Mashable: “Other points of interest from the interview are the fact that Ternovskiy has yet to collect his Google AdWords earnings, as he’s is still under 18, that he’s been offered a $1 million buy-out, and that last month 30 million unique visitors hit Chatroulette, which is averaging one million new users each day.” …
The only prerequisite to viewing and participating in internet culture is a computer and a connection. It is this democratization of culture-production that has made the internet an ever-expanding and endlessly diverse place; anything and everything exists on the internet. The reality is that much of the motivation behind that perpetual growth is profane and obscene. This has been noted best by mass media, the US congress, religious representatives, and worried mothers everywhere. However, thanks to the openness and “true” democratic nature of the internet, none of that motivation is about to change.
From the first solely text-based messages came a culture existing entirely in virtual space. This culture created its own methods of communication to fit the new medium, which evolved as the internet expanded technologically and proliferated in usage. The humble beginnings of text-based messaging gave way to image-ready browsers. Now we exist in a broadband near-instantaneous loading of traditional text-and-image as well as full audio and video. With this new frontier came a new idea of a “digital realm” devoid of physical presence. Early hackers in the 1990s held this distinction above all other praises: that on the internet there is no race, no gender, no bias; only bytes of data. This also meant there were no names, no faces, and a song became an easily-distributed mp3 file. Songs were shared, but what’s more overlooked is how images are shared. Pop culture, which is primarily based on images, flourishes on the internet. Google Image Search allows its users access to near-unlimited images, all of which are easily saved to disc and reused.
This power allows users to subvert the “permission culture” of the real world to create new artistic works. At the same time these is a value being generated through this grassroots circulation, and relatedly the issue of how various sectors of the media industry are being reconfigured in order to accept the help of grassroots intermediaries who help expand their reach to the public. There have been a lot of the myths about how media circulates and how value gets generated in the digital era.
What is Chatroulette and has it missed an opportunity because its content is not “spreadable” to use term of Henry Jenkins? : First of all it can be stated that the development code is available and you can start your own. Chatroulette does exactly what the name implies; the website randomly connects two users with webcams and chat functionality; there are no log-ins, no registration pages and very few rules, none of which appear to be enforced. The premise is utterly straightforward. Like some bastard child of Skype and StumbleUpon, Chat Roulette drops you into a face-to-face conversation, via your webcam, with one random stranger after another, at the click of a mouse.
There are existing chatrooms, notably Omegle.com, that randomly pair users from all over the world, but Chat Roulette’s anonymous founders seem to be the first to have introduced video to the experience. It seems astounding that it’s taken so long for someone to come up with something so simple – and the site itself looks like it was indeed designed in the deep past of the internet. There’s a box for your webcam feed, a box for the strangers’ webcam feeds, a box for instant messaging, and a button that says “Next”. That’s pretty much it. Chatroulette is eventually going to be seen as ripe for commercialisation in many different ways. The clones are already marching in, including RandomDorm and Faceroulette.
Anne Helmond article: One of the main research questions of “How does the structure of ChatRoulette shape general modes of participation and cultural practices on the platform?” led to an interesting conclusion:
The technical code of ChatRoulette plays a key role in influencing the culture fashioned on the platform. However, unlike other structure for community creation on the Web like Facebook or Twitter,ChatRoulette enforces social rules that depend on the inverse proportion between the temporal and the social: as more time is spent with one user, you encounter fewer other users. ChatRoulette prioritizes the one-on-one (or, group-on-group) relationship that other social networks bypass when they strive to collect larger aarger groups of friends, colleagues, followers, etc. (Alex Leavitt & Tim Hwang 2010)
The code of a platform restricts and allows for certain social interactions. At first sight, ChatRoulette seems to be a platform for random and short-lived communication with the popular next button. However, the underlying code of the ChatRoulette platform privileges longer communication with a single person. In contrast to social networking sites where status seems to be measured by the amount of friends, ChatRoulette prioritizes one-on-one relationships.
“Yes, Chatroulette has the slowest ‘search’ out there today, but despite its rudimentary design, search is still one of the key drivers behind Chatroulette’s success. It is social search, not in the sense Google means, which is web search refined by your clearly articulated online social networks, but rather social search in the sense that Chatroulette users are continually searching until they find someone with whom they want to interact socially. Chatroulette presents a smorgasbord of the human condition, with shocks, cocks, hugs, and friends all potentially staring back from your computer screen. Judicious application of the F9 or ‘Next’ button means many users spend more time searching than socialising, more time hunting than chatting, but that’s part of the joy: most Chatroulette users don’t know what they’re searching for until they find it. In that sense, Chatroulette’s search is the anti-Google; it’s a social search engine which only works if you can’t already articulate what you’re looking for.” ( Tama Leaver )
The argument: If it doesn’t spread, it’s dead. For things to live online, people have to share it socially. They also have to make it their own — which can be as participatory as just passing a YouTube clip on as a link or making a copycat video themselves. The concept of spreadable media rests on the distinction between distribution- the top-down spread of media content as captured in the broadcast paradigm- and circulation, a hybrid system where content spreads as a result of a series of informal transactions between commercial and noncommercial participants. Spreadable media is media which travels across media platforms at least in part because the people take it in their own hands and share it with their social networks. The problem with Chatroulette is exactly the absence of spreadability:
“Ternovskiy also paired up with Napster founder Shawn Fanning to bring a fresh technological perspective to the nudity conundrum. One discussed solution was inventing penis-detection software that would, at the sight of penis, immediately block the offending owner from the chat room. Then Fanning abandoned the project. Investors became wary of Chatroulette’s filthy reputation and put away their checkbooks. Advertisers bailed or refused an initial approach.”
The theory is that these kinds of informal circulation may be solicited or at least accepted by media producers as part of the normal way of doing business or it may take forms which get labeled piracy. Either way, the widespread circulation of media content through the conscious actions of dispersed networks of consumer/participants tends to create greater visibility and awareness as the content travels in unpredicted directions and encounters people who are potentially interested in further engagements with the people who produced it.
The creator of Chatroulette has revealed that he is working on a way to preserve user privacy, following the launch of Chatroulette Map, a Google Maps mashup that pinpoints the location of users of the service.
Andrey Ternovskiy, speaking in an interview with The New York Times Bits blog, stated, “There is a certain level of anonymity on the Chatroulette that Chatroulette Map takes away, but I plan to add something to my site to allow them to still hide their whereabouts.”
Chatroulette Map highlights a Chatroulette user’s location by looking at his or her IP addresses, which is revealed via the peer-to-peer nature of the webcam connection. As well as placing a marker on a map, users are screengrabbed, offering anyone in the world a brief sneak peak through a stranger’s webcam.
This has drawn criticism from privacy advocates, although those behind Chatroulette Map say they will remove an image and marker on request if e-mailed a matching photo to ensure the authenticity of the request.
Seventeen-year-old Ternovskiy, a Russian student currently visiting the U.S., says of Chatroulette Map, “I enjoy it,” but obviously realizes his users — some of which appear to have a penchant for public nudity and masturbation — might be less likely to use the service without the anonymity it previously offered. (http://mashable.com/2010/03/13/chatroulette-founder-map-block/)
“Have we become sex-driven drooling beasts who can’t resist broadcasting our pride (or shame)? Or, given the stats, should we start distrusting our offspring’s self-control in front of the webcam and implement stricter Internet monitoring rules? Or is this just the new norm; a strange evolution of our online presence; the birth of a subculture; a phenomenon unworthy of your grandpa’s hand-me-down Biblical chiding? Whatever perspective you take on Chatroulette and its horndog subtext, the site can be deemed dying, if not altogether deceased. It’s a shame, too, because Ternovskiy’s original idea was just that: original; and it could’ve altered our digital social interactions, rather than distorting the ratio of how long we can keep our flies zipped.” ( Brennon Slattery )