Tag Archives: Skype

Two Stories About Webcams

I do a lot of things that I don’t realize are odd, I think. A couple of stories:

1) Back in college we had a great community with a lot of trust and freedom. It was the fourth floor of the non-substance dorm, Snyder, where we all lived along a hallway and left our doors unlocked. Since we’d go hang out in each other’s dorm rooms frequently it was nice to see what people were up to first online – the usual stuff like video games, movies, playing guitar, homework, etc… We took this to a level beyond simple texts or instant messages though – four of our dorm rooms were equipped with webcams that could be easily viewable online. At some point I even put together a webpage where people could see all four rooms at the same time. They didn’t reveal the entire room, so people could still have privacy, or cover the camera, but I think it speaks loads about our perceptions of privacy and comfort. This was in the same time as the debut of Facebook when everyone was very open on this system, categorically listing details on themselves for the sake of a search system built around them. I know we were privileged as boys who were unlikely to be raped or robbed, but sheesh, it’s a stark contrast to the atmosphere nowadays with the NSA and identity theft and so on. In some ways it makes me nostalgic – I like friends wanting to come visit me and generally want to have nothing to hide.

2) Many people are annoyed with the lack of eye contact with webcams. You look at their picture on the screen and see one another looking slightly above, below or to the side. Luckily I’m absurd and have dual display computers, and have solved this problem. I pin the camera between the monitors, right in the center, and move the Skype window so it spans between the two. It doesn’t always fit the other person’s face position perfectly, but it helps me look right at them and the camera at the same time. As an added bonus it hides the picture of myself, so I won’t pay much attention to what I look like when speaking, which feels more natural. I wonder how long it will be before we have cameras behind the screen!