Casey Neistat might have inadvertently come up with the next tool to fix police brutality.
Aside: how do you pronounce Neistat? Is it French? Is it German? Is the “-stat” like, “stadt” or “-stat”, as in thermostat? Is that how to pronounce his name? (Casey, if for some reason, you see this, please forgive my ignorance).
As you can see, I know next to nothing about the dude. Apparently he has a YouTube channel? He writes stuff? He made an advert for Nike that Nike didn’t know about, but did know about, and in the end created a bunch of buzz and advertising for them? Maybe? I guess?
I’m over-exaggerating a bit. I’ve heard of Casey Neistat before, in part thanks to Sam Sheffer’s love for the guy and his creative mind. I saw him paint an Apple Watch gold, and one of the videos that’s been sitting in my “Watch Later” queue on YouTube is, ironically enough, Neistat talking about creativity. If anyone has claim to the title of “social media guru” (yuck: what an awful title), it would be Casey Neistat.
It was to no surprise then (or feigned surprise) when I woke up this morning to see that Neistat had released* his new app, Beme, to the general public. That’s released*, not released, because the * brings a few caveats: like last year’s mythical beast, the OnePlus One, Beme is running on a sort of “invite-only” release. It helps keep the size of the app and/or number of users manageable, and in the words of the creator himself, the first version “is still a hot mess”. In fact, he recommends grabbing the new version that releases next week, rather than jumping on the beta version. (Is this a beta? Is this an alpha? An omega? Another Greek letter to denote something? Who knows?!)
The premise of Beme is actually pretty cool. Neistat has a 3 minute video that you can watch, but the distilled version posits that social media, rather than being authentic and spontaneous, has become too cluttered and artificial; filters and canned expressions have taken away from something that was supposed to inject a spark of creativity into the mix.
Beme aims to change that. Taking on the “ephemeral” messaging idea that Snapchat pioneered, Beme has its users take their iDevices (sorry, Android friends ¯\_(ツ)_/¯), hold it over their heart, and the app begins recording for four seconds.
Four seconds. In that time, whatever’s in front of you is captured and sent out to the world/your followers, and they can send you snaps of themselves that act as responses to what you see. It’s an interesting concept: granted, the snap doesn’t have to be recorded from the chest – when the iPhone’s sensor is covered, it triggers something which triggers something which probably also triggers another thing and then bam, video recording happens.
(As you can see, I’m an expert on the art of app building in iOS.)
This is all well and good. There’s a sick market to be built here ,and I’m excited to see how Neistat and co. work with the app, especially if it comes to Android. But video messaging apps are multiple now: Snapchat, Periscope, Livestream, Instagram…it’s all there.
What Beme could do really well is change the face of police monitoring.
In the last few years, we’ve seen so much with regards to police brutality and minority violence, especially down south in the United States. Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin (among others) were all victims of the unfortunate reality that is institutionalized violence. It’s a problem deep rooted in the systematic divisions of American society, and if those socioeconomic divisions aren’t closely examined, then the violence is going to increase.
In the wake of the killings, many have come out and called for police to wear bodycams. Just recently, President Obama and co. provided funding to help regulate the use of bodycams. But it could be a long time before this type of solution is implemented. Police stations will probably push back against the regulations, and at any rate, it’s an expensive solution, one that will cost some money from someone’s pocket.
But what if witnesses to the Eric Garner’s and Michael Brown’s could see this kind of thing? What if the average bystander could, with an unobtrusive lift of their iPhone, start recording police brutality the moment it happens?
You see what I’m getting at, don’t you? It’s Beme. This kind of app is just what people have been waiting for. It’s the solution to a problem that Neistat might not have even been envisioning when he came up with the idea. It’s the perfect app for vigilante justice, the best way to keep the police accountable for their actions when they go above their boundaries.
There’s just one problem, though. Currently, Beme records for only 4 seconds. As well, it’s only available in the Apple Store. Why? I’m not too sure. (Some have speculated that this is because the proximity sensor for iOS devices are all in the same place – for Android devices, the difference in sizes and unregulation of phone styles makes this a bit more complex, but I’m sure this can be worked around easily.) While not a programmer, I’m willing to bet that it won’t be long before someone figures out a hack around the 4 second time frame, however integral this is to Neistat’s vision. Suddenly, 4 seconds becomes 10 seconds. 30 seconds. Maybe even a minute. But that’s all it takes. 10, 20, 30 seconds of contextual video might be all it takes to tip the odds in favour of the victim of police brutality.
It doesn’t stop there. iPhones are a dime a dozen, arguably the most visibly recognizable device in the world. Kids and teens spend enough time on their phones already; you add in a street fight or a huge event gone bad, and everyone and their grandmother will be watching clips and remixes of the event somewhere on the Internet in a few hours. Maybe someone creates a hack to download video from Beme onto their device. Then you throw a hashtag on that. Trend it. Put it in the group message, too. Suddenly, an isolated incident, one that the community might not have said anything about (fearing retaliation from the police) becomes an incident that is seen across America. And in the end, Neistat’s vision still takes off: social media takes that event and transports it onto the devices of everyone in its most raw, unadulterated, and authentic form.
But hey. That’s just my opinion.