Webcam Mediation


Week 9: October 19 – 25

The Webcam functions as a real-time window into our personal space, transmitting and mediating our connection and relationship to remote participants, forming collaborative networks of interaction and engagement. How does the Webcam serve an instrument for performance, for collective narrative, for sharing, aggregating and distributing information, and for inserting ourselves into third space social constructions.


Due Next Thursday, October 26



Research Critique – Second Front

In preparation for the interview with Second Front on Networked Conversations (Saturday, October 28th, 11pm), we will do a research critique about the group and their work in Second Life. Be sure and incorporate the reading above into your critique.

Grand Theft Avatar is a live performance created in Second Life, a virtual world and multi-user environment. Second Life has its own currency, Lindens, its own laws, rules, and regulations, and essentially uses the third space to create a “second life” for individuals separate and apart from their first live in the real world.

From the project Website for Grand Theft Avatar: Second Front robs the Linden Treasury acting as the “currency liberation army.” In a live performance at the San Francisco Art Institute as part of the “From Cinema to Machinima” panel, we impersonated the members of the panel, walked in on Patty Hearst (1970s terrorist and daughter of newspaper mogul Randolph Hearst), the receptionist, grabbed the loot and freed it. In a final act of desperation, we rode H-bombs, Slim Pickens style (Stanley Kubrick’s film Dr. Strangelove) into the sunset.

Since the graphical antics of the earlier Palace multi-user environment, Second Life has set the stage for performance events that create nearly believable worlds. While still in the realm of simple animation, Second LIfe provides a multi-user environment for dramatic action, character development, unusual gestural movement, spoken lines, sound effects, and lavish set design. In Grand Theft Avatar, the Second Front company of avatar-actors sabotages Second Life’s monetary system, by robbing the “Linden Treasury” of virtual dollars, the currency actually used commercially by those who inhabit the space. This work is an example of artistically critiquing game structure, in which artists stage counter-narrative that undermines more traditional game structure, while at the same time, commenting on the social and political nature of game strategies. Grand Theft Avatar is a critical challenge to Second Life, questioning the authenticity of its currency, rules, and “lifestyle.”

The Second Front performance of Car Bibbe is based on a script by Fluxus artist Al Hansen, who  wrote the piece for his daughter, Bibbe Hansen, a.k.a. Bibbe Oh of Second Front. In Postface, Dick Higgins wrote about Car Bibbe: “Another Hansen Happening might be described here… A hundred cars come to a beach at twilight, when people might well be going home, They filled up the beach parking lot. They flashed lights, and honked horns, drove forward and back again rapidly and jerkily, now ten feet forward, now five feet back, now ten feet forward, now twenty-five feet back, wherever there was room to go. To one puppeteer, a teacher whom I know, it was the most maddening thing he had ever esen. He ran up and down the dunes screaming. In the midst of the cars there was a single car with twenty-five people on and in it, all singing and having a fine old time. On the roof, one of the people had a broken leg. He fell off the car, cracked his cast and rebroke his leg. There is almost always plenty of physical danger in a Hansen piece as well as intellectual danger.”

Second Life is an online virtual world, developed by Linden Lab , based in San Francisco, and launched on June 23, 2003. By 2013 Second Life had approximately 1 million regular users, according to Linden Lab, which own Second Life. In many ways, Second Life is similar to MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games); however, Linden Lab is emphatic that their creation is not a game: “There is no manufactured conflict, no set objective”.

Second life is a world inhabit by an online community of participants who build their own spaces, sell their goods, stage performances, meet up with friends, and travel around this third space environment. For many, Second Life really is their second life, it is a seductive world that people inhabit to reinvent themselves, create identities, and engage in bizarre interactions with an assortment of odd characters. In Second Life you can fly, run faster then the wind, and create anything you can imagine. It is a utopic environment where you can test your fantasies, realize dreams, but in many cases, lose yourself in the loss of reality.

Additional links about Second Front:

Members of Second Front appearing on Networked Conversations:

Liz Solo

Liz Solo is an inter-disciplinary artist with a long history as performance artist, writer, media artist/machinimator, activist and musician. Liz works independently and as part of collectives and partnerships to produce works that merge the live performance stage with virtual (online, game) environments. Her performances often span multiple venues and online platforms.

Patrick Lichty

Patrick Lichty is a media “reality” artist, curator, and theorist of over two decades who explores how media and mediation affect our perception of reality. He is a Professor at Zayed University in Abu Dhabi.

Jeremy Owen Turner

Jeremy Owen Turner  is currently a PhD Candidate at Simon Fraser University’s School of Interactive Arts and Technology (Vancouver, Canada). Turner is also a sessional Professor at Simon Fraser University’s Cognitive Science program.

Bibbe Hansen

Bibbe Hansen, born in New York City and daughter of Fluxus artist Al Hansen and actress Audrey Hansen, began performing professionally at age eleven playing leading child and ingenue roles in prestigious east coast summer stock companies. In New York City, concurrently, she regularly performed in her father’s avant-garde theater pieces called “Happenings” and participated in the presentations of his contemporaries at such historical venues as La Mama, Circle in the Square and Judson Church. She studied dance with Phoebe Neville and Lucinda Childs, sang in an Elizabethan music group and was filmed by underground cinema champion Jonas Mekas.

Doug Jarvis

Doug Jarvis is interested in conceptual strategies for the artistic production of perceptual and pseudoscientific devices that question technology as a human attribute. His art practice incorporates sculpture, drawing, performance, digital imaging, and the internet to render the experience of being a sensory agent in the world. He performs independent research in an international context constructing theories of collaged space, fictional entities, and the sense and nonsense of engagement with the things around him. He develops projects to challenge and critically engage these ideas and to highlight his own sense of paradox as an active participant in a world in which he absorbs and exhausts simultaneously.

Final Project

Each group will conduct a rough rehearsal of their Final Project concept. When completed, each student will embed their Facebook video on an OSS post and write a description about the results of the overall project. Next week we will look at all four broadcasts superimposed into a video wall grid.

Some important things to consider:

  • How will the videos look when posted into the grid? Should the grid be 2 columns X 2 rows or 4 columns X 1 row? The grid could even be 2 columns by 1 row, with only two cells, one for each pair of co-broadcasters. If any of the broadcasters are co-broadcasting, figure out how this might fit into the wall.
  • Be sure to synchronize your broadcasts so that there is a specific start time and duration. This way the video wall archive will also be synchronized.
  • Test the bandwidth for your location. Be sure that either the wireless or cellular reception is steady so that your signal doesn’t drop out. Remember that if you lose the wireless connection, your video will end, but if you lose the cellular reception, it can come back without stopping the broadcast. It is generally best to use cellular if you are outdoors or moving around. It is best to use wireless if you are stationary with a good connection.
  • Decide whether or not you want a desktop broadcaster in the group to use the video wall. If so, I will give this person access to the Third Space Network Website in order to place the URL’s into the grid.
  • Let me know what grid configuration you want I will create a grid for your group.
  • Each member creates an OSS post with documentation and an explanation of the experience, issues,  When I give you back your grid you can include that in the documentation. Use “Final Project” as your category.


Works for Study

Jennifer Ringley, Jennicam, (1997)

Why live under the eye of the lens? Why expose our everyday lives on the Internet? Is it a critique of the erosion of privacy, an exercise in voyeurism, a need for recognition? Here is a sequence of images from JenniCam (now only accessible through the Internet Archive Wayback Machine), a pioneering project by Jennifer Ringley in which for seven years, she opened up her life to the Internet via Webcam.

Jennifer Ringley was the first artist/designer/performer to situate her life in front of the Webcam. It was 1996 when she formulated the idea, a time when Webcams typically broadcasted traffic, city skylines, or perhaps a fish tank. But never had anyone placed themselves under the microscope, to be viewed as they move about everyday life. JennyCam became a worldwide phenomenon for the seven years she conducted the project. She lived her life in front of the camera: sleeping, eating, dressing, making love, just about all the things that people do in their personal life. Eventually the project drew a huge following, as Ringley setup galleries of camera shots all time stamped. The project evolved with the technology, beginning with still images taken every few seconds, later to real-time video. Ringley’s notion of the project was that she simply wanted to live her life in front of the camera as a site-specific Internet project. It was never clear whether or not her aspirations were as performance, or rather, a self-portrait in time of the most mundane and intimate details of her life.

Jennifer Ringley on the David Letterman Show, 1998


As an example of Webcam mediation and how we lead a “second life” that accompanies the one we occupy in the physical world, we will look at the film NSFW Noah, created by Canadian film students Walter Woodman and Patrick Cederberg. Here is one of my blog posts, as well as an article about NSFW.

Noah, a film by Walter Woodman and Patrick Cederberg, turns the lens of the camera to the desktop. Perhaps you could say this is Internet filmmaking. The desktop, a schizophrenia of windows into simultaneous conversations and action, constitutes the life of the main character Noah. The desktop is really the perfect stage for the multi-layered life of a twenty-something. Here, Noah, our archetypal digital native, breaks up with his girlfriend, hacks her Facebook page to change her relationship status, then goes searching for contact on Chatroulette, all while playing his favorite “emo” mp3s, instant messaging, and bantering with friends via social media. It may seem like a tediously ordinary day in the life of a typical ADD college student, but placed under the cinematic microscope, it becomes an intoxicating journey through the tribulations and ironies and desperation inherent in our media existence.

Noah no doubt points to cinematic possibilities in our increasingly technologically-infused culture. How else can we capture the speed, complexity, and layering of experience that exerts itself online: which, incidentally, makes up the bulk of daily communications for many of us. Furthermore, if we ever expect to process this experience, to understand how the interweaving of electronic communications is impacting our lives and relationships, than what better form of critique than to make our desktop the virtual set for cinematic narrative.

The online medium is already an abundance of riches, a wealth of material for literary and filmic story building. It just needs to be captured! Our endless clicks and navigational gestures become part of a grand vocabulary for orchestrating performances and documentaries on the fly.

We will watch NOAH in class and then each student will answer the following questions:

  • How much of your everyday life plays out on the screen?
  • Do you cycle through the various aspects of your life as multiple channel, multi-tasked interactions?
  • Do you have a soundtrack/playlist for your life?
  • Name the sounds that you heard in Noah, and what do those sounds invoke or activate?
  • Do you interact with strangers online?
  • Do you have relationships that are entirely online?
  • Have you customized your desktop with a picture?
  • Do you keep your desktop clean?
  • Do you consider your desktop a refuge when you are agitated or bored?

Second Front – Networked Conversations
Saturday, October 28th, 11pm

A reminder about the upcoming Second Front event and for everyone to indicate their are going on the Facebook event page so you receive all announcements.

Co-Broadcasting Experimentation

Discussion of the co-broadcasting experimentation and how it might impact the final project.

Here is the co-broadcasting experimentation by Wind and Su Hwee that I found very interesting.

Co-Broardcasting Reflection

I thought this post was interesting because it pointed out some of the problems to look for. However, in the spirit of Jon Cates, how might you incorporate the errors, latencies, sync problems, noises, artifacts, drop-outs, etc., into your narrative?

Cross-streaming Facebook Invite Test

Group Work

We will divide up into groups to finalize ideas for the final project. By the end of the session, each group will place the title and summary of the final project idea at the top of the Doc. Do not erase other ideas because we want to keep track of the complete process of ideation.