[Internet Art & Culture] Research Critique – JenniCam

by Jennifer Ringley

Our lives are absorbed by the Internet – we work, we network, all by looking into a screen (no matter how big or small) that seems to consume more and more of our time. Look, you are even reading this write-up on the Internet right now.

JenniCam – example of cam capture of Jenni at her desk
(Photo taken from http://www.jennicam.org)

Nineteen years ago, Jennifer Ringley started a website where she placed cameras around her house and kept her virtual window open all day 24/7. She allowed people to peer in and watch her do everyday things as she became one of the Internet’s most popular spectacles at that time. Although she stopped by December 2003, JenniCam made a big impact with video on the web.

“I’m trying to prove the point that no matter what you look like, you’re still just as interesting as people on the TV or in the magazines” – Jenni Ringley

Before JenniCam, there was an expectation that someone had to do something to be considered worth watching. Jenni, however, broke down that wall by entertaining people by really doing nothing. Artlessness, everydayness, nothing special on the Internet. Art relies on the viewer knowing something of its context but having to understand what the artist was thinking by your own instinct may raise the bar a bit. That was what I thought about Jenni’s work. She did not have to say anything about her work, the viewers simply knew what she was up to by instinct. Although at times she would disappear from the screen, there was always a promise that she would return, as pointed out by Katherine Bzura on her write-up on “Performing identity in girl cams and blogs” .

JenniCam – example of her appearance/disappearance. (Photo taken from http://www.jennicam.org)

Webcam Today
Even though live streaming can be quite a simple thing to do, you need to have the courage and be thick-skinned about it. Jenni simply created a breakthrough with her concept of ‘Lifecasting’.

Cameras now come with a view screen in the front so it is easier to frame a picture of ourselves. The idea of attention-whoring now shifted from being a social taboo to a normal way of life. This reminds me of how YouTubers nowadays have a trend of uploading their ‘A Day in a Life of..’. This is how my life is everyday, and I am just showing it for curious people to see.

The ‘A Day in a Life of..’ trend in YouTube

Jenni now has thousands of imitators. New Webcam personalities debut each day. That is how connected we are to broadcasting ourselves our into the digital space. We all go visual in the Internet to some degree. Social media platforms give us the opportunity to custom online presences – we choose what we want to show and those are usually the good side of us. Jenni showed us everything. She gave up all of her privacy to the online community, something that those imitators nowadays are not brave enough to do.

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Believes in creating works that someone can not only see or touch but be part of, to be within them.

2 thoughts on “[Internet Art & Culture] Research Critique – JenniCam”

  1. Very good! You are absolutely right:

    Jenni showed us everything…

    How many of us on social media are ready or willing to do that? Today we are busy filtering what we share, creating identities, limiting what we reveal. But JenniCam proceeded to be an open system of sharing, much like reality television, except even more “real” than that because it was truly unscripted and authentic. Very good for pointing out that JenniCam could be just as interesting as television, though I think it would have been useful to relate it to the current trend of reality tv that attempts to show “real life.”

    Good work.

  2. I really like that you linked Jennicam with the current trend of Youtubers showing their daily life even if it is mundane, I did not make the connection that the “A day in the life of” was exactly like Jennicam even when i watched several of the videos before. The current trends of these Youtube videos are definitely the descendant of Jennicam but they are however, unlike Jennicam but not showing the full picture of their daily life because youtube is supposed to be interesting to watch and only rarely did the Youtuber uploads a video that is more than 2 hours that is only consisting part of their daily life doing a really mundane job(like doing laundry/washing dishes/sweeping the floor for 2 hours.)

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