Webcams as cinematic medium: Creating chronotopes of the real

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by Paula Albuquerque

[T]he likelihood of being captured by the relentless mechanical eyes of the surveillance cameras, webcams and all sorts of portable camera devices has arguably turned our whole world cinematic, a condition that now exists prior to and regardless of any actual intervention of recording and display.[1]

Fig. 1: PAN (2013) by Paula Albuquerque.

In my work as an experimental filmmaker I have been making use of found footage created by publicly-accessible cameras on the Internet. With this as prime matter I have been making films, installations, and live performances since 2001. I deliberately choose not to use material generated by CCTV devices; instead, I use those cameras supposedly not intended for surveillance but nonetheless permanently recording life in the streets and in other public or semi-public spheres: webcams. During my practice-based doctoral studies in artistic research I have been concentrating on conceptualising webcams as a cinematic medium while experimenting with the streamed material. This article presents a short exposé of my findings departing from my experience as an artist.

Internalising the camera

Cameras are virtually everywhere. From what I have witnessed by using webcams as a medium of choice since 2001, people seem to have grown accustomed to their ubiquitous presence. However, I personally doubt most people would be able to identify a camera’s whereabouts, the hypothetical amount of existing optical devices, or the location of stream monitoring and data storage. During the long days spent observing endless streams I realised that video surveillance practices are becoming increasingly internalised – people welcome the presence of cameras, thereby accepting a panopticist form of self-regulation in daily life.

A symptom of this condition may be the trend among Internet users utilising webcams to broadcast themselves. By engaging in variable degrees of complexity when producing documentaries and art projects they create hybridised film-based genres. An extensively-documented example of this growing trend would be Jennifer Ringley, a college student who installed permanent cameras in her dorm room between 1996 and 2003. When asked why she gave up her privacy in such a way she responded

I don’t feel I am 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.[2]

As Jennifer states, privacy no longer seems to be a pressing issue when it comes to the ubiquity of webcams. It might be possible that, rather than feeling their private space invaded by the presence of the camera, a growing number of people might actually desire it as part of their lives beyond issues related to safety; being constantly filmed results in a new form of self-promotion, a way to leave one’s trace in the archives of the world. When interviewed by David Letterman,[3] Jenni told of her aim to portray real life in all its aspects, which included studying, watching television, doing the laundry, frontal nudity, and masturbation. Positioning cameras in her apartment streaming 24/7 has earned her the status of conceptual artist and lifecaster,[4] turning her filmic activity into a world phenomenon with millions of followers. Jenni’s story and that of many lifecasters serves to illustrate how the debate about video surveillance may have shifted from issues of privacy to those scrutinising this new medium’s potential for communication and creativity.

CCTV and webcams

Most authors do not seem to differentiate between CCTV and webcams, referring to them both as surveillance cameras and mostly focusing on a generalising definition based upon their function. William Webster does so by stating that

[t]ypically they have been introduced to assist in the ‘fight against crime’, mainly to deter and detect crime, disorder and antisocial behaviour, but also to help reduce the ‘fear of crime’.[5]

Unlike several others, including Paul Virilio, David Lyon, Clive Norris, and Gary Armstrong, who also seem to discard a differentiation between surveillance systems and webcams, Fernanda Bruno has introduced a distinction based upon their content.[6] According to this view CCTV or surveillance cameras collect imagery from public spaces while webcams are commonly regarded as documenting the private or semi-public space. This definition implies that there seems to be a differentiation between the cameras according to their ownership and purpose. In collecting imagery from public spaces surveillance cameras necessarily seem to belong to some form of governmental authority engaged in public safety and pre-emptive action against potential deviation. Webcams, turned to a more intimate realm, are possibly privately owned by those who choose to film their personal environments. Even if partly in agreement with Bruno my own research made me realise that when it comes to webcams determining ownership becomes very hard to define, since these cameras, which could be owned by virtually anyone, might still capture activity in a public space. The owners may range from business entities to private homes, and their purposes can vary from overseeing a bar in the Czech Republic to monitoring the weather on the Dutch shore, from photographing a garden in the U.S. to watching the woods in Canada or filming from an off-road vehicle in a safari resort in Kenya. Their alleged function mostly oscillates between publicity and entertainment.

Furthermore, I have also observed that webcams frequently collect imagery from the public domain when streaming footage of people sitting in cafes or shopping in the city. Bruno’s definition, limiting webcam content to that generated within a private environment, is too narrow. Moreover, a definition based solely upon their purpose becomes insufficient since, even if at first glance webcams could be deemed as inconsequent, their imagery might be employed for purposes beyond entertainment. It should be noted that these might include police investigations. In such an instance the imagery may be scrutinised by tracking software, i.e. face recognition.

Fig. 2: Split Recognition (2010) by Paula Albuquerque, making use of the Donnie Cam.

While researching for my films I have watched hundreds of hours of video streams transmitted by webcams. Whenever I feel a certain tension in the image I start recording it. This tension does not equate to danger, as I have never witnessed anything remotely suspicious, but instead identifies an appealing density in the image. Through this intuitive method I have built an extensive image bank that I can access and review at any moment in order to retrace imagery I may need for my artworks. By making films with this footage I intend to experiment with various approaches to the deconstruction of the classical cinematographic apparatus. Some of the resulting pieces are documented by stills accompanying this article.

One of these experiments, a two-channel video installation titled Split Recognition, consists of the moment I stepped into the frame to direct myself as an actor. While producing the footage I made conscious decisions about which traces of my image I intended to create by acting in front of the camera. The webcam I chose is privately owned and located in Amsterdam – the Donnie Cam (which I will analyse specifically in the next section). In the process of making Split Recognition I first used a smartphone to access the Donnie Cam online and watch myself. In the next step I employed a handheld video camera to film the footage streamed by the webcam. I literally walked around for quite some time looking through the viewfinder of the video camera while it was glued to the smartphone’s screen. This action made me blind to the world around me, trusting only what the Internet allowed me to see at that specific moment. Watching my own image as a constellation of pixels updated at uneven speeds implied that I needed to adjust my action and match the temporality of the transmission if I were to track every one of my movements. I slowly crossed the street several times, realising how the evidence of my presence in this particular location depended on this medium’s transmission speed. Due to a drop in the update rate the stream froze in mid-action and, even though I was crossing the street once again, my image became motionless. Trusting the image provided by the Internet, my data double[7] was calmly standing upright on the left side of the street. However, had anyone asked me at that moment I could say I was moving towards the opposite curb. Where was I really? What evidence could be believed? Millions of internet viewers could testify I had been seen on the left side of the street at that moment in time, but my own senses were telling me I had in fact reached the opposite sidewalk shortly after the update rate had failed to refresh the image. What this work intends to problematise is how the webcam medium specificity contributes to the construction of people’s data doubles. Specifically, it focuses on highlighting how the Internet captures these flecks of identity[8] independently of one’s personal experience. In other words it draws attention to the fact that these cameras may erroneously provide a representation of a person’s existence online based upon a random assemblage of visual traces created by one’s physical presence in the material reality.

Affects and the cinematic potential: Affected Personal Cam – the owner as embryonic director

Besides an interest in webcams in general my research is engaged in trying to find examples of what I have coined the Affected Personal Cam. This category comprises cameras owned by private individuals that are pointed at the outside world. Most filmed areas include the office, the backyard, or a view of their residential street. Nonetheless, the imagery being captured discloses some intimate facts about the owner of the camera, even if we might never knowingly see her. An interesting example of such a camera which I have been following for several years is the Donnie Cam, a webcam named after its owner Don[9] which shows views of the Prinsengracht in Amsterdam. Within its frame one can see people walking up and down a bridge over the canal as well as several bicycles and cars passing by. Watching this video stream over the years I have wondered about the motivation behind the placement of such cameras. I often asked myself what drives Don to stream live images of his street corner. Why does he not direct the camera at himself, at his house, at his building? When watching the stream one can imagine he might be proud of the place he lives – one of the four main canals in the city of Amsterdam – and wants to share that with the world. One could also advance the hypothesis that he had already anticipated that other people, e.g. artists, would use his camera for creating aesthetic objects and live performances. We could then call him an art facilitator, a curator-to-be, or even a collector, considering he has been saving his streams, which are now presented in a time-lapse loop on the site. In any case it appears that Don has the desire to be seen and acknowledged by and through the camera, which he does by simply owning it and pointing it at a piece of his world.

The Donnie Cam highlights the difference between the degree of emotional attachment a private owner might feel for his own webcam and that of companies and governments in relation to their cameras. Don’s act of pointing his camera at the street could derive from a wish to offer others the chance to look through his eyes and watch life unfold everyday, just as he himself does when staring out of his window. By watching these streams I feel as if we might be peeping at a piece of Don’s most intimate world, seeing through his camera’s lens as through his eyes. As a friend of Don’s who used to visit Amsterdam says:

[w]hen I was visiting Don, I loved looking out of his window. It was almost as if I was watching a stage, complete with actors, props, lighting et cetera. The scene started the moment I looked and ended just as easy when I didn’t. The camera enabled me to do the same, but remotely.

Although I watch the crappy webcam every day, the magic stays and has even gotten more magical. While many people watch these days, others use the stage for their performances. Some only wave, where others use the stage ambitiously ranging from a division of the image with a white line, to large, colorful drawings on the pavement.[10]

Don’s friend gives us an account of his affected relation to what he perceived as a film that was taking place in real time, uncut. It seems as if it just takes an easy step to transform the potential film into an actual one: positioning a camera there to create actual footage for remote observation. Don, the owner of the camera, instantly turns into some sort of film director by choosing to capture and stream imagery from his street corner so that others can experience the action taking place at the Prinsengracht. I see Don’s act as imbued with a conscious directorial intention towards the framed and streamed image material: to show reality as it develops in front of the camera. This could be seen as an embryonic cinematic act as conceptualised by André Bazin.[11] In What Cinema Is!, his book about Bazin’s theories, Dudley Andrew wrote that ‘in whatever manifestation or period, real cinema has a relation to the real’.[12] In the case of the Donnie Cam capturing the real is its main reason of existence, with its flow of imagery possibly becoming an endless documentary film very much in tune with the first cinéma vérité films. In fact, as in cinéma vérité, the cinema of the webcam is that of the real, with as little interference upon the action being filmed as possible, other than the presence of the camera itself. As Steven Mamber defined cinéma vérité in 1976:

[t]he essential element in cinema verite is that of filming real people in uncontrolled situations. … In a cinema-verite film, no one is told what to say or how to act.[13]

Indeed, the definitions of cinéma vérité have impacted to different degrees on webcam and CCTV filmmaking, which are contemporary cinematic forms that rely on capturing real live action taking place in real time. Mano Luksch, a CCTV filmmaker and the director of Faceless (2007), a film made exclusively with surveillance footage, published a manifesto in 2006 containing statements that echo several principles of cinéma vérité.[14] One of these statements is that for both cinéma vérité and CCTV filmmaking the material gains meaning only after the editing process, due to the automatised and thus seemingly detached image capture. The manifesto does not distinguish between CCTV and webcams and the cameras’ affects are not factored in when considering the formation of meaning. As seen before, the most salient difference between webcam and CCTV filmmaking is that, in the first case, the camera is owned by a private individual who decides where and how to position it. This impacts the material with a determining intentionality, an a priori meaning. Whoever accesses the footage of a webcam – artist or not – is already in touch with deeply charged material, meaningful in its own right, carrying the affects and percepts moving the owner of the camera. With CCTV the film only happens after the appropriation of the material, while with webcams I believe we are already watching a film as we receive the feed streamed by the camera.

Fig. 3: Realtime Ellipsis (2012) by Paula Albuquerque.

Webcam temporality – realtime: A synthesis of cinematic time and network time

Even if we agree that the real is central to real cinema there is a moment of construction underlying the making of every film, even a realistic one. Beyond the affects webcam footage is already imbued with, the specific temporality of this kind of filmmaking is most central to the notion of its construction. This temporality is based on real time, a term used both in cinema (cinematic time) as well as when referring to the Internet (network time). By separately defining cinematic time and network time I will attempt to explicate how the synthesis of these two temporalities might give rise to webcam time or ‘realtime’ – constructed as one word, as I conceptualise it. When discussing the very specific temporality of the webcams and their potential to create a form of cinema in its own right, the construct of the real time feed may at times approximate that of cinematic time as theorised by Mary Ann Doane:

[i]n the technical language of filmmaking, the term real time refers to the duration of a single shot (assuming the shot is neither fast nor slow motion). If the physical film is not cut and projection speed equals its shooting speed (usually somewhere between sixteen and twenty-four frames per second), the movement on the screen will unfold in a time that is isomorphic with pro-filmic time, or what is generally thought to be our everyday life experience of time – hence the term real. The time of the apparatus matches, is married to, the time of the action or the scene. This ‘real time’ is marked by an apparent plenitude. No lack or loss of time is visible to the eye or accessible to the spectator.[15]

According to Doane the seamless temporality of real time can only occur when the break in between the frames is ignored. This break, which in analogue cinema is filled with empty darkness, might be equated with the failures in update rate typical of internet streams. However, these intervals might not be experienced as dark instants but rather give place to digital noise translated into augmented disordered pixels, blurred colours, and erratic rhythmic lines crossing the screen – devices I constantly use in my artwork. Still, the observer of a webcam, like when watching a film and ignoring the darkness between frames, will fill in the gaps introduced by the noise and complete the movement of bodies populating the streets and crossing the frame. This perceived movement allows for the viewer to identify the people being filmed with their representation on the screen, which creates the reality-effect of cinema.[16] In other words, by trusting the realness of the real time of the capture, which in the case of webcams is considered to be the same moment of transmission and observation, one assumes the veracity of the imagery. Doane is mainly referring to the first steps taken by the analogue cinematographic apparatus in a primitive form, learning how to build its own language based upon a recently-discovered temporality. However, I can draw a parallel between the cinematic time she refers to and the temporality of a webcam, which is also just learning about itself as an emerging medium. For instance, the fact that cinema along with photography has ceased to provide a hierarchy to the moment as in previous art forms seems extremely relevant within the context of webcams – the ‘any-instant-whatever’[17] of cinematic time is crucial here, since the 24/7 stream (or one shot) might allegedly capture all kinds of unexpected events without a specific focus. The claim that webcams are constantly observing/filming reality and covering any occurring event provides their streams with a very strong documental stance since the temporality is filled with the advent of the ‘any-instant-whatever’.

Given that time in all generality is a human construct, clock time is undoubtedly its main exponent. Paraphrasing Hassan and Purser, network time or the time of the Internet is an evolved version of the postmodern time-space compression.[18] This highly-accelerated form is the result of an evolution from chronologic to chronoscopic time, with measuring units changing from seconds to nano-seconds and pico-seconds.

Humans … are creating an accelerated temporal ecology (an experience of time) that is entirely unprecedented. It is … based on … clock time that has been massively compressed within the ecology of the network and has exploded into a million different time fractions, as many time fractions as there are users with ICT applications.[19]

The network time argued for above is based on an accelerated form of clock time, which implies that the real time of the Internet is also still chronological. However, the time-space compression occurring in webcam streams demands another conceptualisation of real time existing beyond this form of temporality. I advance the term ‘realtime’ that does not separate the word ‘real’ from the word ‘time’, due to the interdependence of these concepts.

While actively experimenting with the webcam as cinematic apparatus through a self-reflexive practice I have focused on the effects suffered by the streams when intruded upon by the flaws of webcam-specific temporality. The sculptural video installation Realtime Ellipsis concentrates on analysing how the cinematic ellipsis may arise within this context. As an experiment, I incorporated noise created by top-of-the-line U.S.-based 3D HD webcams that had became incapable of delivering smooth streams in realtime. The resulting images of Times Square in New York City metamorphosed into an extravagant composition of throbbing red and blue lines where people’s traces could only be perceived as fluid shadows crawling across the screen. At this point there was not much information within the space of the frame that could be identified as documental or evidential. As I see it, the ellipsis emerged when the pixels’ visual logics could no longer be assembled as meaningful, legible information, when its value as document had been undermined. However, I believe that even if their image cannot be properly discerned due to technical disturbances people’s digital imprint is definitely present, their traces undoubtedly forever inscribed as metadata – just as the narrative takes its course within the temporality of the ellipsis in cinema. For the production of Realtime Ellipsis I collected and edited only short patches of footage resulting from discontinued realtime – the ellipses – resulting in a montage of precarious images that expose the fabric of the medium.

Realtime-generated cinematic chronotopes

As argued before, realtime has surpassed chronologic and chronoscopic forms of temporality since the webcams film a space and the movement of bodies within a single shot, generating a specific compression of space and time – it has become chronotopic. The concept of the chronotope in the arts came about when Bakhtin first applied it to the literary novel when referring to a unit of ‘time-space’.

In the literary artistic chronotope, spatial and temporal indicators are fused into one carefully thought-out, concrete whole. Time, as it were, thickens, takes on flesh, becomes artistically visible; likewise, space becomes charged and responsive to the movements of time, plot and history… The image of man is always chronotopic.[20]

Robert Stam later made use of the chronotope in film theory;[21] Pepita Hesselberth has more recently expanded the concept of cinematic chronotopes as applicable to forms of cinema, including those of mobile screens and (I believe) webcams. To understand her theorisation it is important to note that a cinematic environment arises whenever we come across ‘technologically mediated sounds and images in which the thickening of time becomes tangible to our bodies and affects our sense of self-presence and agency’.[22] As I see it, this thickening of time occurs when we are confronted with the footage generated by webcams. As an example, when we observe the movement of bodies through the streets we become aware of our potential position within the frame but also offscreen. This is to say that by looking at the streams we become the observers who realise that by simply walking in the urban space we might become the observed. In the words of Hesselberth ‘the cinematic is a category of experience, a performative that comes into being in the encounter between the human body and its environment’.[23] In the city this encounter takes place in a space and a time that is predetermined and designed for the medium of the webcam. I am here referring to the locations of choice that are increasingly common and comprise shopping areas, which in most cases are also tourist sites. When looking for certain views the tags on most websites providing access to multiple webcams will offer choices like ‘church’, ‘bar’, ‘mall’, etc. The footage is incredibly similar across countries, as if the places themselves are increasingly indistinguishable. One cannot help but wonder about the cameras’ role in this respect and how the areas being filmed are actually being prepared for this constant gaze generating time-space units, i.e. chronotopes.

Urban space is constantly present in Internet streams which supposedly document its activity in realtime 24/7. Through my observation of these cameras it became apparent that the space of the city and the time of the transmission may constitute carefully-constructed units to offer the viewer a coherent audiovisual representation (therefore, a construction) of the real world. I would like to propose the development of the idea that realtime generates a globalised hub of chronotopes. What we see in the present when looking through more technologically-advanced cameras may actually consist of an embodiment of the chronotope of the future: the clean streets, the safe shopping – an illusionary cinematic chronotope that has been called reality because it takes place in realtime. Beyond the imagery being generated and experienced as a chronotope the effects can also be felt on the city itself. This seems to be changing in order to adapt to and accommodate suitable framing for the omnipresence of multiple cameras/screens. Following this line of thought would allow whoever owns the footage to construct a controlled perception of the public space built as a cinematic plateau. The streets of the world could then be conceived as a networked 3D film set to produce and perfect desirable chronotopes of compartmentalised city life, embodied notions of work-flows, leisure components, the wilderness, the holiday chronotopical postcard.

Fig. 4: Bucuti 2121212 (2012) by Paula Albuquerque.

Without intentionally focusing on the cinematic chronotope Bucuti 2121212 could be perceived as depicting one, mainly during its final images when it completely zooms out to disclose a beach in Aruna. In this short film I push the aesthetics of the medium to the brink by exaggeratedly forcing its zoom capabilities. The camera, owned by a hotel, has a very low resolution and what we remotely zoom in on quickly develops into an agglomerate of gigantic pixels. What rendered this camera so appealing was its unusual capacity to produce enlarged pixels with perfect edges in focus. These form geometrical shapes where no recognisable human figures (e.g. bodies lying on the beach) can be discerned. The simple cinematic artifice of the zoom creates shifting compositions of squares, spontaneously producing modernist imagery coupled with harmonious colours and alienating surveillance purposes.

Artists and appropriation

The owner of an Affected Personal Cam has the desire to be acknowledged by and through the camera by owning it and pointing it at her street corner or backyard. In their growing awareness and creative insight about usage possibilities an increasing number of people have decided to turn their gaze back at the camera. Beyond a more affected camera ownership other forms of subverting media logics have been carried out by artists who decide to ‘squat’ the streams in order to use them for making artworks. Examples include the Surveillance Camera Players, Harun Farocki, Jil Magid, Mano Luksch, and others. When this material is appropriated the affected footage, initially belonging to the owner of the camera, becomes prime matter for the artist. Once transformed into an autonomous piece of art the authorship can no longer be equated or limited to ownership, as the artist has appropriated the material and crafted it into a film or installation. It is up to the artist to position herself in relation to how this extraordinarily charged material is used for making art.

Subverting the use of a webcam, even an affected personal cam, can have far-reaching consequences for the relation people in the streets may have towards video surveillance. Understanding the future categorisation of stored materials of the present forces the citizen into the awareness of her role in shaping her image for the coming future. The agency of the artist – as artist, as observer, and as observed – makes it possible to distinguish her authorship from that of the owner of the camera. The levels of affects embedded in the final piece allow the viewer to confront herself with a potential self-portrait – that of the person in the streets, which is basically anyone who lives in a city. The power of this agency may propel the subversion of the unilateralism of the cameras when the common citizen starts to stare back, becoming an active agent. The moment the impact is felt on the object being filmed is when the authorship of the artist achieves full effect – the actors themselves become aware of their roles and reclaim their status as subjects rather than remaining as passive objects of the observer’s gaze. The artist may wish to openly criticise the camera’s ubiquitous presence or might use the footage to raise public awareness about its impact on the lives of people. In any case appropriating this material subverts its intended fabulation, entailing an active positioning of the artist when refusing the internalisation of surveillance. It is simultaneously an act of resistance and reflection.

Fig. 5: OnScreen Débris (2014) by Paula Albuquerque.

The three-channel video installation OnScreen Débris which will be exhibited in Amsterdam in January 2015 constitutes a positioning in relation to the media frenzy surrounding the Boston Marathon Bombing,[24] during which the alleged suspects were identified by surveillance footage. This work concentrates on scrutinising the margins of the image documenting the last couple of minutes before the blasts. It focuses on all that is deemed irrelevant in the footage by portraying everyone present in the frame except for the two young brothers. In doing so it highlights the potential future criminalisation of anyone who happens to be filmed by the cameras, as they seem to target virtually everyone as a suspect-in-the-making whose activities should be traced. This particular work invites the viewer to question the primacy of the face as identifying device for recognition and tracking practices. As I specifically avoid showing the brothers’ faces, I choose to focus on emphasising the evidence that most people wear baseball caps and carry bags, just as the suspects did. Moreover, the film witnesses how a certain number of people seem edgy, repeatedly checking mobile phones, looking straight into the camera, or making awkward signs with their hands. Concentrating on the marginalised image data of the broadcasted surveillance footage I offer the depiction of an exacerbated perception which could imply a possible conspiracy involving all present, including the victims-to-be.


In recapitulating, the very specific temporality of webcams generates chronotopes of the real that affect viewer perception of urban reality. This happens because these chronotopes take place at a time that is accepted as the present – the realtime of webcams – and allow one to feel the urgency of a sense of space to which one belongs, the space of the cities.

In contact with these two dimensions there is an immediate sense of connection and embodiment of the experience, a sense of belonging to the mise-en-scène of the chronotope, where people direct themselves as actors controlling their traceability. Aware of this state of affairs, artists appropriate webcam footage subverting somewhat official chronotopes so as to create alternative realities and provoke encounters of a less controlled nature, in what I believe consists of a desirable manifestation of the artist’s agency in a surveilled social environment. As Patricia Pisters says about artists working with these materials:

[r]ather than taking on an impossible task of overturning the system, they provide the (micro-political) urge to confront surveillance cameras, to (literally) re-view simplistic interpretations of flecks of identity, simply because they have offered us, … alternative experiences of the surveillance system, touching our brain screens imperceptibly, directly.[25]


Paula Albuquerque is a PhD candidate in Artistic Research at ASCA – University of Amsterdam. She holds a BFA in Audiovisual Art from the Gerrit Rietveld Academy and a MFA in Video and Film from the Sandberg Institute. Albuquerque has taught film history and theory at the SAE Institute Amsterdam. She is currently Tutor of the ART and RESEARCH Honours Programme, Gerrit Rietveld Academy and University of Amsterdam. Albuquerque’s artwork has been shown at the Netherlands Media Art Institute, Boijmans van Beuningen Museum, Venice Biennale Rietveld Arsenale, Organhaus Art Space in Chongqing, São Paulo Art Museum, Beijing Today Art Museum, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, and DeFKa Campis Assen Contemporary Art Museum.


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[1] Hesselberth 2012, p. 15.

[2] Burgin 2001, p. 78.

[3] An interview with Jennifer Ringley, JennieCam’s Jenni, two and a half years after starting streaming footage from her apartment 24/7 (

[4] This website describes Lifecasting as ‘a continual broadcast of events in a person’s life through digital media. Typically, lifecasting is transmitted through the medium of the Internet and can involve wearable technology. Lifecasting reverses the concept of surveillance, giving rise to sousveillance through portability, personal experience capture, daily routines and interactive communication with viewers.’ (

[5] Webster 2009, p. 11.

[6] Bruno 2006.

[7] Lyon 2011.

[8] Fuller 2007.

[9] Allegedly the first live-streaming webcam in The Netherlands, it is no longer online. The last time I accessed it it showed the time-lapse of an old 2010 stream where one can see a group of young people making a big chalk drawing stating ‘Donnie, are you there?’, ‘Nice to meet you’, and ‘I am watching you’. Several people have used this cam for making art and some sort of live action. The presence of the old stream testifies to the fact that the footage has been recorded and can be used at any point for any sort of information collection or categorising. This older imagery also shows how a camera can become a tourist attraction. When Googling the Donnie Cam one will encounter videos made with this webcam as a theme – i.e. people sitting close to where they thought the location of the camera would be and waiting to wave at whomever may be observing the streams (

[10] This is a quote by someone who is referred to on the site as ‘one of Don’s mates’. The quote has no date. Even though I have researched other sources I have not yet been able to make out whether this is the true origin of the camera or not. If so the camera has been active between 2005 and 2013 (

[11] Bazin 2004.

[12] Andrew 2010, p. xxv.

[13] Mamber 1976, p. 2.

[14] Set of rules for CCTV Filmmakers, 2006 (

[15] Doane 2002, p. 172.

[16] Doane 2002.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Hassan & Purser 2007.

[19] Ibid., p. 11.

[20] Bakhtin 2002, p. 15.

[21] Stam 1992.

[22] Hesselberth 2012, p. 132.

[23] Ibid., p. 16.

[24] In April 2013 the Boston Marathon suffered a terrorist bombing that killed three and injured more than 260 people. Shortly after, two young brothers were identified as suspects and the military police closed down the city to hunt for them after a shootout at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus. Besides the role surveillance footage played in identifying the alleged bombers I was very interested in the events, as I myself was about to participate in a media studies conference at MIT. Going there during the recent aftermath of the bombings was a powerful experience. The respect with which the issue was handled by the hosting faculty members as well as my fellow panelists inspired me to create OnScreen Débris.

[25] Pisters 2013, p. 211.