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.

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!




Research Critique: The World’s Longest Collaborative Sentence

“The 1s and 0s of digital art degrade far more rapidly than traditional visual art does, and the demands of upkeep are much higher.”

– Melena Ryzik in “When Artworks Crash: Restorers Face Digital Test”,
The New York Times

If there is one thing “The World’s Longest Collaborative Sentence”, an internet piece created by artist Douglas Davis in 1994, could teach us is that the preservation of any form of artwork or performance done in the cyber space is as equivalently important as, the preservation of traditional artwork such as paintings, sculptures and artifacts that we have up in museums.

The artwork, which began with “I DID NOT FEEL SEPARATED I FELT VERY CLOSE EVEN THOUGH WE WERE THOUSANDS OF MILES APART,” motivated users from all over the world to participate and have their inputs contributed into a never-ending chain of messages that varied in thoughts, motives and languages. It was a platform that encouraged communication and interaction between people coming from different remote spaces to be done in one collective space. The piece collated a total of 200,000 contributions in a matter of 5 years, before the shifting in computer servers put it to a complete stop.

“… a seemingly simple technology-based artwork can go very, very wrong when it is not properly cared for, or when parts of the work are not collected at all.”

– Michael Connor in “Restoring ‘The World’s First Collaborative Sentence”, Rhizome Blog

From the text above, we could see how fragile online artwork is especially with the advancement in new technology and how the ciphering of codes gets lost due to encoding damages. Take for example, backing up works on the computer is essential to ensure that we are still be able to access those files in the event that any unpredictable technical issues come into play.

When curators from Whitney Museum of American Art attempted their restoration efforts on “Sentence”, it is found that the change in servers has led to several technical problems in the artwork itself. Words that were typed in Korean in the Hangul text were degraded as indecipherable garbled text and to this day are left not able to be decoded. Sustaining online art is not only important, but also comes with its own challenges and difficulties.

However, Whitney Museum of American Art managed to resolve this issue by having the frozen original version exhibited as well as providing a new live version of “Sentence” to act as a platform for users who are still interested in contributing to the ongoing quest to create a never-ending collaborative sentence. I feel that this is a great way for Whitney Museum to sustain online art such as the one discussed above. With this a fast-moving technological world that we live in, we could raise our efforts in taking better care of online works, having precautionary measures taken into consideration, to ensure the preservation of great works like “Sentence”. Online artwork is starting to emerge to have similar significance to traditional artwork. We should also start preserving them like how we would to ancient artifacts and paintings.



Research Critique: Bold3RRR by Jon Cates

Bold3RRR is a performance piece by Jon Cates that “combines art with real-time rendering across international timezones in fragments, errors, and overlaps”. Jon managed to display what he deems as “dirty new media” using the space bounded within his desktop screen and design it in a way where it all comes together as a cohesive visual. In Bold3RRR, he toggles between his camera, websites, images, videos and type concurrently, with noise playing in the background, to show how glitches could be used in a broadcasted performance and be aesthetically pleasing to the viewers.

Bold3RRR adopts the use of Desktop as Mise-en-scene by stage designing the props (videos, pictures, web pages, music, windows, webcam images) in a position, area, and sequence, to create a new form of act in cyber space. The use of feedback loops and the organization of his desktop screen goes hand in hand with his intent of showing how glitches could directly associate to reality. The fragmented content that he receives and in return chose to exhibit plays into his idea of “dirty new media”.

In Randall’s conversation with Jon, he mentions how we are living in a techno-social culture and that technology could be socially performed. Our everyday performance with technology has made it more human and has made it part of our lives. I felt that he was blurring the lines between the virtual world and reality itself in a sense that machines are as capable of making mistakes as us humans do. That made these glitches, or so called imperfections, in his performance more acceptable and, perhaps, beautiful too.

“There is a non-neutrality of techno-social artifacts + contexts, that our technologies are not neutral, also that they are embedded, they are part of our lives, + that embeddedness has the word bed in there, we are in bed w/ them also, so they’re embedded in ways that are complex. they are not sterile, they’re imperfect, they are not clean, b/c they exist in the world, which is also imperfect.

– Jon Cates, “Glitch Expectations: A Conversation with jonCates”

I could see how the desktop could be portrayed as going beyond just screen space. It acts as a stage and it is a new avenue for us to create countless possibilities with the advances in technology.

Reflection: Adobe Connect

Adobe Connect was a great way to conduct our class in because it was a whole new experience for all of us. With the exception of some technical difficulties in the initial part of setting up the online portal and minor connection problems along the way, I felt that it was an effective way to get everyone to participate in the lesson.

We took turns to speak and each of us were given time to share our opinions about The Collective Body project that we worked on over the week leading up to the class. I felt that it was a step forward from the static photographs that were posted on Flickr, especially since we are able to see each other live in a cohesive space, interacting with one another. The participation was unlike the ones we have during class in the physical world because with Adobe Connect, we were all in the comfort of our own homes/location in front of our computer screens.

Perhaps the third space could possibly be the future of the modern classroom setting. All of us were able to stay engaged and conducive despite being in remote spaces.

Here’s a screenshot of all of us in our “masks”:

We can’t possibly achieve this in our usual physical space, now can we? (;

Research Critique: Hole-in-Space (1980)

“Hole–In–Space suddenly severed the distance between both cities and created an outrageous pedestrian intersection. There was the evening of discovery, followed by the evening of intentional word-of-mouth rendezvous, followed by a mass migration of families and trans–continental loved ones, some of which had not seen each other for over twenty years.”

“The Social Machine: Designs for Living Online” by Judith Donath

Hole-in-Space has allowed the public to be comfortable to interact with strangers. The project by Kit Galloway and Sherrie Rabinowitz was a remarkable milestone in showing how telecommunication could bridge the physical distance between people from different places, and bring them together to interact in one cohesive space, live. The public communication sculpture, that went on for a total of three nights, consisted of two huge screens , a two-way satellite hookup, and two cameras that were set up in two different cities in the United States – one in Los Angeles, and the other in New York.

Without any prior information or any artist’s statement for the installation, the video that went live on the first night caught pedestrians and passer-by’s by surprise. The people were able to see and speak to each other with no media interruptions or any self-viewing cameras that might have made them overly self-conscience and impede them from genuine communication.

Viewers from the first night were so enthralled from the encounter that word-of-mouth and local news reports soon brought long-distant friends and families, whom in some cases have not seen one another in years, together in one space. For some, it led to several planned meetings on the second and third nights, bringing joy to many who were finally able to see their loved ones. While for others, the virtual space became a medium to integrate other forms of interaction fearlessly and spontaneously.



“A virtual space creates social situations without traditional rules of etiquette. The absence of the threat of physical harm makes people braver. Virtual space diminishes our fears of interaction.”

“Welcome to ‘Electronic Cafe International’: A Nice Place for Hot Coffee, Iced Tea, & Virtual Space” (1992)

The reading highlighted one very important point Physical interactions often complies to the rules of social norms. The consideration of whether a certain behavior is socially acceptable or not often comes with everyday physical interactions. Some people might even be a little shy and awkward to express themselves when it comes to such. And these social bounds that we have contrived ourselves into hinders us from free expression. However, interactions in the virtual space breaks that mold. People tend to be far more spontaneous and candid with their social interactions in the third space.

Take Hole-in-Space for example; passer-by’s in the streets would not usually stop to communicate with each other. It took a huge screen, with people from a different geographical location, to allow them to be comfortable with saying “hello” and to express themselves. Virtual space is allowing people to be comfortable to interact with strangers.

Research Critique: Videofreex

John Dominis, Chuck Kennedy at his workbench, 1973, gelatin silver print, courtesy Parry Teasdale and Carol Vontobel (Videofreex)

The Videofreex has revolutionized television by bringing a sense of free expression that goes against the controlled, corporate, and mostly propaganda content that was broadcasted to the public at the time. With CBS dominating television back in the days, there were absolutely no outlets for regular people to access and experience broadcasting. The Videofreex pushed the boundaries and became pioneers to breaking that wall that separates the public and the television stations with broadcasting.

What the Videofreex did that was different from regular television was that they went out into the streets and documented events that the television stations chose to turn a blind eye on, possibly as part of the stations’ own political strategy. Part of the Videofreex’s agenda was to “overthrow” the government by having actual people, in actual unscripted situations, to participate in their interviews and documentations.

“The language of media is everybody’s language. Set up a camera and you can speak to the world.”

I especially enjoyed their footage of the Woodstock Festival where the Videofreex chose to interact and document the attendees instead of capturing the music. It felt more personal and candid, much similar to how we use and perceive social media today. They have allowed the viewers to be active participants as part of the broadcast. I feel that is how the Videofreex influenced our study of social broadcasting. We are in an age of social media where each and every one of us is a participant of the content we consume.

With the convenience of our camera phones, social media and our ability to post and share whatever and however we want to, it has created a sense of free expression in social broadcasting. And that is what I feel the Videofreex has provided us today.