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.
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.