What is periscope and how does it work?

By DEMBA Kandeh

Photo by: Ron Mader, Used under creative commons
Photo by: @RonMader, Used Under Creative Commons

Since the emergence of social media, the drive for better and greater tools continues to pre-occupy the minds of developers and users. Earlier this year, Periscope was launched as a live television broadcasting tool. The smartphone application allows users to stream live video from their phones or as viewers, lets you watch streams you like and interact with them live through onscreen chat. Released by Twitter, one of the leading social media platforms, Periscope provides users a new level of experience in social media. With a single smartphone and proper Internet connections, users can live broadcast an event replacing the traditionally expensive style of using a full crew.

Similar to Snapchat, using Periscope for reporting the news allows journalists to provide their audience live, unedited raw instant footage of stories. But with the on screen chat, user interactivity, which is a key pillar of new media is optimised. The interactivity allows audience to participate, engage and feel being part of the story. With an ever increasingly digitalising world, periscoping allows journalists to report more authentically since the audience have the chance to immediately correct any errors or misrepresentation of facts.

The App has had significant updates: the introduction of global maps and back and forward replay. The former allows periscopers to choose which broadcast to follow based on geolocation while the latter allows users to skip in replays. Both updates are apt and that could even enhance the App’s journalistic values but there still room for improvement. Copy right issues and location status verification are two very important aspects.

Is it the final call?
Periscope may have great features and huge potentials for smart additions to the new media world but it certainly is not perfect. The fact that live broadcast can only be available for 24 hours is a huge disadvantage for accountability and records keeping. As long as broadcasts disappear into thin air after a day might make the tool users feel less responsible while broadcasting. That feature also limits the potentials for future research as and when necessary. Privacy activists on the other hand argue that the App is doing hell of a bad job protecting user data. Since live broadcasts are geotagged, periscoping in difficult media environments might put periscopers at risk. However, Periscope global mapping is not definite and so users can “fake” their locations, which in turn affects verification leading to doubts over users’ stated locations.

User generated contents have evolved over the years and has only got better with Periscope but there is still room for improvement. At a time when mainstream media is struggling to address various challenges, including funding gaps for quality journalism, innovations such as Periscope comes in handy. They cut costs and provide the opportunity for more contents from diverse sources and locations.