Crowdfunding’s Big Week of Changes

on Friday, Mar. 27th

Just a few quick thoughts on a Friday.

As I write this the biggest Kickstarter ever—the Pebble Time, the successor to what is now the third biggest ever—is closing in on a final total of well over $20,000,000.

With numbers like that 2015 is already feeling like its going to be the biggest year in crowdfunding yet, and not in the lame, limping way that 2014 was bigger than 2013. No, something feels like it changed at the beginning of the year. Something in the zeitgeist where people stopped worrying about crowdfunding and learned to accept its bumps and bruises.

While the cultural temperature is shifting there are also structural changes afoot. One of them will only strengthen the community building model at the heart of crowdfunding while the other big change could blow up half a decade of good will in pursuit of the almighty dollar.

Let’s start with a small change first. (more…)

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Let The Battle Begin: Twitter’s Periscope Takes On Meerkat

on Thursday, Mar. 26th

Will the news ever be the same again?

A month into the buzz cycle on the hot mobile streaming video app Meerkat a new challenger has appeared. Periscope, which was acquired by Twitter earlier this year has almost everything Meerkat is not: possessed of a beautiful UI, capable of being replayed, and on a much tighter feedback loop.

What neither of these apps are is ready for prime time, at least from a news perspective.


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Image via WEVR

WEVR Wants To Fast Track Virtual Reality Content With $1M In Grants

on Friday, Mar. 20th

It seems like it was just a two months ago that we were talking about an interesting grant program from a Venice, CA start-up designed to bring independent cinema voices into the virtual reality world.

Oh, wait. It was just two months ago. Only back then the company in question was WeMo Labs… cut to two moons later and WeMo has rebranded itself as WEVR and has now put a call out for project proposals while putting at stake (raises pinky) One Million Dollars.

This isn’t a shake-up of the previous grant offer: the deal with Seed & Spark is still in place, but the rebranding into WEVR appears to have brought a sharp new focus to the Silicon Beach company.


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polish theatre month LA

The World Wide Web of Playwrights: Polish Theatre Month in L.A.

on Friday, Mar. 20th

We focus a lot here at Turnstyle on how digital technology changes the film industry, and how virtual reality is disrupting the entertainment industry as a whole.* Every so often we like to remind ourselves that the Internet has an impact on the traditional channels of culture that go beyond what’s hot in the headlines.

A good example of that is what’s happening this weekend as part of Polish Theatre Month in L.A..

The tradition of international cultural exchange between playhouses is a long one. Translating works and bringing them out of their native countries is a vital part of the theater world. What the immediacy of the ‘net provides is the opportunity for that cultural dialog to happen in real time, and in the dramatic language of the theatre.


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Preview performance of Miwa Matreyek's THIS WORLD MADE ITSELF / 2013 (from LAX Kickstarter)

Latte Fund: Kickstarting LA’s Contemporary Performance Festival

on Wednesday, Mar. 18th

It’s been a while since we’ve done a “latte fund” round. As in, I think it’s been a year since I used that term, which is my way of saying that what I’m about to talk about is worth backing to the tune of at least the price of a latte. Which in Los Angeles is about $5 with tax and tip.

The price of an LA latte is extra apt for this campaign, which is for the Live Arts Exchange, aka LAX, an experimental performance festival which runs each year in the City of Angels. For the past two years LAX has been a co-production of Los Angeles Performance Practice and the Bootleg Theater, and it’s featured a cross section of music, theatre, animation, dance and multimedia mash-ups of these and more which become their own thing.

In short: it’s LA’s one-stop shop for uncovering what the edge of live performed art is all about these days. Last year’s festival featured some of the most challenging work I’ve seen in a long while—and yes, I mean the good kind of challenging.


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Gumroad Rentals H

Rent Video Straight From Social Media Via Gumroad

on Tuesday, Mar. 17th

The people who brought the “Buy Now” button to Twitter are going all-in on film distribution.

Once upon a time film distribution seemed to be the most staid and stable of things: there were the studios, there were the exhibitors, and there was home video. If you wanted to get a film made and out into the world you either had to know someone or take your chances in the volatile film markets.

Everybody—and I think at this point that its safe to say “everybody” without it being hyperbole—knows that the Internet has changed the way that people consume film. This is an ongoing process, with a seemingly endless number of new paths being cut into the dark forrest that is Hollywood.

Today another path opened up, this time from the social media commerce company Gumroad: video rentals.


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Meerkat & YikYak: The Internet Here & Now

on Wednesday, Mar. 11th

If you’ve gone around the sun enough times here on the Internet you can remember the days when you’d hear about the next new hotness while you were still figuring out how to use the app du jour.

I had a similar experience this week while I was fooling around with Meerkat this week. That app is so hot right now. The idea of an app dedicated to live video streaming directly onto Twitter seems to be one whose time has come. Wireless networks are robust enough to handle the video bandwidth and phones have the battery life to sustain streaming for long enough that playing around doesn’t mean you’re going to be phone-less within minutes.

Just because you can stream live video from a phone doesn’t mean that it’s all that interesting to do so, however. I’ve tuned into a few streams that were super banal and I’m guilty of setting up one or two of them myself.

Where it gets interesting, however, is the integration with Twitter. (Which might be a liability for Meerkat in the long run, but let’s hold that thought for a moment.) Everything that happens in Meerkat happens on Twitter. Start a stream and the link goes out over your feed. Make a comment on someone’s stream and it shows up as an @reply in their mentions and on your feed. Ephemeral as it is—you can try and save your own stream to your camera roll, but that works only part of the time—it is an expressly public forum. (more…)

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The Watch Was The Least Interesting Thing Apple Talked About Today

on Monday, Mar. 9th

If you went by Twitter alone you’d think that the most interesting thing about the Apple Watch announcement was that a gold watch costs $10,000.

This is what Twitter is best at: missing the forrest for the shiniest tree.


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Virtual Reality: The Too Many Cooks Edition

on Tuesday, Mar. 3rd

If this isn’t the year that virtual reality hardware makes it into the consumer market it won’t be for a lack of options. In fact if there’s anything that’s becoming obvious in the days before the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco is that there just might be too many cooks in the virtual kitchen.

First let’s take a quick look at all the players in the space:


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Siegel's NOME meditation machine.

Hacking Consciousness: Silicon Valley’s Next Frontier

on Monday, Mar. 2nd

Is there something that lies beyond the quantified self movement? This MIT trained, former NASA robotics engineer says yes.

Admit it: you’ve used at least one of those self-improvement apps thinking that it would make you a better person. Heck, you might be using one right now: keeping track of steps, calories, sleep, even the number of times you checked your phone yesterday.

You might even be borderline obsessed with what this tells you as your phone and its wearable companions translate your life into trackable data. This is the core of the quantified self movement, and it has become a big business in the past half decade.

“The whole quantified self movement is a path towards self-awareness, it’s just right now a path towards conceptual self-awareness.”

That’s the New Age sounding take of Mikey Siegel, an engineer who is part of the “consciousness hacking” movement in Silicon Valley. Siegel—who has worked for NASA and holds a degree from MIT—and his cohort want to use technology to do more than just turn our activities into data. His work is all about turning what’s going on in our minds and bodies into something that can be can experienced externally, in some cases even as a collective experience.


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Gumroad Rentals H

Rent Video Straight From Social Media Via Gumroad

The people who brought the “Buy Now” button to Twitter are going all-in on film distribution.


Detail from the cover of Snow Crash.'

Bright, Bold Future: Magic Leap Has Hired The Godfather of The Metaverse

There’s a rapturous term thrown around by VR enthusiasts: “The Metaverse.” It is a term that comes from the seminal Neal Stephenson science fiction novel Snow Crash, where it described a kind of embodied virtual reality.


In the looming battle of AR and VR the prize is your mind.

Let’s talk about augmented reality versus virtual reality shall we?

Corey McCall with the video game controller that measures the level of excitement in the player. Linda A. Cicero / Stanford News Service

These Game Controllers Will (One Day) Read Your Mind

A version of this story airs on NPR/WBUR’s Here & Now.