It’s easy to see new Internet phenomena and panic, especially when the technology in question opens up a portal to all of the weird parts of the Internet.This is precisely what is happening around Chat Roulette, a new peer-to-peer webcam-based video chat site. But there’s more to what’s going on than just fear and sketchiness…Let me provide a provocative counter narrative to the dominant one presented in the press in the hopes of encouraging a dialogue.Don’t get me wrong: There is a high probability that you will run into the seedier side of the site in a matter of moments.Some have argued that ~10% of the site’s users are exposing themselves or their genitals through the site.Unlike seedier parts of town, there is physical distance.Certainly, they receive plenty of grossed-out faces, but the stigma in such an environment is minimal compared to what a flasher experiences in a physical public setting.
What unfolds is a new form of public life, the ability to randomly encounter people from across the world for just a moment before you or they decide to move on.
This is at the crux of what draws people in, curious to see who they might encounter.
And, unlike pornographic spam, these exhibitionists are typically male.
This is modern day flashing with fewer consequences as no one knows who these guys are, where they’re located.
You may find a group of teens playing Rock Band or a cat or someone posting a sign or someone wearing a costume or a group of college kids in their dorm or someone looking extremely bored.
What draws people in is the uncertainty, the random-ness…and their own curiosity.