Research Critique: Second Front

“So for me, my avatar is embedded in my psyche, rather than an extension of myself.”

– Great Escape, Second Front

It is to no surprise that the open virtual world, Second Life, offers endless possibilities in its utility and how one may look at it as an outlet to create art as well as an avenue for the emergence of new ways to express oneself. But the activities and interactions that the members of Second Front engaged themselves in have surpassed the expectations of how this virtual world could be regarded as a stage, and the players as performers.

The members of Second Front took the roles of characters in a planned and rehearsed setting while they embodied these characters through their avatars in a spontaneous and improvised manner. In each performance and situation they were placed in, they were able to bring about a narrative that goes beyond uncanny representations of the real world. On top of that, they were able to carry out activities that they could only achieve in the virtual world. And given this advantage, more outrageous and bizarre narratives came about in their performances. I guess this is the quality they possess that enabled them to reach out to so many viewers in the real world.

“While we as Second Life avatars become more real in the virtual
world, so too, that we as human inhabitants of the real world become
more virtual.”

– Alise Iborg on ‘virtual leakage’

What I found most interesting about Second Front was that the virtual world began to seep into reality. Great Escape talked about how he had vivid dreams of himself and the other avatars in Second Life, and how it appears that the two worlds were no longer separate but converged through the characters that they portray in the virtual. The relationships they forged in the virtual does in a way reflect their relationships in real life. And in turn, the performances and the narrative they have planned in the real world are seen being executed in the game itself. This is how I see the two worlds influencing each other.

The Last Supper, Second Front

Another point that I find interesting was when Tran Spire mentioned how the script of their performance lies in “the code of the place or environment in which it is
situated” while the content is then being developed and influenced by the characteristics of the script. This is a key feature that I foresee being applied to our final assignment. How Second Front embraced the freedom and boundaries in their piece is essential to how we plan and execute our social broadcast approaching the end of the semester.

All in all, I am very impressed from watching and reading about Second Front. I feel that in online performances, it is important that we adopt the method of balancing the expected as well as the unexpected. There is beauty in this mode of storytelling, especially when we realize that we are the avatars of our own bodies, unraveling the surprises that life has to offer, planned or unplanned. And as much as we think we are the actors, we are the audience as well.

Co-Broadcasting Exercise

“Screen capture from our Facebook Live Co-broadcast exercise”

The co-broadcasting experience has truly opened my eyes to new possibilities in the way I approach online broadcasting. It had similar attributes to the online stream we have done in OBS several weeks ago with being able to have somebody else’s video feed sharing the same space as ours on our desktop. However, what makes it different is that with the co-broadcasting split screen feature that comes with Facebook Live, it allows both parties, coming from each other’s remote spaces, to share the same screen and have a two-way communication, much like if you were to do a video call with someone except that this time round, you both get to interact with an online audience.

It is amazing to see how the co-broadcasting exercise brought about the ideas of synchronized movements, screen montages, video mosaics as well as cross-streaming. What me and my teammate, Win Zaw, found interesting from our co-broadcasting test was the latency in the audio feedback when we decided to film within close proximity. Towards the end of our broadcast (at 10:50) while we were walking side by side to return to class, we started talking and whistling. That was when we realized that the lag in our audio feedback created an entrancing echoing effect in our broadcast. It was almost as if we were making music.

This has pushed us to try out different possibilities with co-broadcasting. For this week’s lesson, we will be delving into having our phone cameras capture the same subject/object from different perspectives and having them played concurrently.

Posted by Anam Musta'ein on Thursday, 12 October 2017

Research Critique: Jennicam


Jennifer Ringley, an undergraduate from Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, started a broadcast of her daily activity on the internet called Jennicam, consisting of videos and images captured on several webcams that were placed in different parts of her dorm room in 1996. What seem to begin as an innocent form of self-expression soon turned into a global phenomenon when her broadcast was able to reach a worldwide audience, garnering 7 million viewers daily. Jennicam went live 24 hours per day, and every day for seven consecutive years before she decided to shut it off and disappear.

‘First image that was believed to be caught on Jennicam’

Webcam Activities

The things that were portrayed in Jennifer’s broadcast were mainly activities that she does on the daily such as doing the laundry, watching the television, changing clothes, sleeping, and even intimate sessions with her partner. The broadcast however still runs even when her apartment was empty in cases where she was not at home. When she went on the the Late Night Show with David Letterman, she mentioned how she got inspired by the Fish Tank Cam and thought that if people were to view human beings in a similar setting, it would be much more interesting to watch. She also brought up how a viewer was glad to be watching her when he happened to be stuck at home on a Saturday night, where seeing her do regular things allowed those who were watching to relate with her and, in a sense, feel included in her narrative.

‘Dated activities caught on Jennicam’

Lapse in Communication

When Jennifer started broadcasting on in 1996, the refresh rate of her webcam video feeds were much slower due to the fact that users were in the era where internet connection could only be retrieved via modem or dial-up. Images would lapse in 15-minute intervals which did not give the viewers a smooth transition between activities that were caught on camera, unlike how it is now where live broadcasts happen in real time allowing us to react in the moment to certain things that we see online.


Although Jennifer was ecstatic about the idea of documenting her everyday movement and allowing anyone who has access to the internet to watch her carry out her daily activities, I see it as a disadvantage for her knowing that the privacy that she had was no longer hers. This made me ponder on the issue of how we are all now, living in the digital age, are so willing to share our personal information and perhaps some of our most intimate and private moments on the internet. Often at times, due to the rise in social networking and social media sites, we become blind to the repercussions that are entailed to the things we post daily. I see that the shutting down of Jennicam could possibly be a step taken by Jennifer to reclaim her privacy after realizing how overwhelming it is to have the whole world constantly watching you at the convenience of a webpage. And at some point, I feel that I would arrive at the same conclusion of wanting to reclaim every trace of personal information that I have shared online. Our privacy is no longer ours!




Device of the Week: LARK

LARK is a silent alarm clock that wakes the user up in a gentle manner without disrupting the sleep of others around them. Made to be worn on the wrist, the material is light and breathable to provide comfort for the user while they are asleep. The LARK alarm clock works by sending silent vibrations to the user’s wrist according to the time they set it to be woken up on. The device only works with iOS so it could only be paired with the iPhone, the iPad, or the iPod Touch.

LARK comes with a dual dock that allows the user to charge both their phone and their wristband. The device also doubles ups as a sleep tracker to learn the user’s sleeping patterns to ensure that they optimize their rest time and maintain a consistent and healthy sleep cycle.

I feel that the biggest consideration taken by the creators while developing this device is the silent feature in the alarm clock. Unlike conventional alarm clocks where the rings or sounds that are released are made loud to wake the user up, LARK makes sure that only the user is woken up without alarming others that may share the same sleeping space as the user. LARK understands how users differ in sleep cycles and how each and everyone of us gets up at different times. Having the dual function where the wristband tracks the user’s sleep cycle also gives LARK an edge among its competitors.


Final Project: Idea

Working Title: Pictoloc

For the final project, I am interested in creating a new locking device that requires a pictorial key in order for you to unlock the locking mechanism. This idea came from my ongoing research presentation on house apparatus where I will be discussing about ‘Smart Home’.

We normally get home security systems that require us to use a combination of numbers or a passcode in order for us to unlock the door and get into the house. With this idea that I have came up with, all the home owners have to is to draw a picture or a pattern on the drawing pad on their smart phones and have the locking device capture it in its camera. The device will then store that image and lock their homes. The home owners would then have to flash the same image in order to unlock their homes.

The device not only allows home owners to come up with more creative and more complex pictures to have their homes more secure but it also enables them to have the ‘passcode’ or the image refreshed every single time they leave the house. The locking mechanism however, allows you to unlock from the inside of the house without a password. One or more images can be stored in the locking device in the case where there are more than one person in the household. Alternatively, homes that have more than one household member will be able to share the pictures that they have drawn with each other to have one common ‘passcode’ to unlock the locking mechanism.

Additionally, if you have guests or require someone outside of the household to access your home, you could send them the pictorial password.


  1. Eliminates having to remember complicated numerical or alphabetical passwords
  2. Eases the movement getting out and in of the house
  3. Allows more than just one pictorial password
  4. Pictorial password can be shared with the rest of the households
  5. Better security since it is hard for others to break the code
  6. Passwords can be regenerated and refreshed every single time someone leaves the house


  1. If you were to leave the home without your smart phone, you would not be able to get into the house

Device of the Week: TrackR


TrackR is a coin-sized wireless device, developed by engineers Chris Herbert and Christian Smith, that allows you to find your lost or misplaced items within seconds using an app on your smartphone. Due to its tiny size, the TrackR is portable and could be fitted into your wallet or attached to your keys, your bags, and other belongings.

It tracks your misplaced items by using GPS to determine its location. With features like the ‘distance indicator’, the app will also alert you if you are within close proximity to the item you are looking for. The great thing about the TrackR is that its function is also interchangeable with your smartphone. If you were to ever lose your smartphone, a click of a button on the TrackR would sound an alarm for you to easily find your missing phone.

There is an additional feature for the TrackR called the ‘Crowd Locate network’ where when another TrackR user is within the bluetooth range from your lost item, you will receive the most updated location of it from the app.

What I like most about this device is the function that it serves and how it has been optimized to help you find your items in the best ways possible. The fact that it has been integrated and made into an app makes it even more convenient for users since almost everyone anywhere already has a smartphone. I also like how you the function is interchangeable where the TrackR could be used to locate your lost smartphone.

Additionally, this device could be used to lower the chances of bike thefts or even other belongings that you may leave outdoors where they are much more prone to be stolen. However, I can also see how the TrackR could be used in a malicious way where it could be easily latched on to other people and have their movements tracked without them being aware of it. The TrackR, even as a helpful device, could in turn be used for crimes if it falls on the wrong hands.

Reflection: Human+


It was an incredible experience at the Human+ exhibition held at the ArtScience Museum. They displayed an array of inventions, innovations and installations that pushed concepts and ideas that we thought would only exist in the science-fictional world. From physical augmentations to emerging technologies, and even genetic and body modifications, the projects explore future possibilities for humans in terms of survival, social interactions, and artistic expression.

I was particularly drawn to a piece called ‘The Optimization of Parenthood, Part 2‘, done by artist and mother Addie Wagenknecht. It consists of a robotic arm that substitutes the role of a parent by rocking the cradle every time it hears the baby cry.

Photo taken from the ArtScience Museum

Photo taken from the ArtScience Museum

What I find most interesting about this robot is that it came from a simple idea of tackling an issue that most parents, especially mothers, have go through when it comes to caring for their infants while having to balance work and other activities. Wagenknecht’s concern came from how artists like her, who are mothers too, could possibly lose the creative practice they have earned when they get too preoccupied in raising their babies. This machine not only eases the job of the parent, but also helps the crying child to put them to sleep in a consistent, time-efficient and effective manner.

Beyond just being a tool, I feel that this robot is a small step in eliminating the social stigma that women get when they choose to work instead of staying at home to take care of their children and their household. This invention could pave the path for more innovations in the future that would substitute many other tasks in parenting that consumes too much time and effort.

Imagine having robot nannies taking over the job of parents while they focus on their careers and continue to build a better home for the family. Life would be so much easier and the pressure of raising a child would be lighter. However, even with the most complex designs and advances in technology, there are always margins for errors in AIs and machines which could do more damage than good, and put us all at a disadvantage.

So where do we draw the line? How far do we go to replace human abilities with artificial ones? And could we trust these machines enough to progress to a better future for our species? Those were the questions that popped into my head when I was going through the exhibition. And frankly, even though I am all for future innovations in technology, I do fear the extents that they could surpass.

Here’s a video showing how the robot arm works: