.
Because pretty soon, we're all going to have video cameras in our cellphones.
Also known as cellular video cameras. Meaning anyone will be able to broadcast from anywhere. Live.
You don't have to be a starry-eyed technophile or a surly dystopian to see what this is going to look like. Just go to Qik.com. The Silicon Valley Web startup has created a system that lets users send live video directly from their Nokia phones to the Web. When the broadcast is over, the clip is auto-saved for repeat (public) viewings.
Jason Calacanis, a New York-bred, L.A-based entrepreneur and tech-world celebrity, now regularly broadcasts ad-hoc "shows" from his cellphone -- and anyone watching can beam him questions through Qik's chat feature. Calacanis' programming varies in excitement: In one episode, viewers watched him speed down the highway in his yellow Corvette, in hot pursuit of a Tesla Roadster, the 100 mph electric sports car. Wow! In another, fans looked on as Calacanis diddled around on the sidewalk while his wife was inside shopping. Still, dozens or even hundreds of his fans tune in when Calacanis goes live, hoping for a peek into the life of a tech idol.
"Listen, I'm a nerd who builds websites," he said. "The fact that anybody cares to watch me at Starbucks, let alone 100 people . . . I should be flattered right?"
Besides maintaining a popular blog, Calacanis is a regular on several online talk shows and has 12,000 "followers" on Twitter, the site that enables users to send musings and updates to many people at once (and currently is the best way to notify potential viewers that you're live streaming). For Calacanis, then, living out loud is just good business.
"My whole existence online is one big focus group," he said. So the more he can open a channel and connect with an audience -- which Qik makes possible -- "the more likely they are to at least try my product."
But Calacanis' "one-to-many" version of live streaming -- in essence, a broadcast model -- is only one possible approach.
Early Qik adopters such as blogger and speaking consultant Laura Fitton have already discovered its power to intensify private types of communication too.
When her paternal grandmother entered hospice care this month and was given two weeks to live, Fitton drove from Boston to Cape Cod, Mass., to see her. The problem was, her father was in Florida and wasn't sure whether to fly home.
"On the way it just occurred to me," Fitton said, "to say, basically, meet me there at 6:15" -- on her Qik video page -- and, "I'll aim the camera at Grandma."
For her father, the power of seeing a live image of his ailing mother made the decision easy.
"It almost gave him a chance to sit with her awhile and start to come to terms with what he had to come and do."
He got on a plane and was at his mother's side the next day. Less than a day later, she died.
"Time was more of the essence than anyone knew," Fitton said, and so the video session "really made a difference in our lives."
At first, a phone that can shoot video might seem like just another gadget with just another feature. But the leap here is that coupling a video phone with the Web makes showing, sharing and storing video just about effortless.
"It always took someone's geeky uncle who felt like being behind the home video camera for an hour during the party to actually get any video," Fitton said. But now it's just, "here, let me turn my phone on."
The fun part is playing the implications game, given that me, you and that strange guy across the street are all going to be mobile television stations. "If we had a security camera on every square inch of the Earth -- that's basically what we're going to be living in soon," Calacanis said.
Uh-oh, I know where this is going.
"The worst moment in almost everybody's life is going to be captured on film," he said. "But if those bad moments can be avoided or we can learn from them, that's going to be very powerful as well."
Wait, hold the phone . . . optimism about constant mutual surveillance? How does that work? Well, mull it over and see if Calacanis' view doesn't start to make sense. The key is not to think of it in Orwellian terms, in which some unseen entity is monitoring your every move. Not that Big Brother couldn't happen or that we shouldn't be vigilant about its creeping up on us -- but that's a different story altogether. What I'm talking about here is Little Brother -- since we're the ones with the cameras.
So instead of having everything on film, it'll be the noticeable stuff: funny, strange, improper or harmful.
Meaning it'll be harder to get away with bad behavior. Start weaving too much on the 405, and the fellow behind you might send live video of you to the police. As well he should.
And that probably means, with the increased risk of being caught on tape, that the cautious among us will tend to shy away from unwise choices. I know my turnstile-jumping days are over.
Consider too that it might not be so bad, collectively, to have more of our unflattering moments out in the open. It seems to me that for a long time now, we've all been laboring under the Puritanical myth that to be good is to be perfect.
With a few more video cameras around, we might finally see the rows of big glass houses that society really is. And if that knowledge makes us all think twice before picking up a stone, then roll camera.