Tag Archives: privacy

JenniCam | Research Critique

A Brief Overview

JenniCam was a website which broadcasted the daily life of the eponymous Jennifer Ringley in her apartment using webcams. Every 15 minutes, viewers would see a snapshot of current happenings in Ringley’s apartment. The massively popular ’24/7′ site ran from 1996 to 2003, garnering millions of hits daily. Although Ringley has since gone off the internet grid, JenniCam is hailed as a pioneering internet performance project and phenomenon which sparked debates on privacy, surveillance, authenticity and exhibition.

JenniCam's first image
JenniCam’s first image
Webcams: From Windows 95 to Physical Window

The webcam’s single camera static view distinguishes it from the finished, multi-camera style of television shows or the personal style of handheld video recordings. In JenniCam, the webcams showed Ringley’s apartment as it was for most of the day: empty as she left for work. The default absence intensifies the human presence, lending the images an almost theatric quality as Ringley (or her cats) entered the ‘set’. Described by Dixon as “digital theater”[i], in this way, JenniCam organically played with balance, contrast and anticipation, generating interest on a global scale.

“… webcam as a technology that above all provides a digital window into another real time and space, thereby conjoining the actual and the virtual.” — Steve Dixon, “Webcams: The Subversion of Surveillance” in ‘Digital Performance’ (2007)

Jennifer Ringley lying on her bed
Jennifer Ringley lying on her bed

Following Dixon’s analogy, JenniCam was plainly a window where Ringley did what everyone does — laundry, shower, sleep, sex, TV. Each image revealed the next episode in the narrative of real life.

Jennifer Ringley doing laundry
Jennifer Ringley doing laundry
Jennifer Ringley nude in her room
Jennifer Ringley nude in her room
The Appeal of Authenticity and Mundanity

“It was its serene unpretentious banality, its innocent and tedious ordinariness, which left JenniCam standing apart and which made it the idiosyncratically effective theatrical event it became…” — Steve Dixon, “Webcams: The Subversion of Surveillance” in ‘Digital Performance’ (2007)

JenniCam had a resonating normalness and mundanity that media outlets attempt to create today. Its appeal lies in the authenticity of the individual and daily life where it was run by an (initially) unknown individual instead of a corporation or institution. Ringley also refused advertisements so the site remained as a simple window without imposing anything onto the viewer.

Furthermore, JenniCam did not separate the private and public spheres, baring both the mundane and intimate, as it was, to a global audience. Is it ironic that although technology has greatly improved since JenniCam’s days of low resolution interval images, and we can share snippets of life on-the-go, many online posts are now filtered, glamourised, and possibly less authentic?


[i] Dixon, S. (2007) “Webcams: The Subversion of Surveillance” (pg. 443-455), Digital Performance: A History of New Media in Theater, Dance, Performance Art, and Installation.

dotw5: Sensible Data

Martin Hertig’s Sensible Data is an art installation made out of 3 interactive devices. It invites participants to make a physical passport through 3 distinct steps. The devices are modified variants of Piccolo CNC (an open source machine which uses arduino) and a Raspberry Pi coordinates all 3 machines to create a seamless process.


First, the participant takes a selfie portrait using the iPad. The first device will start making a line drawing passport photo of the participant.


Next, the participant is tasked to send an email to the a given address. This analyses and judges the selfie portrait they previously took using an algorithm. It returns data and triggers the second device to stamp in specific details on their passport such as beauty percentage, age, gender and mood. This information is stored in a database. The machines are very well made; not as efficient as a printer but the mechanical action is visible and adds visual interest.


Lastly, the participant presses a nondescript button which is actually a fingerprint scanner. This validates their passport, and the third device stamps a seal onto it. The physical passport is thus completed. An email with all the data of a matching person in the database is sent to the user. This begs a question so relevant in our modern age of information and technology: how much do we value confidentiality and the privacy of our personal data?



While the circumstances and conditions are intentionally absurd (it sends participants the data of another user whose portrait drawing has the same number of lines), Sensible Data brings up important issues that we have to consider, such as the tradeoffs of technology and immediacy, placing trusts in systems, measuring human qualities using computerised systems and assigning numbers to these qualities etc.

The devices come together pretty well and have a key role in the installation. Each device has a simple core concept and task it performs. I feel that asking the viewer to go through multiple steps and perform different actions is often less effective as the drawn-out experience requires sustained attention from the participant. It often makes for a choppy and cumbersome art experience. However, Hertig’s work doesn’t strike me as tedious or overly-complicated. It is successful perhaps because the end goal is clearly made known to the user from the start: simply make a passport. Each step also provides instant gratification and each action has an immediate, visible outcome. This sustains user attention and increases the continuity of the work.

Sensible Data in action:

Sensible Data

More details regarding the technical process can be found here:

Sensible Data Process

Martin Hertig: