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The GW Hatchet


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Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Crime log: Subject barred after shoplifting at bookstore
By Max Porter, Contributing News Editor • February 26, 2024

Have no life? Watch someone else’s

What’s with the fascination with voyeurism lately?

With the recently-released Truman Show at the top of the box office charts, a live birth broadcast on the Internet last week and Web sites like Jennicam getting tens of thousands of hits per day, people seem increasingly fascinated with watching other people.

Have no life? Watch someone else’s.

Every move made by Jim Carrey’s Truman Burbank in the new film is videotaped and broadcast live to a global television audience. His birth, his first baby steps and his first word – all were televised. His entire life can be watched by anyone at any hour of any day and millions of viewers tune in religiously to watch new “episodes” of Truman’s life. But Truman is the only “real” character – everyone around him is just another actor in a large-scale television production.

The plot makes for an interesting movie, but in reality, art seems to imitate life. For close to two years, the Jennicam Web site has displayed photographs of the daily routine of its star – 21-year-old D.C. resident Jennifer Ringley. From the moment she wakes up in the morning until she goes to sleep late at night, her life is on full display.

But watching an average person like Jenni does not come free. For $15 a year, subscribers can receive a picture of what Jenni is doing updated every two minutes. Non-subscribers can log on to the site and see pictures updated every 20 minutes or so. Whether Jenni is working at her computer, playing with her kitten, walking around her apartment sans clothing or asleep in bed, viewers have a keyhole into her private life.

In interviews, Jenni has claimed to have more than 5,000 people as paying subscribers. Why anyone would be willing to pay money to watch another person’s daily routine is beyond me. But her site has led to numerous imitators in cyberspace.

Legcam, featuring constantly updated digital camera shots of a woman’s legs under her desk, is one such site. The woman, who is aware of her audience, sometimes puts on a bit of a show for viewers by forgetting to wear anything under her skirt. What the woman looks like and where she actually works is never known, but it must be an interesting place if no one notices a secretary installing a digital camera under her desk.

Also a presence on the Web is Decomposing Frogcam. What you see is exactly what the title suggests. Viewers can log on to the site maintained by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and see regularly updated photos of a dead frog. What’s the site’s purpose? Who knows, but it has been featured in USA Today as a site worth seeing and has a steady audience.

Many other live cam sites also show pointless images. Cowcam shows a constantly updated photo of a New Jersey cow pasture. Clevelandcam treats viewers to scenes of the Mistake by the Lake. (Just kidding, I’ve been there a few times. It’s neat. The fact that the river once caught fire is water under the bridge. Whatever that means.)

Another site shows a fish tank with fish going about their aquatic lives. One site even shows a water cooler. Why? Why not.

Many sites take the Jennicam concept one step further. By having their credit cards handy, viewers can send an instant message to a woman on the other end of a connection and tell her what they want to watch her do. After the credit card clears, the cybervixen is all yours – until your 30 seconds are up.

So, why do people like to watch other people’s lives? Are they hoping to catch glimpses of nudity or romantic interloping? Do they want to see how their own lives measure up to others’? Do they simply have too much free time on their hands?

And why are people putting this stuff up on the Internet? Are they doing it because they view it as an art form, or are they just trying to make a quick buck? Or are people putting it up on the Web simply because they can?

Maybe this would explain why “Elizabeth” had the birth of her new son Sean broadcast live on the Internet last week. The site hosting the event was flooded with visitors and few actually saw anything. Strange? Yes, but with the amount of attention this birth received, it is likely other cyberbirths are on the horizon.

For those with a camcorder and a lot of time on their hands, there’s an alternative to just watching someone else’s life. They go out and videotape unsuspecting people, preferably in embarrassing or compromising situations.

Several men recently were arrested in Virginia for trying to videotape up women’s dresses. The video voyeurs would go to public places – parks, malls, department stores, Metro stations – and then start filming. The video images would then find their way on to Internet sites, where video voyeurs swap photos, trade tips of the trade and discuss the best equipment to use.

This new videotaping trend is so new that few laws exist to counter it. In Virginia, the men were prosecuted for violating a law prohibiting the videotaping of people without their consent. In Maryland and the District, police officials have no legal recourse unless the video voyeur assaults or stalks his subjects.

So what is the point of all this? I don’t know. If anything good comes out of this piece of literature – besides some lonely and bored people going online to find some of these sites – women in the area might be a bit more wary when wearing skirts or dresses in public. If you are out somewhere and a strange guy with lots of wires coming out of his pockets is following you around, you might have a bit of a problem.

As for myself, no plans are in the works for a Heldercam. But think of what it would be like if we could convince our own El President? to install a live cam in his office.

It could be called the SJTcam. Or maybe Steviecam. Dozens of viewers could log on to the GW Web site and sit on the edge of their seats in anticipation of the next updated photo of President Trachtenberg doing whatever it is he does.

I wonder if he would pull a Legcam on us to attract more viewers. I shudder at the thought.

-The writer is associate editor of The GW Hatchet.


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