After becoming obsessed with live camera feeds and chat rooms, I created a virtual face and used it to interact with strangers on the internet.

I documented this process and produced a video exploring both reactions and interactions that occurred.

The Project

The starting point for this project was exploring avenues of Absurdity/ Absurdism. Using this lens, I stumbled upon a website called 'Insecam'. It contains thousands of live camera feeds from public/ unprotected cameras all across the world. I found myself spending hours observing rats in Pennsylvania, dogs in Atlanta, haircuts in a London barbers, ducks in nests in Budapest, tortoises in Ecclesfield and churches in Derby (to name a few). My all time favourite was observing French laundrettes. 

 

I was attracted to the 'liveness', the ability to instantly witness other parts of the world and watch people without their knowledge. What would I do if I witnessed a crime? Would I be able to testify as a witness in court? Is it even legal for me to be watching without the origin's permission?

The absurdity and banality of observing strangers in states of no particular interest falls into the realms of Cybernetic-Existentialism. 'Jennicam' is an example of this which I researched. Started in 1996, a woman broadcast her house 24/7 onto the internet at less than a frame a minute, for 7 years. It achieved over 20 million viewers a day, even at times when she wasn't home and all that could be seen was an empty house. This relates to writings of Satre about spaces being defined by absence rather than by presence. 

I found Insecam limiting, since the interaction is only one way, so I began playing with chat room live streams. I enjoyed the concept of a person agreeing to be randomly paired with another person, giving them their full time and attention. Even if it was just for a few seconds, it was an important interaction.

I wanted to see how long it would take to find my friend on the site 'Camsurf'. We'd both have to be pressing 'next' at the exact same time to find each other, eventually we did and I asked for a cup of tea. She made one and brought it to my house. I documented this experience and turned it into a video called 'Tea Girl'.

'Tea Girl' Ordering a cup of tea through the internet

I had already been experimenting with Adobe Character Animator as a new format to present poetry. I had an idea to rig it to my webcam and use it in the online webcam chatroom 'Chat Roulette' and see what happens. After much research and experimentation I developed a process of doing so. I used a programme called 'CamTwist' to stream part of my desktop and allow it to be accessed as a webcam option. I streamed a window of Animate which was working from my actual webcam feed of my face. This can be observed in the first subpart of the final video.

The final part of this project was bringing everything together in an interesting and entertaining way. I screen recorded the interactions and edited them into a cohesive video, even including poetic interludes from the perspective of Mrs. Collage (the face I had made).

Programmes used throughout this project:

Adobe Character Animate, Premiere Pro, After Effects, Audition,  Photoshop, Quicktime Screen Recorder, CamTwist, Handbrake, Garageband 

© Ella Krill

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