Virtual voyeurism

Chris Johnston - Virtual VoyuerismOne of the earliest internet fads involved users setting up webcams, often in the privacy of their homes. Some were connected permanently, others operated sporadically. These webcams provided windows into the interior world of an individual. Some were enlightening, others salacious. All brought an element of personalisation to the internet, and along with this, a hitherto unknown 'connectedness' to the world. An early metaphor for the internet that was made famous by Australian academic McKenzie Wark was of the internet as a 'virtual geography.'

The Internet allows us to flit from global event to global event, and allows us to feel a sense of 'syncronicity' with the events of the wider world. The vast number of virtual experiences on the Internet creates an artificial reality. A virtual geography of media vectors means we can always be there -wherever 'there' is.

Walking through Federation Square on the way to the AFL Grand Final last year, I was bemused by the many football fans who used their their mobile phones while gesticulating wildly on the big screen. ‘Look at moi!’ A new take on the idea of a video phone, Fedcam ( encourages visitors to wave to friends overseas or at home.

Virtual VoyeurismFrom Melbourne we can virtually travel south to Mawson Station in the Antarctic ( Every ten minutes a picture is taken and sent by a permanent satellite link to the Australian Antarctic Division's Headquarters located in Tasmania. The web photo is updated automatically. The site provides still photos taken over the last couple of days, as well as photos of the coldest, mildest and windiest days. It becomes quickly obvious why it is so dangerous to be caught in the snow during a windstorm: on the photo of the windiest day, nothing at all can be distinguished!

From the south to the north. At, you will find a range of views of the picturesque Helsinki South Harbour and its surroundings. The camera is able to pick up details of this historically fascinating and very popular precinct. As the camera settings are changed, a range of significant Helsinki locations become visible including open-air markets, the City Hall and the Presidential Palace, the green-domed Lutheran Cathedral, the traditional Uspenski Orthodox Cathedral replete with onion-like cupolas, and the modern Alvar Aalto-designed marble-clad Stora-Enso office building.

Virtual VoyeurismAnother more remote webcam in Finland ( is pointed towards Saariselkä chapel in the heart of Lappland. During the summer you can see just how long the midnight sun continues to shine. Saariselkä is so far north that it houses the permanent training camp of the Finnish skiing team.

Another bucolic rural view can be seen at It shows the valley containing the mediaeval Italian town of Norcia, with Monti Sibillini in the distance.

Many webcams cover places of religious devotion. The Western Wall in Jerusalem in Israel is the subject at This has become a much wider website that invites Jews and non-Jews alike to leave virtual prayers in the cracks between the stones of the Wall. The Western Wall is a surviving remnant of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, and is the centre of the Jewish spiritual world. The website claims that when King Solomon built the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, he specifically asked God to heed the prayer of non-Jews who come to the Temple (1 Kings 8:41-43).

Virtual VoyeurismYou can see a very different webcam of worship at, run by a public association of monks in the diocese of Venice in Florida. The Community of The Monks of Adoration maintains a webcam depicting their chapel. They actively solicit funds for the website. They also appeal for a monastery devoted to St Joseph the worker, asking visitors for a ‘buck a brick’. The monastery has now been completed. But the community of three monks has built up a large presence on the Internet through its online ministry. They enable their ministry of encouraging adoration of the Holy Eucharist to be spread virtually throughout the world through their webcam.

The Lutheran Kramer college at the Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana, USA also makes chapel services available via the Internet.

Another type of spiritual experience is available at It displays the current mecca of football in England – Stamford Bridge, home of the Chelsea Football Club.

Virtual VoyeurismAs the virtual traveller moves from one geographic view of reality to another, the media vectors generate a virtual reality.

The owners to today’s webcams are highly diverse. Institutions and individuals maintain them. Some are operated for tourism purposes -Like Fed Square, they display many beaches and other tourist destinations.
offers a catalogue of webcams. It encourages visitors to add webcams and toreport broken links. Among many forms of listings, Webcam Galore offers the 24 most popular webcams. At the moment, a view of the King Fahd Road in Ryadh, Saudi Arabia is the most popular, followed by a controllable webcam that shows St Peter’s Cathedral in the Vatican. A series of exotic beach destinations follow. What does this tell us about the virtual journeys that we wish to make?



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