The emergence of the Net Star
“We live in a society that loves a lens.” (Hawn, 1997).
The emergence of what has been called “The Net Star” has been a phenomenon of 24 hour live Webcam sites created by women, that has captivated the imagination of the mainstream media. The ‘cult of celebrity’ in the Offline world has been transferred to the Net.
Net Fame is different to Offline fame in that it is largely contained within the Online world: “An entire Online culture has now grown up around the camera sites…catalogs, archives, discussion sites, even Meta-sites that show you the latest live pictures from the 20 or so most popular Webcams.” (Firth, 1998).
In an article by David P. Marshall called “Confession and Identity” Marshall outlines the desire for recognition and the obsessional nature of public confession that has proliferated on American talk-shows and in the homepages of the Net:
“The confession makes great television because it defines the moment where the guard is lowered, where the anonymity of the private self is suddenly revealed. It also becomes the stock material for the internet. Personal webpages become the location for revealing a new version of the private/public self. What links these public representations of identity through revelation is that they presume an audience. The presumption of an audience is the way that contemporary identity is now more connected to a clearly identified desire to be notorious. The contemporary self demands outside and anonymous recognition for internal validation - in other words a television audience or reasonable facsimile. Fame and identity intertwine and the confession becomes the channel through which the individual can make the private self clearly public.” (Marshall, David P. 1998).
One of the drawcards of these 24 hour live Webcam sites for both the creator and the viewer is the element of disclosure. In the case of Net Stars Jennifer Ringley and Ana Voog this disclosure of living life ‘no-holds barred’ on a 24 hour live cam stretches any previously held notions of boundaries between the public and the private. Jennifer Ringley and AnaVoog have both had sex on cam. When Jennifer Ringley had sex on cam for the first time the server crashed as an unprecedented number of people logged on at the same time.
Webgirls, such as Psychowhore, have commented on the transgressive nature of this phenomenon and the drawcard to visitors that this represents she states that it is the possibility that something slightly forbidden might happen that is the interesting thing. It might not necessarily be that sex is the drawcard it could be the glimpse of the transgression of any social taboo: “if it’s forbidden its going to be seen as interesting no matter what it is - sex just happens to be one of the taboos - its less to do with sex and more to do with what is forbidden.”
Throughout my interviews the element of disclosure and a desire for greater exposure was a recurring theme amongst Webcam Women. The aspect of being seen and heard and the ability to be able to communicate on a mass scale was one of the attractive features of the medium.
Yet as Simon Firth warns, celebrity might ruin the charm of the most interesting Webcam sites: “While people like Jenni and Ana are already celebrities and exist for most of us in a purely mediated hyperreal space, they are also the solitary surfers own rather wonderful, disquieting discoveries - But now that they’ve come to the attention of a commercial media hungry for novelty the owners of these cams risk being turned into what they are at the present the very opposite of, unremarkable and disposable celebrities manufactured and sold to us within the conventional product cycle of corporate media.” (Firth,1998).
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