Aleks Krotoski looks for the woman who made vlogging famous, then mysteriously disappeared.
In the spring of 1996, an enterprising American college student named Jennifer Ringley connected a webcam to her computer and began seven years of uninterrupted self-exposure. JenniCAM, as she eventually named it, was the first no-holds-barred lifelogging experiment on the world wide web. Every 15 seconds, the webcam uploaded another still image - from the mundane to the erotic - exposing the uncensored life of a young woman coming of age.
The web at the time of JenniCAM was still in its infancy: this was before Google made it navigable, before the dotcom bubble began to inflate, and before Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was out of short trousers. Compared with the modern world of universal broadband access, instant feedback and streaming video, it was achingly slow: websites with pictures took entire minutes to download, and publishing anything required expert knowledge in at least one computer language.
JenniCAM represented our self-aware future, the place we inhabit in the second decade of the 21st century, now that 82% of American adults use the web, and the average amount of time we spend online doubles every five years. We have evolved into the people that JenniCAM represented: both the voyeur and the viewed.
Twenty years after Jennifer first switched on her webcam, we retrace some of her steps and wonder why, at a time when everyone else has gone online, she's switched off...
Produced by Victoria McArthur.
Alex is the co-host of Reply All, and like our Aleks has been interested in Jennicam for decades. He tracked down Jennifer Ringley for an interview, and tells us about why the Jennicam project remains so fascinating years after all traces of it were scrubbed from the digital world.
Kio Stark is the author of When Strangers Meet, forthcoming in September 2016 from TED Books, the novel Follow Me Down and the independent learning handbook Don’t Go Back to School. She writes, teaches, and speaks around the world about stranger interactions, independent learning, and how people relate to technology.
Kio is fascinated by our interactions with strangers and the importance of these seemingly incidental moments. She discusses why – despite it being seemingly one-way – there was a value to the connection people felt with those who lived their lives online.
Ana Voog is an artist and musician, and back in 1997 became one of the internet’s first cam girls, broadcasting every aspect of her life and bringing her legions of fan into art and games through continual uploads of single still images.
She tells us about her experience of living her life online and how the millions of people who watched her were desperate to be seen and connected themselves.