“Freud reminds us that it is not by looking that we may learn what people are doing when they look, or when they shield themselves from the gaze of others, or - like Jennifer Ringley - when they expose themselves to the other’s gaze”
Jennifer Ringley has set up her own panoptical environment. Perhaps by exposing herself to an invisible audience she feels she will live her life better; perhaps she is trying to send a message to the world that she has nothing to be guilty of (unlike Baldwin’s Giovanni who had pathological guilt leading to his need for privacy); maybe Jenni felt like the publicity would help her out in the future (after all, she sold her bed on Ebay [for $$$], she inspired several commodities [$$$] and most likely made a profit off of her website [$$$$$$$$]); it’s also possible that she is simply afraid of being nonexistent and lonely and that the camera gives her meaning; or perhaps Jenni really is merely an exhibitionist who loves the attention. Whichever is most correct, the most accurate statement that can be made about Jenni is the following: she made a bold statement.
Several people these days are afraid of judgment. While it may be impossible to know if Jenni acted any differently in front of the camera than she would in real life, she clearly does not fear people judging her or misconstruing her actions and visual messages. While “any verbal address implies an addressee,” (87) Jenni’s visual images are not directed toward anyone in particular. She’s left open for judgment by all sorts of people…. even her parents…
Also, since college years are all about independancy and making decisions, control often becomes an issue. As her college years come to an end, she may feel like she lacks control in all aspects of her life -- and the camera may give her that sense of control that she can’t find elsewhere. Ultimately, she controls what part of her room can be seen, what parts of her body can be seen, and what she does in front of the camera. She stated, “I don’t feel like I’m giving up my privacy. Just because people can see me doesn’t mean it affects me. I’m still alone in my room, no matter what.” I think this contradicts what she says after she graduates - when asked why she set up a camera in her apartment, she said that she felt lonely without it. This expresses her need to be “‘alone in the presence of someone’” (84). Thus, she does view the camera as a sort of audience, someone always there with her.
This also raises controversy on the idea of privacy. Does Jenni have to tell people that they are being filmed when they walk into her room? The article states that she engages in sexual intercourse… which is inevitably filmed… but does her sexual partner (if not her boyfriend) know of the invisible window that he is being exposed through? I wonder if she tells them. If not, I personally consider that kind of morally wrong.
Lastly, why are people so interested in taking part in the surveillance of other people? Why do humans enjoy watching other people’s lives? Like David Letterman said on the youtube video I posted, “People are lonely and desperate. . . they’re reaching out, they want to see life somewhere else taking place. It’s comforting.” Everyone is so interested in Jenni and “lonely adult children keep watch through their windows for Jenni to come home from work” (87). This makes human nature look sad. There are also reality TV shows, like The Real World, and America’s Next Top Model, and even fictional drama TV shows that people love to watch. Why do we get so much pleasure out of watching other people live, make decisions, and make mistakes?