Research Critique – Second Front

Second Front is an online performance art collective in the virtual avatar-based VR world called Second Life. The seven-member group consists of Gazira Babeli (Italy), Yael Gilks (London), Bibbe Hansen (New York), Doug Jarvis (Victoria), Scott Kildall (San Francisco), Patrick Lichty (Chicago) and Liz Solo (St. Johns). They have performed live, remotely from different locations, while being screened in various cities, galleries and museums.

Why Second Life?

“In many ways, Second Life operates as a
fantastical dream state. We can fly, teleport and pick up houses and
cars.” – Great Escape

VR may not be new to the gaming world, but it is relatively fresh and an unexplored territory in terms of making art, and in this case, performance art. Second front sees Second Life as a venue for creative artistic expression. Most audiences are still foreign to the idea of a performance art in the virtual world, and are more likely to be drawn by the curiosity of it.

Second Life as a medium, is fully customisable and has no boundaries unlike the real world. It allows endless possibilities for creativity, opening up room for absurd artistic expressions that could defy the laws of nature of the real world.

It allows for crazy, large-scale works that would have been extremely costly to reproduce or not normally achievable in real life. For example, in the Grand Theft Avatar, large venues and props like the H-bombs, huge banks, helicopters and flying moneybags would look distracting and unconvincing in the physical world, and the same effect would not have been achieved. Even with low quality graphics, these bizarre effects can be seamlessly produced in virtual reality, without constantly reminding audiences from the fact that it is not real.

Robbing a bank – Screengrab from Grand Theft Avatar by Second Front
Riding a H bomb – Screengrab from Grand Theft Avatar by Second Front
Second Life vs Real Life

In the interview, it was mentioned that there was a ‘virtual leakage’ between the virtual and reality, blurring the line between the two. In a way, there is a ‘spill-over’, where the virtual world becomes more real and reality becomes a little more virtual, through control and extension of the self. I thought it was interesting how the artists perceived their virtual selves in Second Life in relation to their real selves.

Extension of self:

The physical and the virtual identity can be perceived as two separate entities, where the avatar acts as a puppet controlled by the real self. The avatar, however, has freedom and ability to do things beyond the limits of the physical world. Therefore, the avatar is a virtual extension of the physical self, through which artists can fully express themselves through unconventional means.

Embedding within self:

I think that the avatar Great Escape occupies a strange nook in my subconscious. When I go to sleep at night, images of the other Second Front members often fill my head. So for me, my avatar is embedded in my psyche, rather than an
extension of myself. – Great Escape

The two identities can also be seen as different versions of the same person. As the physical body lives in the real world, the virtual one lives in its subconsciousness. The artist can switch between the two identities, however different or similar they may be.


Second Front creates unique, unconventional art forms through Second Life, and surprises viewers with their crazy antics that would otherwise be unachievable through traditional mediums. They are opening paths towards a new kind of art in the technologically advanced world today, and is definitely worth anticipating.


Research Critique – Jennicam

In 1996, Jennifer Ringley was the first person to broadcast her life online. It started when she was in college, where anyone with internet access could watch her through her photos that were updated every three minutes. Months later, her experiment spiraled into a global sensation, attracting up to four million paid views per day.

She was her own reality TV, in the sense that everything was uncensored and unedited, or as she would describe as a “virtual human zoo”. Just like how visitors pay to watch animals go about with their daily life, Jennicam viewers pay to watch her go about with her daily life.

Image result for jennicam

So, what makes Jennicam interesting?

“One of my favourite emails I got last year, I got a message from a guy, saying he was in college, it was a Friday night and all of his friends were out. He felt like a loser because he was sitting at home.
But he turned into Jennicam, and I was there doing my laundry. So he said it made him feel better because I’m popular.”

Firstly, it showed the most humane side of things, not just the best side. In a way, Jennicam was comforting for those who felt lonely, as it showed the most authentic, humane side of a person who was supposedly popular. It makes one feel relatable, and perhaps less of a loser. Most people on the internet (then and now) show only the best sides of themselves – for example, a gamer would stream his best game, a stripper would stream her most provocative side, and a makeup artist would stream herself looking flawless. Jennicam, on the other hand, lived her life in front of the camera seven years, truly capturing the ‘real-ness’ of her ordinary life.

Image result for jennicam site

Secondly, viewers were entranced by the story of Jenni’s life, with the occasional glimpses of nudity and private, personal moments. Despite being mundane everyday life, viewers can’t watch anything like that in the physical world – not without being close to the person or getting arrested. At the time when Internet was relatively new, Jennicam was a complete new form of entertainment and provided people with a brand new experience. People were willing to pay and spend time watching her, out of curiosity or excitement from the small chance of catching her doing something “happening” at times.

Related image

Thirdly, this experiment was not something that everyone could do, despite seeming innocent at the first glance. On David Letterman’s show, Jenni mentioned that while she is completely comfortable with doing everything on camera, she understands that everyone has their own boundaries. Experiments like Jennicam was an example of data over-sharing. She may be comfortable with sharing every detail of herself with the world, but she will never know who is watching and what their (possibly malicious) intentions could be. After all, her whereabouts and activities were just one click away. Even 14 years after she has shut down and deleted her website, her images and data are still easily accessible on other sites and she can never truly remove herself from the Internet.


Overall, Jennifer Ringley’s personal experiment was indeed remarkable journey that contributed to the mass personal data sharing we have today. It evolved from an innocent sharing amongst friends, to a globalized sensation, sparked several controversies, and now – offline. Her experiment has shed light on technological advancement and massive reach of data sharing (from one to many) over the past two decades. Now that it has completely shut down, it also raises questions about over-sharing of data, internet security and online expression in the digital age today.



Desktop Mise-en-scene: Facebook Live

We were tasked to do a 10-min desktop mise-en-scene:

For my desktop live, I switched around with music tabs and my natural desktop activities, but mainly played another live stream from Sweden, as I wanted to experiment with a live within a live. The lag time was doubled; from Sweden to my computer and then to Facebook. It was interesting how there were webcam overlays and desktop streaming from two different people and computers, altogether in one screen (even if the other person doesn’t know about it). While there wasn’t much feedback in my stream, I thought about the possible audio feedback that could be produced through linking several computers. As I watched the playback of my stream, I also thought about the possible interactions between me and the other party, and got reminded of the video we watched in class, of two people synchronising their movements through time lag.

One of the differences between desktop streaming and live experiences from the previous weeks (apart from the desktop aspect), was that I couldn’t see myself this time. The webcam window is displayed on OBS, but not on our desktop when we begin streaming. Toggling to OBS during the stream would disrupt the flow of the video, and since we cannot see ourselves, it was more difficult to interact in the physical aspect.

I do agree that we live partially in the third space and our desktop is an extension of our personal space, much like our physical home. There was a certain unease while streaming, and an increased awareness of not only our physical selves (in the webcam), but also of our actions in our virtual home. We need to ‘check’ before going live, because our desktops are an extension of our personalities and behaviour. This perhaps highlights how ‘human’ our desktops can be, from the way we organise our files, to our preference for the number of tabs opened, even customised content on social media pages.

Overall, it was a great experience and was a feature with many aspects to explore on. Desktop wasn’t as easy as it seems, having to toggle and keep everything in check. It’s a wonder how Jon Cates was able to produce such a noisy/mess/dirty/glitchy, yet somehow kind of seamless performance.

Social Broadcasting – Alter Ego

I am an adventurer and photographer. I enjoy solo traveling, and backpacking around different parts of the world whenever I get the chance to. I love exploring the unknown, especially high ones, to capture new perspectives of its surroundings. In this live feed, I climbed to rooftop of an abandoned building to catch the sunset, and the view overlooking the city was amazing.

– Joan’s double


Is it, though? Video and social media is often used to alter one’s identity or to influence another’s perception. We often show others the best side of us, but not what’s behind it, or the process of getting there, for fear of judgement or otherwise. From social media posts and videos alone, one can never tell the real thoughts behind the owner. Perhaps, the videographer didn’t want you to know her fears of falling off or dropping her phone. Or, the rooftop of the “abandoned building” that she had to climb to could very well be just an elevator ride away from her doorstep, but who would really know?

Social Broadcasting – Real-time Aggregation

Social Broadcasting Experience:

Before the broadcast, I was rather nervous at the thought of going live for a full 15 minutes, with no concrete idea of what I was going to do. While I do enjoy taking videos and sometimes posting snippets of them on social media, I was completely unfamiliar with live broadcasting and what was to come.

As everyone started streaming in the class, I felt excited yet comforted as everyone was still huddled in one location. Nervousness grew again, as we all started setting out of the room and into different directions. I ventured into the quieter areas of the school, such as the carpark, loading bay and the sunken plaza. Unfortunately, the WiFi connection in these areas are particularly weak and I disconnected several times.

(graffiti along the walls near the carpark)

The beauty of most live broadcasts is that they are not choreographed; no one really knows what is to come. During my exploration, I discovered many little details around the school that I don’t usually stop to admire, such as the wall graffiti around the carpark and the serenity of sunken plaza on a rainy night. I did feel a little more relaxed while exploring and describing my experience/whereabouts to my viewers.

One aspect of mass live broadcasting that interested me was the interaction between not only the streamer and his/her viewers, but also from streamer to streamer. Almost all of my classmates bumped into each other at some point while streaming, a phenomenon called “cross streaming” which I later learned.

It felt rather rewarding to watch the outcome – a video collage of 16(?) live streams played at the same time. The effects of us converging in the room, diverging into different parts of the school, and then converging again in the room was evident in the video collage. It was very enjoyable to watch what my classmates had captured in their live video, the effects of cross streaming between each other.

Personal Thoughts:

The main reason for my insecurity was the fact that it was public and the majority of views during the broadcast was from unfamiliar people on Facebook – from acquaintances to ex-colleagues to past teachers and even strangers. This increased my self-consciousness and the need to maintain a certain kind of image in front of these people. Personally, I would be much more comfortable if the live broadcast was only to close friends and family, though I feel that would defeat the purpose of a live broadcast.

Unlike pre-recorded videos where we get to do retakes, edits, and watch them prior to posting them on social media, live broadcasting shows the world the most authentic side of the broadcaster. The assumption that a video needs to be well produced and edited to generate views is invalid with live broadcasting, as the number of views depend on the abilities of the broadcaster to entertain.

Overall, it was a rather refreshing experience that managed to push me out of my comfort zone, and hopefully, I would be able to explore deeper into social broadcasting experiences in future projects.