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This antidote to reality television encourages patience and discovery: the subtle thrill of live surveillance footage, of watching while being unseen, brings the power of spying to any viewer with a broadband connection and time on their hands.
Webcam aggregation sites touch on the paradox of data availability — we choose to share much of our lives publicly but often feel uneasy at the thought of being watched.
His curiosity and openness can make him seem like a gold prospector in the Wild West of the open Internet: sifting through search engines and laying out whatever is publicly available for all to see, not concerning himself much with what happens on the feeds, so long as they are available to watch.
The name itself, a portmanteau of “open” and “cornucopia,” implies the abundance of this kind of benign surveillance.
Flemming Funch, who created the basic format of the site in a single weekend, followed a whim of listing and displaying feeds from webcams through automated searches, finding cameras that, as he says, were perhaps not meant to be public.
“Part of the intrigue is that we’re never totally sure.
When it launched in 2005, the site’s novelty appeal, coupled with then-current hype about streaming technology and related security concerns, brought heavy traffic to Opentopia, with hundreds of thousands of hits in its first few days.
After the initial burst of interest, traffic has settled down to around 5,000 visits to the site per day.
A scroll through the site Opentopia offers hundreds of such views from publicly available cameras streaming online — more than 820 in the U. alone — silently gazing over public parks, into waiting rooms, on front porches.But she welcomes the idea of cameras in her home and Funch thinks having a normal person on camera creates a positive space for connection.A Buffalo native, manager Chip Greenwood — whose father Al, the Wing King of Florida, started the business in 1982 — says the upscale dive has had publicly streaming cameras for about fifteen years.“They love that Internet bench,” Funch says, comparing it to people in the same room watching television, conversation naturally springing from their shared entertainment.“They would hang out in the chat room on the Internet bench as if they were there and just chat with each other.” Some of the feeds on Opentopia are the usual cutesy Internet suspects, like the camera in the cat room of DOGSASPEN, an animal shelter in Colorado, which offers a kind of scavenger hunt to find the sly creatures.
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* * * Then again, some people could care less whether they’re on camera or not.