The town of Jackson, Wyoming has a population of 9,577 according to the 2010 census, but that hasn't stopped it from becoming the locus of an online obsession. For the past day or so, thousands of people all over the world have been eagerly watching Jackson's town square, gleefully scrutinizing each person and vehicle that makes their way past a stationary webcam:
The livestream, which started on July 20th, shows the moderately busy intersection of Broadway and Cache streets in Jackson, but didn't garner much attention until this weekend. As of this writing, it's hovering at around 2,000 viewers, and is one of several largely ignored livestreams of Jackson available. Atlas Obscura points out that after a few hundred people started watching the stream it got a boost of attention when YouTube began to recommend it to some users on its front page. From there, it picked up steam. There's at least one dedicated tumblr blog (not to mention the #jacksonholetownsquare hashtag), a since-vanished 4chan thread, and a lot of attention on Reddit. Local and international press have also stoked interest.
The livestream is reminiscent of Twitch Plays Pokémon (TPP), where tens of thousands of people used the video(-game) streaming site Twitch to collaboratively play Pokémon Red. A community developed around TPP, with its own set of norms and humor. The same is happening to some degree with the Jackson Hole livestream, courtesy of YouTube's live chat function. It's allowed people to develop a set of jokes, particularly, the importance of Red Trucks:
Not to be outdone by distant viewers, Jackson Hole residents and those who live nearby have started paying visits to the livestream camera, mostly to praise Red Truck:
But while Red Truck is by far the most common and, so far, enduring rallying cry for viewers, they also like dogs in trucks:
Or these girls dabbing for the camera:
While Jackson Hole Town Square has yet to attract the numbers that TPP did in its prime, it's still young and trades in the same frisson of excitement that comes from a large group of strangers watching and commenting on the same distant place at once. It's simultaneity porn, and unlike TPP, offers the unknown. Twitch was playing a well-known game from 1996, the ultimate possibilities closed off by the limitations of the game.
With the Jackson Hole Town Center live stream, you never know what color truck will show up next.
Ethan Chiel is a reporter for Fusion, writing mostly about the internet and technology. You can (and should) email him at firstname.lastname@example.org