Do you remember the first (and the last?) time you looked at Chatroulette?
At first I was intrigued. Despite the many obvious privacy issues of social networking spaces like Facebook, most sites are pretty much cut and hung up to dry as far as genuine spontaneity is concerned. Just like real life, one’s social life is a matrix of those you know and those who know your friends.
Of course, that’s the way a lot of us seem to like it; especially us Kiwis. There’s nothing quite like going out to a bar in Auckland, where groups of friends go out to have a nice social time with their group of friends, and occasionally get introduced to a friend of a friend. But just try talking to a stranger! (Strains of Hunters & Collectors song). No, typically, Aucklanders like going out somewhere social to mingle with the same crowd they’ve been mingling with since highschool days, not to meet completely new potential friends.
The same seems true of social spaces on the internet, so the premise of Chatroulette seemed rather interesting, because it meant you could randomly come across anyone, anywhere. It could be a surprising, even learning experience. It could be a way to make friends you normally wouldn’t ever have the opportunity of meeting.
The problem? Penises. Why is that a problem? I’ve got one already. I don’t particularly want to see someone else stroking theirs.
Which is why the folks at Chatroulette seem to have come up with a good idea by allowing viewers/watchers/participants a little more control over their smoking gun.
Now you can join a Chatroulette channel that has a particular theme, or even view by region, theoretically. It’s a good idea, but doesn’t it go against the central idea of Chatroulette that’s even summed up by its name? Won’t it just apply control that will take out the spontaneity it was created for?
I guess if you’re on a channel discussing the merits of porcini mushrooms, that you still may find a vast array of interesting people from around the world who want to talk about porcini mushrooms with you. Or not. But it could just be really boring. And of course, there’s nothing to stop the porcini mushroom fans from getting out their penises, which would be a shock.
Speaking of which, I just took a look at Chatroulette, and it went something like this: penis, penis, penis, two girls (obviously looking for a big penis), penis, bored guy, bored guy, penis, penis, penis, penis.