Periscope – The Evolution of Social Voyeurism

Voyeurism Feature 1

by John Graham


It’s always great to watch a new social platform in its beginnings. The creators of the platform have some ideas on how it should be used but have no idea how end users will actually engage with it. Since the social norms have yet to be established you see a lot of users doing what comes naturally to them; sharing the most mundane things in their daily lives to a bunch of strangers. This goes on for about a month or so until the pros get their bearings and begin to uncover the utility of the tool.  That’s when you can determine if your platform has staying power or it’s just another distraction that will fall to the wayside before it matures. Enter Twitter Periscope…



After using it for about 3 days now I can honestly say that it’s got serious potential but I’m not sure for what just yet. Wiki defines a periscope as “An instrument for observation over, around or through an object, obstacle or condition that prevents direct line-of-sight observation from an observer’s current position.” So in essence we’re being given the opportunity to look through the mobile lens of another users life as they’re experiencing it and even have the ability to engage with them via text without actually being there. One of the first things I watched was an American man walking through the streets of Paris on his vacation. His commentary played out like narration to the visuals we were all taking in. Then he came up behind a couple who were holding hands and walking in front of him. He kept the camera on them for about 30 seconds and it was at that point that I felt uncomfortable. The fact that the couple didn’t know they were being live streamed to people all over the world carried a level of creepiness I hadn’t been a witness to before. I’m sure those who experienced Google Glass know the feeling I’m speaking of. This platform now gives people the ability to capture anything and anyone without consent and that is typically a recipe for disaster.

There are so many potentially weird things about this phenomenon of social voyeurism… Firstly, what is our obsession with peeking into the lives of others semi anonymously? Do we truly seek connection with other human beings or are we severely nosey and love to be able to peek through the keyhole from behind the bedroom door as it were? Secondly, what are the ethical implications for live streaming and what are the boundaries? With our mobile devices being connected to an always on and always accessible network how can we ensure that our cameras aren’t being hijacked by the NSA or cyber terrorists? What is your recourse when someone captures you doing something without your consent? Not calling up any conspiracy theories here but just posing scenarios that are not far beyond the realm of possibility.

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From a social marketer’s perspective I can see great potential for sharing your view while in the front row of a Kanye West concert or on the set of the next Hunger Games getting some awesome behind the scenes footage. Sharing the creative process behind the brand is probably going to be a heavily used theme here. Ryan Leslie changed the way artists engage with their fans by recording his recording process. Now imagine you’re seeing the process unedited and live instead of a finely polished post production viral video. We might see the invention of the first live streamed episodic shows where the user has input on the outcomes and the ratings are generated in realtime. Social and political unrest will be broadcasted live before formal news agencies are even on the scene. Police brutality will have an even bigger audience without filters. Tech support and customer service. Education and research. The porn industry… I’ll leave it at that. The possibilities are endless; that is until the FCC steps in to create new laws to govern live streamed content.

The world is about to get a lot smaller and a lot more intimate with the advent of social voyeurism apps like Meerkat and Periscope. If brands are looking to connect with their target audiences in a more authentic manner than it doesn’t get any more authentic than this. Periscope is the platform for the unrehearsed and candid connection between the broadcaster and the viewer.  Content marketing in live stream format will unlock new ways for brands to engage with consumers in two way dialogue that has historically had built in delays. We’re still in the early days of mobile live stream but I can already tell that this is going to change the world of social media. For better or worst is completely up to us as users.


Feel free to follow me on Periscope & Twitter where I’ll be contributing content of substance.



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