Research Critique V: Webcam Mediated Communication

Before the YouTube personality existed, there was JenniCam. Jennifer is a true Internet personality, even before the term was used extensively. The project JenniCam offers viewers uninhibited views into Jennifer’s private world. In Steve Dixon’s essay on webcams as surveillance, he defines the webcam as a kind of “documentary realism” which is very relevant to what Jennifer is doing with her webcam. This realism involves uncensored views into her world, capturing footages that ranges from the mundane to the sexual. Raw footages like this are unedited and shared publicly with an unknown audience.

JenniCam is an important example that illustrates this idea of vulnerability and authenticity expressed in Annie Abraham’s essay:

“In a society where authenticity and privacy become endangered it is important to find ways to access our vulnerabilities and doubts, to make them public, to cherish our messy side. We need to make space for the beast in the beauty, to go back to reality, to claim the human. “We need to trap reality in order to make it available for thought.”

Indeed, the JenniCam archives must be quite an interesting collection of personal history for Jennifer. Her willingness to be so open in capturing herself in moments that are usually very awkward for most of us to face (like pleasuring herself sexually, or not having makeup on the face, looking extremely messy and plain sometimes) is a daring move in attempting to record her daily life down to these raw and vulnerable details. This authenticity also gives the JenniCam project a sort of endearing quality even, in the realm of Internet personalities and virtual fame. I would like to illustrate this point by referring to the idea of webcam falsities and fictions. JenniCam begin merely as a form of communication between Jennifer and her mother, so her mother could see what she was up to in her dorm at school. Jennifer’s deadpan honesty about the practical use of her webcam and her declaration of not being “an entertainer” gives the project a very real and human quality that sets her apart from many webcam/virtual personalities that soon follow after her.


Project Hyperessay 2: Concept & Teaser


The title of my final OSS project will be entitled glitches.remixes.edits.filters.

As an artist, my work revolves around picking up the trash and debris that is feelings, and rework them into something that’s worthwhile. A presentable melancholy, an accessible darkness. Melancholia and it’s friends are like glitches. Remixes, edits and filters rework these glitches and help assimilate them into normality, and giving them new life. It is a way to re-represent old information.

As a large part of my work derives from my participation in the virtual, digital space, I’m also looking at glitch art, and digital manipulation as ways of presenting my content. A glitch is defined as a “a short-lived fault in a system and often used to describe a transient fault that corrects itself, and is therefore difficult to troubleshoot.”. I’m treating this definition in a metaphorical manner in relation to the process of blogging and writing in journals. These accounts are my way of dealing with negativity and issues, and eventually they exist as evidence that indeed, “this too shall past”.

Hence, I’d like to think of the issues I’ve blogged about as glitches, as transcient matters.



Digital manipulation had been a constant method of my art-making. In these series of collages, I’m combining real collages scanned from my physical journals, and reworking them digitally to create more layers of symbols and meanings. The addition of  the planets, for example, is an allusion to early Internet art, part lo-fi, part ephemera, a reference to my own participation in the virtual space. In the last image, I’ve included some palace chat avatars, “dollz”, which were really popular ten years ago. It goes back to my hyperessay #1 in which I talk about the timeline of social media and popular websites. These dollz and other “relics” – the now defunct MSN messenger, MS Paint – constitutes this sense of nostalgia in the third space.

I’ve also distorted certain parts of the images and increased the colour information drastically, creating highly saturated areas of colours. This produces a “glitched” effect and is also symbolic of the intensity and saturated nature of my journals and blog.

In the first micro-project where we made one minute videos, I’ve briefly talked about the idea of the “double”. I want to go back to this theme as it is quite apparent in my practice.

The ‘double’ refers to writing and illustrating, two halves that make up my main practice as an artist. Writing and illustrating have always existed as separate processes for me and not processes that complement each other. The outcome for this final OSS project will include both writing and visual arts.

Research Critique IV: Jon Cates ‘Bold3RRR’

It takes me a while to understand Jon Cates’ work, though from my own understanding of it, I see it as a theatrical piece of sort: specifically a monologue theatre. I am drawn to his dialogue, even if the screenshots is at first hard to understand. His spoken word is deliberately paced, and almost poetic at times “I want to reflect, I want to reflect, I want to reflect…” His inclusion of the noise and feedback sounds also contribute to the idea of this piece being a reflection of real-time: it represents the whole idea of “lagging” and how apparent it is in real-time video conferencing. I think it’s interesting he has chosen to embrace this technological error and include this in this piece because we inevitably go through such errors when engaging in these forms of communication. For example, we get that a lot in our Adobe Connect meetings in this class – such glitches are all part of what this is all about.

Another thing I’ve noted from the work is the idea of anonymity – similar to what Adriene Jenik mentions in her essay: “in virtual space, spatial and temporal bodies are masked and shrouded from view; it was fascinating to discover that shrouding ourselves instigated an emergence of people from behind their shadow online selves.” The image of Jon Cates is ambiguous and blurred, and even though we can see his screenshots and his actions on the computer, it does not offer the full picture. The images are monochromatic and so highly contrasted that they are whited out. Despite being denied of the physical identity, what is crucial is still being able to see his actions on the virtual space.

Research Critique 3 — Paul Sermon ‘Telematic Dreaming’

Paul Sermon’s ‘Telematic Dreaming’ is a seminal interactive installation made in 1992.

In my critique of the piece, I feel ‘Telematic Dreaming’ is conceptually like a video conference call, although it takes the concept of a video conference much further: by projecting the video-image on a specific surface/location,  the senses of the participants are heightened and engaged. Participants are not merely viewing each other through a monitor. The projection of the video-image on a bed allows participants to simulate a physical form of communication. The work is able to recreate the sense of touch and intimacy that is enhanced simply by the setting and the object- the bed. In the reading ‘Cyber Bodies’ by Steve Dixon, it is mentioned that the telematics offer a fourth dimension where the physical body can do things like mapping itself onto another or disappear. “Our bodies seemed to be infinitely mutable, while they never ceased to be our bodies.” Such a dimension and plane of reality allows for the idea of conversation and metaphors to expand further by reinterpreting meanings of certain actions in the virtual context. To illustrate this point, I’ll refer to the experiences of Susan Kozel, what does it mean when a visitor presents her with a rose she is unable to grasp physically? Or when men jumped on the bed where her head is projected? The disembodied electronic body is interpreted differently across all participants: the metaphorical presence is either real or not real to them. Perhaps the visitor felt that the virtual conversation was real enough for him to present a real rose as a response, but the men feel that they are able to act out a different role because they will not actually harm the artist.

Research Critique 2 — Eva and Franco Mattes ‘No Fun’

Upon viewing ‘No Fun’, I was left with a strange feeling. I think it is one of the most provoking piece of work I’ve seen so far. Maybe because it made me think of ChatRoulette in a way I’ve never thought of before. I’ve always perceived the online webcam website to be filled with inappropriate conversations and other weird things that strangers exchange with each other in the late of night.


(Google results for “chat roulette”)

Yes, this proves my thoughts on chat roulette: a really sleazy website. So, I was really quite surprised upon viewing the Mattes’ work ‘No Fun’. I imagined that the users who log in for some light-hearted fun must have gotten quite a shock upon seeing Franco Matte hanging from a ceiling. The internet can be a really dark place sometimes, although these ‘dark’ places and ‘sleazy’ places may not necessarily share the same space.    On Franco Matte’s staged suicide, I must say that it is quite well-executed. Death, suicide can be quite graphical, and I appreciate that he did it in such a way that makes the users of chat roulette (and viewers of this work) wondering if this is real or not rather than presenting in a very graphical and scary manner. Yet it is seemingly real and does create a certain amount of discomfort.

This prank does make me think about what are the reasons why people log onto chat roulette, or why such a website exists. In my opinion, I think it does come down to very basic human needs and desires: that we are essentially lonely, that the Internet provides us with a free (or at least relatively inexpensive) avenue to fill up the feeling of emptiness. Here I would like to draw a link to some quotes from the reading “Cyborgs” by Steve Dixon. Dixon mentions that “cyborgism constitutes a technological response to existential and spiritual uncertainties and crises…” He also mentions the presence of human desire: how we desire “wholeness within an alchemical, technological matrix”.



In my own definition of the term cyborg, I think of it as a robot that possesses seemingly ‘human’ qualities. People create machines primarily to make life more efficient, but I think people are also trying to humanize technology sometimes. Yes, machines will become more intelligent than humans, but what will separate mankind and machines is still the ability to feel, as we do possess the most complex spectrum of emotions, which machines may never replicate.

Some screen caps to illustrate my point:





Think of chat roulette as a center to summon up cyborgs, a virtual body to communicate with. I chose this screen caps because I think it really exemplifies the reasons I spoke of, for why people log on to the website: because people are lonely. These men seemed genuinely ready for some form of interaction and it shows in their shocked faces upon seeing Matte.

I will end my critique with this line from the reading:

“Humanness is characterized by struggle, by a fragile and uncertain journey fueled by the hope of capturing love, peace, fulfillment, and so on.”

Research Critique 1 — Robert Whitman’s ‘American Moon’

Whitman’s ‘American Moon’ is a theatrical piece that takes into account the architecture of the space and transform it for the piece. The performance also interacts with the audience members, notably by “sectioning” them by partitions which are also part of his architectural transformation of the space. I think of these “sections” as some sort of channel, wherein different groups of the audience views the performance from their unique perspectives.

This audience-space relationship illustrates the idea of the “composite-image space” as mentioned in the reading “Electronic Cafe International” by Kit Galloway and Sherrie Rabinowitz. Both are interesting in creating the concept of a virtual space and networking before the advent of the Internet and technology as we are familiar with today. In the reading, the virtual space is understood as an area for collaboration and networking to take place, a place where social situations “exist without traditional etiquette”. Barriers and boundaries are broken down, people are freed of their physical identity and existed as an “avatar”. Why is this important? It helps to bring ideas and common research and ideas together, without being compromised by geographical issues.

In similar fashion, Whitman tries to emulate this shared space by transforming the theatre space into an environment that is quite multi-dimensional. By having the audience seated in these “tunnels” seem to replicate the idea of a network, of a common, unseen space: that each participant in the audience is holding on to a piece that is a part of a larger picture, which is what the virtual space is very much all about: the idea of a composite-image.




Apart from the research critique, I also find the above quote from the reading very interesting indeed. People did used to think of the telephone as a really powerful invention, but yet how many of us do actually pick up the phone to talk to somebody today? We are both very active and reclusive participants in this age of social networking, we know everything about somebody but we also know nothing — but that’s a discussion for another time 🙂


Open Source as Culture — A Reflection


In Siva Vaidhyanathan’s essay, he describes the open source system to be similar to how human creativity has always worked. I agree with him on this, as I believe that creativity is a collaborative effort. The open source system removes (or at least lessen) the limitations that proprietary system offers. It provides a space for a communal exchange of ideas and learning, as it is free of boundaries. Creatives are not limited by traditional hierachy in proprietary systems, which can sometimes work against their own creations. The writer also uses Wikipedia as an example of the success of such a open source system, which I must agree wholeheartedly with. Even for those who are unaware with the workings of the open source culture must come across this ingenious creation on the Internet. While Wikipedia has its own limitations (reliability as a source), nevertheless, it proves to be an enormous success, to the point that it asks for donations for funding. The suffix “wiki” now applies to other types of free information sharing, allowing groups or like minded individuals to compile their own knowledge on their common interests. For example TV shows even have their own “wiki” websites where fans combine trivia and facts together.