Wednesday, March 19, 2008

but mommy, i want it NOW

After reading Victor Burgin's article “Jenni's Room,” I was struck by the way in which our concept of “instant access” has changed. At the height of JenniCam's popularity around 2000, “at any time of day or night anyone who can log on to the web may look into Jenni's room” (77).

Except you couldn't, really.

What you saw was an extremely low-quality image of Jennifer's room, updated every 180 seconds. That's a frame rate over 4000 times slower than most commercial films. Nowadays, if I want to see what's going on somewhere in the world where a webcam has been placed, say Times Square, the experience is much more immersive. I am presented with several different camera angles to choose from, all of which are streamed to me live and with sound.

JenniCam has been relegated to the realm of exhibitionist art. It and its thousands of spinoffs are no longer instant enough for us to be taken at face value. I am reminded of Tara McPherson's article, “Reload,” and her description of the ways in which we have become obsessed with liveness. “...the Web references the unyielding speed of the present, linking presence and temporality in a frenetic, scrolling now. We hit refresh. We feel time move. ... Just click. Immediate gratification” (201).

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