The particular fascination with animal and pet webcams has proliferated throughout the world seemingly as a virtual extension of the zoo or as a projected stand-in for personal identity. The range of public and private conditions is leveled by the low resolution, slow frame continuous net camera that frames the daily activities of these cherished subjects. The implicit wonder of seeing real time activity at a great distance is often mixed with a sense of intimacy in looking into the private fascinations of every day pet owners, so much a part of our culture. The scenes are simultaneously banal, exotic, methodical and comforting.
With lurking questions of surveillance, unpractical use value and fetishism, this webcam Institution offers the unique opportunity for the reinvention of the ancient Roman practice of augury, adapted here to the digital age. The practice of this pervasive art of consultation was characterized by setting out a rectangle, a "templum," often in the sky, and scrutinizing it for a particular period of time to count the number of birds, animals and weather phenomena that pass through. The direction and numbers of these omens became information used to read and give advice for the future.
InterNAAS is an expansion of the National AnimalCam Augury Society (NAAS) which is a project proposed to utilize the frame of existing animal webcams in the US as the "templa" for a contemporary version of a remote telepresent augury consultation system. Defined periods of time will be set via webcam software to allow for scrutinizing animal activity. Software automated motion detection will capture movement in frames collected at a website. This project will translate the foreboding directives of image recognition technology into a new potential for meaningful surveillance and forecasting.
The plan to launch InterNAAS a involves a small mobile installation space working in conjunction with an active website. The space would be a kind of contemporary office with desk, chairs, rug, computer, VGA projector and some wall space for a video image and putting up generated images. Visitors will be invited for a consultation about a decision or situational question. For a more specific answer they can fill out a set of ancillary minor biographical questions. The projector will display the live webcam currently being used for reading. Each particular animal web camera will have a defined set of rules for accounting for activity. The results of activating a webcam session will accumulate as both information and as visual production. Traditional and improvised formulas for tabulation and translating the observation into a reading will be employed and returned to the visitor as text as well as a composite image in the form of a digital print. While this consultation system is designed for a personal directive, it can also be applied to public questions of the day.
The InterNAAS office is staffed by myself for a certain number of hours a day for appointments and walk-ins. Appointments and questions can also be posed and responed to at the on-line website. The InterNAAS office will also have receiving and return bins for communications while I am not present. The office will always have the visual activities of the current live cam and other visual and textual calculations in process.
Brooklyn, New York
November 30, 2004
InterNational AmimalCam Augury Society