The use of webcam, especially through Skype, has recently become established as one more standard media technology, but so far there has been no attempt to assess its fundamental nature and consequences. Yet webcam has profound implications for many facets of human life, from self-consciousness and intimacy to the sustaining of long-distance relationships and the place of the visual within social communications. Based on research in London and Trinidad, this book shows how 'always-on' webcam is becoming an entirely different phenomenon from the initial use of webcam as a videophone. Webcam is examined within the framework of 'polymedia' - that is, the new environments created by the simultaneous presence of a multiplicity of communication technologies - and used to exemplify a theory of attainment that accepts media technologies as aspects of, rather than detracting from, our basic humanity.
Acknowledgements vi 1 Conclusion: A Theory of Attainment 1 2 Self-Consciousness 24 3 Intimacy 48 4 The Sense of Place 82 5 Maintaining Relationships 110 6 Polymedia 135 7 Visibility 162 References 192 Index 201
''Some of the most interesting uses of new technologies silently slip into our consciousness and become deeply integrated with our everyday lives. Miller and Sinanan help us to understand how our everyday existence is affected by online video conversations in ways that are unexpected and intriguing. Long anticipated by science fiction, video conversation looks much less like a simple update to the phone call we might have expected, and much more varied.'' Alexander Halavais, Arizona State University 'My grandmother used to shout into the phone to make sure she was heard across the country. Now, grandmothers and babies enjoy each other on webcams. This fascinating book shows how far-flung people use Skype to maintain and extend their networks. Friends become like kin; kin become like friends.'' Barry Wellman, NetLab Director and co-author, Networked "In the accessible and engaging style that we have come to expect from Miller?s publications, Webcam explores the socio-cultural effects of the webcam from an anthropological perspective. That said, this book will appeal to scholars from much of the social sciences and beyond, for its contents and core arguments pose important questions for what it means to be human, and connect with others in an age of instant global communication." Michael Duggan, Royal Holloway University of London "Webcam is a wonderful edition to the growing research on technology, mediation, and everyday life. It offers readers a window into the ways people are incorporating this technology into their relationships, romances, and understandings of self." American Anthropologist
Daniel Miller is professor of anthropology at University College London and one of the leading anthropologists in the world today. He is known particularly well for his work on material culture and his many books include The Comfort of Things, Stuff and Tales from Facebook. Jolynna Sinanan has just started her post-doctoral research fellowship in anthropology at University College London, which is part of a larger project on social networking. She has recently completed her PhD at the University of Melbourne, where she examined economic development in post-conflict societies, focussing on Cambodia.
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