I can’t stand a lot of popular (and, sadly, sometimes scholarly) writing about cyberspace. So much of it is breathless hype, superficial snapshots, and baseless theoretical wankery.
For example, when Second Life was booming, a lot of people were writing a lot of things about its business and investment potential, without ever having once walked around in it. That’s a critical difference, because you stop thinking about Second Life as next international marketplace the first time you’re caged and accosted by an anthropomorphic fox, endowed in a diverse, imaginative, and physically impossible manner. The data tell a different story.
Now, people like Eszter Hargittai have been diving deep into the data for years. But the great thing is that now everyone is doing it.
Take, for example, ChatRoulette. ChatRoulette is a service whereby any two users with webcams can be randomly assigned to one another. You log in, you click go, boom, you’re chatting with another random user.
Now, just from that, I might imagine all sorts of things about ChatRoulette. I might characterize ChatRoulette as the next wave in deliberative discourse, allowing individuals from different backgrounds and cultures to talk face to face in a totally unscripted and unforced fashion. I might prophesize an even smaller global village, where people could simply reach out to one another, connect, say hello, and find out that hey, someone cares. I could create all manner of handwaving, hypothetical bullshit.
Luckily, we have data. Not drawn from any peer-reviewed journal. This is ChatRoulette, as documented by one intrepid, devoted, and bored reddit user, who spent 12 hours on the site and posted the results:
1276 cams viewed
- Conversations 34
- Avg. Conversation Duration: 23.7 sec
- Long: 5 min 56 sec
- 298 naked masturbating men
- 678 non masturbating males
- 152 fake cams
- 148 females or mixed m/f
- boobs shown you ask? 0.0
- Cum shots: 2
- man having sex with racoon viewed 23 times
- not counted: repeats, no cam, empty rooms people with dolls and signs.
Edit: I generally waited untill the other person switched the cam, although for fake vids I switched the cam Edit: Logged on and saw my first legit real girl with exposed breasts. Final Edit: will log 12 more hrs. after my show to get a complete 24 hr sample.
This, ladies and gents, is what good Internet research and analysis looks like. So thank you to the brave few on the front lines.