The Remote Lounge was a high tech bar in NYC’s Bowery District from 10/2001 to 11/2007. The bar’s gimmick was that it was packed full of monitors and closed circuit television cameras. Each CCTV camera was mounted on a servo and could be controlled by anyone in the bar via any of the terminals throughout the bar. Each terminal had a joystick (for controlling a camera), a camera button (which would capture an image and upload it to the RemoteLounge.com), a next button (for switching to another camera), a chat button, and a land line phone. So you could cycle through the bar until you found someone sitting near a camera, then you could request to chat with them via the phone. Sometimes as you were watching a scene your camera would start to move and you’d realize someone else was watching and controlling the same camera that you were.
For me, the 7 stages of the Remote Lounge went something like this:
2. Self conscious.
4. Fumbling around with the tech.
6. Self conscious again as you realize people can watch you being voyeuristic.
7. And finally, exibitionally voyeuristic. “Hey look, I’m looking at people too.”
12 years later, it’s funny to think how this novelty bar in NYC would so closely mirror our modern experience. Just replace the always connected security cameras with smart phones and opt-in social media. Sometimes I’m shocked at how my experiences at the Remote Lounge would be recreated time and time again by following a hashtag on twitter, to a photo on instagram, to a small conversation online, and finally with meeting someone face to face… all over the course of ten or twenty minutes on my iphone at a local bar.