I find it very hard to be natural in front of a camera, I feel myself stiffen up and I don’t feel like I can make many gestures. I often see the same thing happening with other people whenever a camera gets swung towards them. Hence, I often feel that anyone who does appear on camera, more often than not, is curating their image of themselves; both consciously and unconsciously. But generally speaking I find it hard to guesstimate what the split between the two are.

In the case of Jennicam, it seems very much like the intention was to be as “real” as possible, going so far as to copulate in front of the camera. She also started charging people for entry to her site a few months in and it often heard cry that once people start charging money it’s “disingenuous”. I personally don’t agree with that claim, and I’d wager that it stems from people who just don’t want to pay for things.

On the streaming site Twitch, once popular enough, Streamers can get a ‘subscribe‘ button where the viewer is charged $4.99 to support the streamers they like. There are numerous other methods to support the streamer such as amazon referral links and even direct donations. A recent addition would be Cheering, which really just is a fancier way of donating with built in-animations.

But prior to that streamers already had their own animation overlay whenever someone donated or subscribed. Below are examples of a ‘sub’ animation and an example of a twitch streamer’s layout, showing previous donations and recent subscribers. The layouts are not fixed and can look however the streamer wants them to look like.

In David Letterman’s interview with Jennifer, he brought up a point that people are really lonely, desperate and miserable and want to reach out and I think this is quite often the case. Although I don’t frequent Twitch, there is no shortage of people clamouring in the chat to have their name even mentioned by the streamer. Ultimately, that’s what all the donations, subscribers and animated bits are for, for people to feel like they are doing something with visible effect; and to get to do so is, as David Letterman said, comforting.

Now as sad as that sounds, the issue isn’t with people looking for attention, because it’s only human to want to be social and connect with people; “humans are social creatures” as the saying often goes. The issue is when these people are exploited. There are streamers genuinely there to entertain and form communities that people can be a part of and be welcome, but there are also streamers who clearly are there just to make money off these people.

There are people who say that donating money and subscribing is a waste of money. The counter argument and the one I agree with, is that’s it’s no different from paying for cable TV and I think it’s lovely that the option is there to watch for free, and yet, people still are willing to give and support people to be entertainers. To be able to do something you enjoy and earn money while still being able to provide enjoyable content for people, is a win-win situation in my eyes.

On Twitch, you can browse by streamer or you can browse by game, with the default sorting by highest viewership first. But browsing under games has a IRL (In Real Life) category, where the streamer is basically streaming their life in general. An example is the video below, where Andy Milonakis was streaming his time in Japan.

And without knowing it, these people are basically conceptual descendants of Jennicam.

Being constantly live is also not without it’s pitfalls of course, evidence of this are the numerous YouTube videos of “twitch fails” and streamers caught on camera doing all sorts of things, and even in more dire circumstances allegations with regards to the possession of illicit media. What happened was, whilst searching for something on his screen, the immediate searches that come up whilst typing had a suspicious title pop in, and this was quite literally only for a fraction of a second. How it was even noticed is amazing, and its then that you realize the power of hundreds and even thousands of people’s eyes peering at any position within the frame constantly. Also, once something is on the internet for a faction of a second, it might as well be up there forever. Below is the guy himself, talking about the ordeal that followed.

The internet is a volatile place, and being in that environment causes people to behave in certain ways, especially with the levels of anonymity that it can offer. Choosing to participate in such a stand-out manner, people streaming themselves have put themselves in this interesting position where they’re really quite at the mercy of the people that occupy that space. Both in terms of sustainability and viewership, along with the possible malicious acts that they are at the risk of incurring (read: death threats and swatting). And I would say, the fact that these sorts of platforms have not only survived, but flourished is heartening.

Technology, probably since it’s inception has been blasted by people of every generation. Kids aren’t going out as much anymore, people can’t go a couple of minutes without having to fiddle with their phones, scroll another page, watch another video. These are all things we’ve heard one way or another, but I believe that it’s never such a black-and-white issue. There’s nuance and things have the capacity for both good and bad.

The past few weeks of delving into the Internet Art and Culture module have brought with it, a slew of moments, events and performances which encapsulate the positive aspects of technology; long before they reached the level of the consumer, and before we started taking them for granted.

Right off the bat, the VideoFreex. The Sony Portapak was a catalyst for the VideoFreex to be able to go out and be the broadcasters instead of the big T.V stations. They realized a disconnect between what they saw on the streets around them and what was being shown on t.v by the media. The Portapak enabled them to capture what they wanted to be seen; this ability caught the eye of CBS, one of the big broadcasters at the time.

Videofreex and neighbors at Lanesville General Store. 1973 — Photo by John Dominis (b. USA, 1927 – 2013)

Their pursuit of truth led to conflicts with CBS and were let go. With little money, the VideoFreex were led to Lanesville. Using their tenacity, they set up the worlds first pirate television station, ‘Lanesville TV’. But what is media without an audience. Had it not been for the people of Lanesville watching and collaborating with the VideoFreex, I believe it would have been extremely difficult for the VideoFreex to continue as they wanted to; highlighting that communities of people are indeed an integral part of supporting the media ecosystem.

Hole In Space is interesting in that although there were masses of people gathered around this singular point, they were not a collective, the focus was still on the individual(s). The interactions between people on both sides were very much more-so on a few individuals communicating with another batch of a few individuals. In having an intimate connection like this created an introspective moment of the individual in the larger context of their place in the world. There’s also a sense of security in knowing where a broadcast of you is going. I think in general people reel from having a camera in their face because they don’t know where the images of them are going to show up.

Hole-in-Space, 1980. Photograph of live event in Los Angeles and New York. Photo by Kit Galloway.

BOLD3RRR is interesting as in the one to many context, the focus appears to be on the individual, however in my thoughts over the piece, i ended up pondering if it was intentional for the audience to be reflecting so much on the art piece that they start to consider their place within the piece itself. So whilst the focus IS on the one to the many, there is also the capacity for introspective moments.

The Portapak can be seen as a precursor to what we do in class, with our phones and laptops, except we have the capabilities to shoot and more importantly, broadcast from a singular device. Similarly, what would we stream for if it wasn’t for the people that watch our streams? The more people we have the better we feel about the success of the stream; drawing upon what I mentioned in my post about the VideoFreex, be it YouTube personalities or Twitch streamers, the backbone that keeps everything running is the communities and followings that are built around these platforms. Likewise, the interaction between the ‘us’ the streamer and audience is where the real adventure is at.

Though the livestream wasn’t similar to the two way interaction of Hole In Space; for my friends in school that were caught in the sights of the camera, finding out that I was behind the tinkering of Su Hwee’s broadcast seemed to put them at ease. I didn’t expect people to check out the broadcast to see what the final stream was going to look like, an unexpected Hole In Space if you will. The experience then was quite different and more akin to being Twitch/Live Streamer in that the audience was now reacting and responding to the work that our team was churning out in real time (save for latency). It was one of my favourite moments of the cast.

Whilst our broadcast probably isn’t as reflective or introspective as BOLD3RRR, I think there was a takeaway about the expectations of livestreams and their preformative aspects. Mindfulness on both the abilities of a broadcaster to send out a message as well as an allowance for control to leave the operators hands; both situationally and technically.

Ultimately, technology merely serves as a tool. Enabling us to achieve new feats in both good and evil, and the onus is on us to utilise the tools we have in a responsible way.

edit: I came across this video that aims to create awareness for isolation, particularly with the elderly who live alone and don’t come into much contact with people over the week.

Campaign To End Loneliness

Millions of elderly people go more than a week without socialising with anyone at all. This guy decided to find out how that felt..Campaign to End Loneliness

Posted by UNILAD on Wednesday, 27 September 2017

It made me wonder if there would be this issue in the future. Considering how connected our generation is, when we get to old age will we be as connected as we are today, or will we be as isolated as many of the elderly today. With the ability to raise awareness with much larger reach than any generation before coupled with the increasing levels of connectivity we have going forward, I personally think that the future is promising in our use of technology in forging a sense of community.