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.
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)
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.
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.