Conclusion

There are several ways that my project bridges my theatrical practice with concepts and ideas that we’ve covered this semester. My project centralizes around using the internet as a medium and stage for live performance. This closely connects to our studies of JenniCam, a prime example of improvised endurance theatre and a pioneer in the creation of reality television, as well as Life 2.0, a virtual world created and sustained by human users. Whether it is people displaying their true selves online or creating alter egos, the common quality that comes across in my research  is that we are braver when behind a computer screen. Since my final project demands me to have first-hand experience of thrusting myself into the third space, I can attest that I am more brave to interact with others and engage in dialogue when I am behind a screen.  Even though I am not assuming multiple identities when I am on Skype, I still see my piece as a choreographed piece set in the virtual space. Perhaps, this is one of the reasons why we keep integrating more and more technology into our daily lives to the extent that technology is becoming an extension of man. We as human beings are always looking for ways to simplify our lives with the intricate designs of technology, therefore the line between the natural and the technological is continuously blurring and merging. We are relying on technology and welcoming it into every aspect of our lives. For example, my project demands Skype in order to keep the action going. Without Skype, I have no project. Without Skype, I also don’t have the means to keep a potential long distance relationship alive because we would not be able to communicate. For now, due to our circumstances, meeting in the third space is the only place that we can form a connection. Therefore, much like how many examples we have looked at in class supports the integration of technology into our daily lives, my project supports that notion because it requires the virtual space in order to exist. With each project update and advancement I make, I am redefining my project and attempting to locate it within the context of the other works we’ve looked at. For example, I would not consider A Tale of Two Cities to be a reality series because there is ambiguity and editing, while I would not say that I am embodying an alter ego either.

The biggest concept that I learned in my experience of working with new media is how endless the possibilities are in the third space. This is an idea that constantly overwhelms me. The very fact that we meet online in a classroom and create a collaborative learning space every week is still one that seems surreal. This also means that new based artists now have a larger “canvas” to create and present their media. Once I recognized how everything you can dream of can be accomplished in the virtual world, it starts to become slightly terrifying. For example, I think that its almost too easy that all I need to do is press a button and it records my entire screen. It leads to me to think about what would happen if Josh did not actually know or agree to me recording everything. With the amount of accessibility that one has with new media, it pushes me further to create a final project I am passionate about knowing that I have no excuses when there is so much potential in all my tools.

However, a critical examination of my project sheds light on several issues. I am extremely shy, especially when it comes to talking about my romantic relationships. It is really interesting to see myself feel so brave presenting what I consider a very personal part of my life to both strangers and people that I know, but behind a screen. Although I truly believe I am not presenting an alter ego of myself when I am on Skype with Josh, the action of me putting it up publicly on Youtube is definitely not within my characteristic. Why am I so comfortable and motivated to show everyone when it is in a virtual space? I am still trying to figure this out, but I think that its also linked to the reason why we are so interested watching other people’s lives on reality television. Another issue that I have spent a lot of time reflecting on is the technical difficulties that arise from recording a Skype conversation.  I had known from the start of my project that I wanted to keep some traditional theatre etiquettes while still using the Internet as a stage for performance. There have been several times where my conversations didn’t record or I had the material I wanted, but there were aspects of it that I also didn’t want (such as the demo mark on some videos). I realize that all these difficulties ring true to traditional theatre as well, because you cannot go back once you make a mistake on the stage. You have one take and just have to keep going. Last, the biggest struggle I faced is whether to take the authentic or staged route for this project. My work seemed to have hit a standstill when I followed a script and it was very clear that nothing came out authentic online. That brings up this next thought – It is very obvious/unnatural to me when I watched a video where I was putting on a character and following a script on Skype.  Is it fair to then say that we can successfully form authentic relationships on the Internet? Can we still distinguish what is real and what isn’t in a virtual, third space?

As a result of my research on the Internet as a medium for artistic production, my project has evolved into a piece that successfully stays true to my goals from the beginning. The major turning point of this project is when I realized that it wasn’t enough to turn the third space into a stage by presenting a narrative online. I needed to find a situation/story that relies and depends on the the internet to exist. For example, a long distance relationship in this day and age (especially at its beginning) needs technology in order to keep it alive. I take a lot of inspiration from JenniCam – this piece of endurance theatre has really fueled my interest to figure out why people rather watch others than live their own lives. I especially enjoy watching “reality television” shows such as the Bachelor and Big Brother, and I spend a good amount of time on Facebook looking at profiles of my friends who are in relationships. I know that many people believe the reason why people are so interested in the lives of others is because they want to escape their own or to make themselves feel better about their own lives. However, when I really think about it, I think the reason why I am personally invested in the lives of others on social media and the Internet is because it helps me understand my own relationship. Likewise, editing videos of my Skype conversations and witnessing my behaviour right in front of me has helped me gain a better understanding about this relationship, but also myself as a person. With all the projects that have shaped my project such as the Wongfu Production Webepisodes, JenniCam and Forty Days of Dating, I am able to better define my project and locate it within all the other art forms that are also exploring the same themes.

As I look back at my project updates, I can see now that I’ve always been on a track that has steered me to where I am currently at with my project. A Tale of Two Cities has always been a work in progress and it will continue to be. If I had more time to develop this project, my next step would be to put it on social mediums to generate views and conversation. I have learnt this semester that my project had to be something interesting and innovative or else it would become lost in the world wide web. However,  even though the semester has come to an end, I want to keep this project going for personal reasons. The project in many ways has turned into a public journal.

PROJECT PROGRESS PART 5

So it’s nice to finally write a project progress post that doesn’t stray too far away from my ideas that I wrote about the previous week. When we talked about whether it helps us as artists to document the progress of our work in class, I am definitely on the side that agrees that it does. Besides the fact that it helps lay out everything in an organized visual form, it’s been really helpful in steering the direction of my project. I found that I would have many many ideas that didn’t seem to link up, but when I wrote it out, I found that these were all ideas that contributed to the big picture. Also, there were times during this semester where I felt overwhelmed by  the work I had to do for my final project or that I felt behind, but the posts would make me realize that I did have physical work to show, which was reassuring.

As mentioned, I am very happy with where my final project is heading. It’s nice to know the clear steps I need to take for my project (i.e. – film the video, import it into iMovie from Screenflow, watch the whole thing and pick segments, cut the segments, insert a title and ending sequence with music, etc). My next steps would be to continue packaging my videos to make it look more like a web-episode. Each song in the title sequence is different, and is just simply taken from playlists of songs that Josh has sent me. With the title sequence, I had one image that panned from the top to the bottom. However, when I met up with Randall and showed him the sequence, he instantly described the angsty college romance vibe I was going for, but had some suggestions. I now will work on creating a longer but quick pace sequence of a few screenshots and pictures that capture and establish an opening for my piece even before the action takes place.

It was frustrating because I had a Skype conversation where there was more dramatic action that took place, however, it was only when the call was over that I realized that there were technically difficulties and that Screenflow stopped recording 10 minutes in. It’s difficult because we don’t stage our conversation, so I can’t just try to create the same dialogue again – much like theatre, its all captured in one go (If you mess up on stage, you just have to keep going rather than starting over).

Side note: I think it was really interesting how nervous I was to present the video in front of the class because I really feel like I would put anything interesting between Josh and I up on Youtube. For example, even if we were fighting and I was crying, I would still be completely fine (and even feel that it would enhance my project) to put it up. Reading into how uncomfortable I was when we were playing the video, I think it wasn’t because I was embarrassed or not proud of the work I’ve done so far but because it was nerve-racking to see the everyone else’s reactions. It just speaks to how we are more brave behind a screen.

PROJECT PROGRESS PART 4

I THINK I MAY HAVE COME UP WITH AN IDEA I’M HAPPY WITH (for the hundredth time!) For a while, I definitely became overly self-critical without even noticing it and I lost track of how the goal of this project is more of a proof of concept rather than a policed piece.

I spent most of the last weekend working on a script for Adam and I to act out. It started to become stressful because it’s exam season back in Canada, and he only had one night where he was free to film it. I even started to think about us changing our outfits to make it seem as we were Skyping on different days. It really worried me that we both had to learn a rough script and film it all within 2 hours. There was something about basically reciting a script that did not come across authentic on Skype, and I also felt bad asking him to help me out during a time where he had a ton of things on his plate. However, I really tried to stick with a script that I created because I thought that this was more closely tied with traditional theatre – and all I really wanted was to use the Internet as a stage. I also felt that if I just posted up Skype conversations of Josh and I that I would not have put enough work into this final project – but now, I think I’m going to refine that idea and go towards that direction.

I started to think of a way to present real-life conversations between two people that would engage strangers, and I instantly thought of this website. It’s kinda fitting because Forty Days of Dating (http://fortydaysofdating.com/) was a website that Josh and I were really into reading last semester, and even made a joke once or twice about trying it out ourselves. Basically, its two typographers/graphic designers in New York City who have been friends for a few years and when they found that they were single at the same time,  they figured they would try dating each other for 40 days. Some rules (http://fortydaysofdating.com/rules) included seeing each other at least once everyday, staying exclusive to one another and going on one weekend trip. They would also answer a questionnaire everyday and post it up. Perhaps it was because of the typographic artwork, the overall look of the site or the intriguing idea of people trying to find love in the big city, but this project gained popularity really fast and is even turning into a movie in the near future. Forty Days of Dating also does a good job at engaging its audience members, with a short post once a day that causes its viewers to become hooked.

This lead me to my new idea – that I would just record conversations that Josh and I have, and edit them into short 3 minute segments. If I package the whole thing well, I think that this could be very interesting and it would still be using the Internet as a stage. Taking inspiration from Forty Days, my “premise” would just be presenting our story online – two housemates/friends who realize that they may have feelings for each other and are trying to do long distance while one of them is on exchange. Instead of posting a video a day, I would post it up whenever we Skype with each other (which we try to every few days). Each “episode” would be titled something like Day 74 as if it is a countdown. 

Project Progress PART 3

I feel as though I am slightly behind on my project because I finally settled on an idea that I really liked this past week. I decided to go with creating a 7 part webepisode series to be presented on Youtube once a day, with the last one released the last day of our class. I’m using my friends from back at home to help me with this project. The premise of the series revolves around long distance relationships. I wrote more about what I wanted the episodes to be about in another post, but all I really am aiming for is that there is one big plot twist (and the rest is very flexible). One way to include the audience would be to link this to social media. I would create twitter accounts for the two characters and promote the webepisodes on Facebook (so I can actually see whether it gains popularity). Another way is to create alternate endings, so the audience can choose which one they like (Thanks Nasir!) OR only create the first few episodes and then let the audience give in their input on what they would want to see next.

ADAM
Adam is one of my best friends from home, and we only were able to try out recording on ScreenFlow once because it has been hard to set up a time with the time difference. After giving him a brief idea of what our “scene” would be like, we decided to improvise it. We did a few takes and it just felt really really unnatural. My next step would be to create more of a concrete script and then try again.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8i1hFr-iIOs
Above is 30 seconds of what we came up with. I have found a way for DEMO MODE to not show up on the screen. Since I’m recording the whole screen, I will find a way to incorporate our chat into the narrative and maybe even other websites I might be on while talking to him (taking inspiration from the Noah video).

Josh
This semester, I found myself developing feelings for one of my housemates back at home. This happened after I decided I wanted to explore long distance relationships with this project, but I couldn’t help but take inspiration from it. Below is a video of one of our chats that we had a month ago, when I was still exploring programs of what to use for this project.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i7dg-NymCpo

I had told him that I would be recording it (hence the beginning), however since we Skyped for an hour, I think we both forgot that it was actually being recorded. I decided to only compile the clips that makes references to communication and long distance relationships, so this video is less of a narrative but it certainly gave me many ideas of what my webepisode could be about. He also agreed to help me out with this project, but I think I want it to be less like JenniCam and more of a staged, rehearsed piece.

Project Update PART 2

Since I was struggling to find a way to stray away from a linear narrative and to engage the audience, Randall suggested to present my final piece as a series of mini web-episodes (Thanks Randall!). The narratives would be put up once a day for a week, starting from April 8th and ending on April 15th (which is the last day of class for DA9005). This series would be put on Youtube and the episodes are aimed to be around 3 minutes each. It could also be presented on a blog or a webpage, but I personally think I would want it on Youtube. Because of the decision to divide it into web-episodes, I think it’s better to focus on only one plot event that would create tension to keep it simple and more coherent.  It might be a bit ambitious/definitely more work, but I want to try to film the first 2/3 episodes and then let the audience decide what happens next and go from there.

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Wongfu Productions is an American filmmaking group that gained popularity on Youtube for creating shorts. Among the comedy skits and the short film series they have created, there was this one called Away We Happened, which consists of 5 episodes that were produced once a week and asks the audience to decide what happens on the web series as it unfolds. I remember following this series as it was happening, and it made me more engaged in the videos since I was counting down the days until the next episode was released.

Here is episode one:

By not publishing the episodes all at once, it provokes conversations between the viewers who follow and are engaged in the series. It allows them to speak their opinions on what they want to see happen with the characters and gives them an active collaborative role in creating the piece. Also, I wanted to allow the audience to get involved in other ways by involving social media. Just like Wongfu Productions did, I want to promote the webseries by setting up a Facebook, Twitter and/or Instagram account. Perhaps, even separate Twitter accounts for the two characters as a way of character development. I know that this would be a bit hard to all manage in a week, but it’s the idea that I want to explore if I had more time and I hope to at least try out one social media app for this project. It would be interesting/a good side project to see how effective social media is in terms of promoting/creating awareness.

For the action of the story, here is what I have so far (the further into the series, the more open to change it is). It’s between two people of different time zones, who are good friends first and realize that they may have feelings for each other when one of them has to go on exchange/go overseas for a semester. They try to decide on what they should do for the next months before she returns back home.
Episode 1 – Boy admits to girl that he has been thinking and he may have feelings for the girl, asks her out on a date for when she gets back, tells her that this obviously doesn’t change anything she wants to do on exchange and she says she needs time to think
Episode 2 – She tells him  that she realizes that she likes him back, he asks her when she’s back and they already plan out what they want to do
Episode 3 – A calm episode where they keep asking each other questions and are getting to know one another, this is the episode where the audience feels that they really are communicating and making it work (even if there are some awkward silences), one of them stays up to 3 am to talk to the other because of the time difference
Episode 4 – They can only talk for a few minutes, there is some connection error and she tries to go to different areas to get better connection, but ends up getting frustrated and saying that they’ll talk later
Episode 5 – One of them is doing homework/attending class while the other one is getting ready to go out partying on a Thursday night
Episode 6 –That night, they Skype again and the guy drunkenly tells the girl that he may have kissed another girl and she hangs up on him
Episode 7 – They Skype the next day and she asks him about the night, and he has no recollection of the night before, and they don’t bring it up and she says she has to go out with friends, he comments on how good she looks and for her to not dance with anyone else, she awkwardly smiles and leaves (don’t know if I want to keep it open ended….)

 

Just a Thought

The more I explore into this project, the more of a dead end I feel I am heading towards or rather how different I thought this project was going to be (which is all part of the process!). I just think that with using the Internet as a stage for theatre, I almost have to incorporate accessibility into my project because that to me sets aside the Internet the most from a physical stage. Right now, I am creating an end product of a video to be presented to the class and put up on the Internet to share, and even though the content in the project was live when it was filmed and is centralized on the obstacles associated with accessibility, I’m trying to find a way to incorporate a live element into it.

Some new ideas that have come up in daily life
For St. Patrick’s Day, there was an Earth Cam set up in Dublin, Ireland at the famous Temple Bar (http://www.earthcam.com/world/ireland/dublin/?cam=templebar). Even though at the peak of the day,  it was only little green people drinking – I found myself watching it for 20 minutes. With that, I can completely understand the popularity that came with the JenniCam in the late 90s.  It was really interesting that time flew by SO fast when I was watching it and that I found it entertaining.

Also last night, I was running errands and someone at the mall taped a 10 dollar SGD bill onto the ground near the subway stop. I saw 3 people in front of me get excited and try to take the bill, and when they realize that it was taped, they would react differently and it was so entertaining (two laughed, one ran away awkwardly). It gave me the idea of setting up a hidden camera that would livestream and people could sign in and see this. However, I feel as if this follows the idea of Just For Laugh videos a bit too much. It then gave me the idea of doing something that lifts people’s faith in humanity – something that people could watch and feel a bit happier/cheer them up. One idea would be if I taped two signs facing opposite sides that would say “Hug the next stranger you see” and do a live stream of that. This is more of the live performance that I was aiming for at the beginning and strayed from. This weekend, I’m going to continue exploring my narrative on Skype and see if I have time to experiment with this as well….we shall see :)

UPDATE: Technical Realisation

HARDWARE: MacBook Pro

Narrative
I began writing a short script as a narrative for a long distance relationship. I was struggling with whether to do a script or leave it up to improvisation, because I didn’t know which one would seem more “authentic”. With the script, it would be more like a rough guideline if anything and it is welcomed/encouraged to drift from it. Besides conversations in real time on the third space, I also thought it would be fitting to do video messages – a feature on Skype where you can record a video and send it to the other person.

Since Skype does not have the option to record conversation, I downloaded a free trial of a call recorder for Skype called Ecamm  (http://www.ecamm.com/mac/callrecorder/). The main reason why I chose this program is because it cost $29.95 to buy and they emphasize that it would be HD recording, so I wanted to test it out. Once you install it (it literally took 20 seconds), there is an option called Call Recorder under the View bar on Skype and it saves automatically into a folder. It then gives you options to convert for internet, to AAC, AIFF or MP3. It also allows you to SPLIT SIDES OF CONVERSATION, which I find really really cool but I haven’t found a way to really use it yet.
Screen Shot 2014-03-18 at 8.38.44 PM

Prakash and Diane also suggested that I could use QuickTime, which is already installed onto my Mac. All you have to do is open QuickTime Player then click Screen Recording under the File tab. QuickTime only does video, and when I first started experimenting, I only recorded audio with Evaer. This free program also has a video recording option, but it would for some reason freeze my Mac whenever I try to use it. I haven’t found the time yet, but I would potentially like to explore recording both on separate programs and trying to put them together and seeing what happens.

Below are two screenshots taken within the same minute between me and Taha Arshad, a friend from Canada who I have asked to help me out with this project. I gave him the freedom to take a screenshot whenever he wanted within 3:57 AM to 3:58 PM. I just thought it would be interesting to see how different/similar our pictures could be and what you could read from our faces in that screenshot without any explanation (perhaps the audience could read into it themselves). It also makes it more natural because I had no idea when he would choose to take the picture. I was using a Mac while he was using a PC, and he told me that my connection was really poor/it took him a long time to get a shot of me that wasn’t blurry.

Screen Shot 2014-03-18 at 3.59.14 PM

Ashley

 

Update:
I am now using Screenflow to record my conversations. It records both the incoming and outgoing audio as well as that the whole screen of the conversation (so the written conversation can also be used in the piece).

JenniCam

jennnn 

TIMELINE of the JenniCam (1996 to 2003)

The Beginning
Jennifer Ringley started the JenniCam on April 14, 1996 when she was 19 years old in her Junior year of college. She set up a webcam that could only take black and white pictures in her dorm room at Dickson College in Pennsylvania. The webpage would refresh to a new screenshot of herself every three minutes automatically. Ringley shared with the world on an interview for The Late Show with David Letterman in 1998 that she got this whole idea from The Amazing FishCam (http://www.fishcam.com/), an online livestream of tropical fish swimming in a tank. Set up in 1994, it was the second live camera on the World Wide Web and still runs today. Ringley thought it would be more interesting if a person was featured instead, and she took it upon herself to be the person living in a fishbowl under the watch of others. In this first year, she performed stripteases on webcam in her dorm room, but stopped when hackers threatened her privately to expose more of herself.

Jenni2

Graduation
In May of 1997, Ringley graduated from college and moved to Washington, D.C. She took her move as an opportunity to add 3 more webcams to cover her newly larger living space. She also started to charge a fee for “premium access” on her site, meaning that paying users had images refreshing more frequently than people accessing the site for free. The main reason for Ringley’s decision to start charging a fee is because her site costs around $3,000 to run per month due to high bandwidth usage and legal services and she wanted to cover those costs. However, her site was doing so well that she could sustain living at home under the claim that she was a “web designer”. At the height of her popularity, she had 10 million visitors on JenniCam.org weekly.

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The Next Move
When Ringley decided to moved to Sacramento California, she allowed free live streaming and audio for her process of packing up her apartment. It was around this time when she was involved with a man named Dex, who was the fiancé of another webcammer. Since Dex helped her move to California, he was frequently featured on the JenniCam and their sexual activities were also documented. Many fans suddenly turned on Ringley and began criticizing her for her actions.

jenni97

Ringley ended the JenniCam on December 31st, 2003. She said that the main reason for terminating her site was because of Penpal’s new anti-nudity policy. After that day, she disappeared off of the internet and did not reply to any emails from the many fans who tried to reach out to her to get answers and see how she’s doing. Since she bought the jennicam.org domain until 2009, many people were hopeful that she was just going through a phase and would soon return back on her webcam. Ringley later made a comment about the new change in her life – “I really am enjoying my privacy now. I don’t have a web page; I don’t have a MySpace page. It’s a completely different feeling, and I think I’m enjoying it.”

In total, the JenniCam lasted 7 years and 8 months.

Image: Jennifer Ringley

Importance
While some viewers went on the site for sexual arousal purposes, others considered Ringley an exhibitionist and the JenniCam as “one of the most influential and longest running piece of improvised endurance theatre.” In the 90s, there was an abundance of performance artists who were desperately trying to find a way to integrate their practice with the upcoming technological advancements including the introduction of the World Wide Web. In the end, all it took was a girl documenting her everyday life through the lens of a webcam that gained popularity and recognition. In the interview with Letterman, Ringley recalls a comment made by a fan saying that seeing her do laundry on a Friday night makes him feel like less of a loser because he knows that she is a popular girl but still spends some of her nights alone as well. It then becomes of interest how people enjoy watching others live their lives rather than living their own. Beyond the comforting reason that seeing others do relatable activities makes one feel less alone, people found entertainment in watching Ringley sit in front of a screen. When she started charging a fee, a business opportunity began to arise and television companies quickly caught on. The JenniCam influenced the beginning of the reality television genre, with shows such as Big Brother, Survivor and The Surreal Life gaining popularity rapidly. Ringley herself is considered by many as the inventor of reality television. While these shows are edited into episodes, Big Brother After Dark replicates the essence of JenniCam  where people pay money to have access to a channel that shows what is happening in the house 24 hours/7 days a week.

While most screenshots on the internet of the JenniCam are of her topless or naked, that was only a small portion of what was shown on the site. Most of the time, she was just eating, drinking, sleeping and surfing the internet (in which you could not see what was actually on her screen). In addition, when we discussed her life, she often shared the romantic aspect of it more than just her sex life and mostly, she would only have sex with the boyfriend she would have at the time. However, since it was in 1996, “the Web as we know it now had barely lost its virginity” making her actions seem taboo and risque.

I am personally on the side that sees the JenniCam as a piece of theatre. While others may choose to focus and criticize her for “performing” sexual activities and masturbating online, she had dedicated herself to presenting her entire life online which naturally includes times when she is naked. In addition, the JenniCam connected human beings with the internet both through viewers and also through presenting a human life on this medium. It opened up a whole window of possibilities and proved that there is expanding potential with the World Wide Web. As for the people who criticized, threatened and bashed Ringley for her actions – I think they should take a minute to ask themselves why they were so interested. Ringley knew her purpose for her actions, but do we?

 

es-ist-eine-seltsame-welt-da-draussen

Project Progress

I started writing a short script as a narrative about long distance relationships and connection frustrations. However, since I regularly Skype people from home, I have found that it happens at least once every time where the connection has failed. So I went to different places around campus to test out the wifi connection, because I think instead of writing in connection failures into my script, it may be more authentic if the actors act out the script and get interrupted whenever by the almost guaranteed fallouts. I found that my dorm room, particularly my bed, gets really bad reception. There is only one spot on my bed that gets connection, and if you move the laptop even slightly, it begins cutting out. The common room of my residence gets decent wifi, but it’s always busy with noise of people walking by. The wifi of South Spine Canteen B is good, but it is a very public place and there are bound to be people behind you.

I started to record calls with some friends who agreed to help me out on this project (Devon Jackson, Joshua Clark) but so far, I’ve only figured out how to record audio. My next step would be to learn how to record video as well.

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