JenniCam

In this post, I wanted to introduce the class to something I learned in another one of my digital media classes. I learned about a girl named Jennifer Ringley. Jennifer is most famously known for her creation of the popular website JenniCam in 1996. Basically, Jennifer installed different web cams all over her dorm. Early versions of the website showcased black and white images of Jennifer that would be taken from her webcam every three minutes and were automatically uploaded to the internet. Eventually, the website evolved into a real-time video stream of every room in her dorm.  (However, if you wanted to see the most private rooms you had to pay to access them). At one point, Jennifer was getting 4 million viewers to her website every day. Some have even called this the first instance of “reality television”, saying that she basically created the idea for reality tv.

I thought this phenomenon was really interesting in relation to some of the topics we have been discussing in class. Firstly, it relates to the concept of Diary writing on the web. However, it takes it to a whole new extreme. Instead of writing different posts that resemble an autobiography, Jennifer has created a “live” autobiography. One that involves no writing, but a true depiction of her life, free from all the constraints of the print and online diary writing we discussed in class.

I also noticed how JenniCam could be related to the idea of the Panopticon we also discussed in class. In a sense Jennifer is like the prisoners, and we the “audience” are like her Prison Guards. She knows that we are watching her, although she doesn’t know how many of us truly are.

I think JenniCam is really interesting because it is a situation where someone is trying to achieve immediacy within the diary/ autobiography form. How more immediate can you get?

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2 Comments

  1. The JenniCam is an interesting case to bring to our discussions because it can also be related to two of the presentations we had this week. It is an obvious candidate for the exploration of older teens and their relationships with their online ‘friends’, or in this case viewers, a topic that we examined in Sonia Livingstone’s essay. The concept of running cameras and automatically uploading images of herself in her home for the entire online world to access, appears to seamlessly support Livingstone’s perception that the youth uses the Internet in narcissistic ways. Though I did not want to whole heartedly agree with her narcissism points, I do not see how the concept of the JenniCam cannot be discussed without also discussing Jennifer Ringley’s motivations, her view of her self, and the satisfaction she derived from viewer attention.

    This of course plays right into Wednesday’s presentation about Doring and Gundolf’s essay, “Your Life in Snapshots: Mobile Weblogs”. This topic defined mobile weblogs as photo blogs that users updated through their mobile technologies. In relation, it examined the exhibitionist tendencies that some users display in the form of the private content they choose to share online. The JenniCam can almost be argued to have foreshadowed these photo weblogs, just as it may have foreshadowed reality television shows, and it certainly demonstrated the issues of exhibitionism. The decision to install webcams throughout not only the common rooms of her house, but also in her bedroom (pointed blatantly at the bed), boldly stated Jennifer Ringley’s level of comfort with what she allowed the online world to see. She allowed them to see everything, from not only the intimacies of her body, but her private life. Charging viewers for this subscription footage further demonstrated her willingness to be guided in her actions by those who watched her online. I could imagine the controversy this stirred in 1996, because today, in 2011, though I should be accustomed to hearing of these exploits and cases, this online behavior still shocks me.

  2. The online commercialization of sex and, to a certain extent, pornography, is another issue raised here as well; we’ll discuss it more in depth in a week or two when we reach our sexuality section.
    –MH


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