Research Critique: JenniCam

Supposedly the first image taken on Jennicam. 

Jennicam started as a programming project to test if her script runs correctly where it’ll snap a picture on her webcam every 15 minutes. Who knew it wasn’t too long before it turned into an art project that has taken the internet by storm.

My eyebrows raised when the research on Jennicam started. It raised higher and got even higher as I’m typing the critique now, mainly questioning – what made her do it for 7 years? The main question was still – was she in the right mind? Or is that just her nature to carry out some of the things that she did.

The main main question I had: Why was there appeal?

First things first, Jennicam happened in 1996.

A context where the world wide web was still a phenomenon and many possibilities could’ve evolved from it – and she happened to be one of the phenomenons. She was the first of her kind to have done a ‘Facebook Live’ video of that time, where she herself and her daily life are the main subjects of a site-specific internet project. As she mentioned, she drew inspiration of a man that broadcasted a fish tank and that she thought could only be interesting for 5 minutes. Yet, her stream went on for 7 whole years, with her as the subject matter.

This demonstrates the strong desire of humans of wanting to stay connected with other humans and interests of the lives of others.  As compared to animals where people have broadcasted, they are not as intriguing as the human species, as what Jennifer herself mentioned. For Jennifer, it seems that her demand for attention and limelight surpasses any average individual in my opinion.

Voyeurism theory

As stated by the famous Sigmund Fraud, it refers to the idea of looking in order to gain sexual pleasure. This was what was happening on Jennicam. It has been argued that the male viewer’s gaze at the screen is geared to notions of voyeurism in that it is a powerful controlling gaze at the objectified female on display. The fact that the subject matter was female was already a hook for attention. Furthermore, Jennifer is showcasing her private moments, where audience already deem her as a sexual object. Sex appeal was clearly her selling points of the webcam broadcast, as seen from the questions and interest of David Lecherman. I mean Letterman.

Image result for jennicam david letterman

Anticipation

There was just something magnetic about JenniCam that drew viewers and high traffic to her site. It was easy to sit there and anticipate the next picture or moment, like a chain that links the next part of the narrative, which is unscripted and raw just like Videofreex, Hole-In-Space and the other works we’ve looked at. Hence, this anticipation during a real-time ‘live’ stream gave audience an added feeling of ‘looking-forward-to-see-what’s-next’, therefore attracting viewers.

 

Her life drama – a top-notch combination

“Scandal-plus-sex is a pretty unbeatable combination, for traffic” – Jorn Barger, creator of the Robot Wisdom weblog and a Jennicam fan.

One of the events that unfolded on Jennicam during the 7 years that I can’t fathom anyone would do is how she cheated openly to the wide world (very literally) with her good-friend, Courtney’s fiance named Dex. Like what are you gurl?

Image result for shook gif drag queen

Appeal for her site waned for a period of time until the stir of her love, sex and betrayal episode.

According to PC Data Online, traffic to the JenniCam site jumped 40 percent between the pre-Dex first week of July and the last weeks of the month; it drew 193,000 unique users the week that ended July 29.

Therefore, these are the reasons that made the pioneering webcam exhibitionist Jennicam so infamously appealing in my opinion.

Just a thought…what if OBS was available at that time?

Courtney should have done a reaction video via OBS while she desktop captures Jennicam’s lifestream. I can already imagine the names of her episode if Courtney did a reaction video. she could’ve superimposed if she had OBS.

Sex with my ex? Sex with my Dex?

Image result for laugh gif

The response from netizens

Vitriol spewed and it was no surprise. Outrage wasn’t confined to the internet and this was mentioned of her:

A “red-headed little minx” and an “amoral man trapper.” – The Washington Post

You read that right. The Washington Post called her that.

As her site closed in Dec 2003, here we are today faced with this epiphany:

Sounds familiar. Was it We’re All  Videofreex? Credits: @anildash

Well in some ways, Anil’s tweet is true as we’re Facebooking , Instagramming and periscoping our lives than ever before through social media .

In her interview with Letterman years back, she jokingly states how this will replace television. Indeed it has really come to past.

“Everyone will be famous for 15 minutes” – Andy Warhol

Also, Andy said it right. Indeed everyone will be famous for 15 minutes – on the internet and new media he meant. With the advent of the world wide web, this was the idea of being famous in the 21st century. As for Jennifer, it was 7 years.

In retrospect, her case can be seen as an experiment of morals and ethics on the internet – how far are people pushing these boundaries online, just because they are in the third space. People are definitely bolder. I feel like I could link this to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs in a way, as her entire projects speaks a lot/can be study about human behaviour and their need for acceptance and attention. For her, she is a ratchet case and has sets standards of where do we not want to go as an online personality.

Published by

Val Lay

MAI TU LIAO

One thought on “Research Critique: JenniCam”

  1. What a great essay! You covered so many interesting ideas. Here is one:

    This demonstrates the strong desire of humans of wanting to stay connected with other humans and interests of the lives of others.

    I think this is in fact the only valid reason why Jennifer Ringley would have spent seven years in front of a Webcam, and why so many millions of people would have watched her. She provided a platform for an always-0n, continuously-flowing network connection. That in itself is interesting. But added to that, you have a woman sharing herself via the network, and you are right, attracting the male gaze, as well as many curious women as well, as to she would do that.

    It somehow seems to connect with the “Me too” sharing on the Internet regarding the Hollywood sex scandal. Women do not want to be controlled by dominating men, and in many ways, Jennifer Ringley took control of the camera and her image through this epic project.

    Great work, I really enjoyed this piece.

Leave a Reply