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Chatroulette: Are You Game?

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Addictive, disturbing, exhibitionist, potentially entertaining, and unnerving –welcome to the world of “Chatroulette.” No registration, no log-in and it’s free. If your computer has a webcam, go to the website, Chatroulette and click on “Play” and let the game begin.

Participants then begin an online chat that involves video, audio and text with another random participant. It is possible to change people on the other end of your camera as quickly as you can click, “Next.” Of course they can do the same to you. It’s called “nexted,” all done with a click of your mouse.

It is possible to move around the globe at random but with lightning speed. A new twist on “Globetrotting” made possible for the masses. All that is needed is a computer and an Internet connection and viola, you are off on a visual adventure akin to “Alice In Wonderland” with the possibility of even more bizarreness and raw sexuality.

Andrey Ternovskiy is the brain child behind Chatroulette. It took this seventeen-year-old from Russia less than a week to create the website and oh what a firestorm it has invoked. Ternovskiy has been interviewed and written about in the NYTimes, blogs and mainstream television; the list goes on and on. He has already been catapulted into “pop culture” status by John Stewart who satirized him, as only he can. Ternovskiy suggests that over a million people visit his website everyday and it continues to grow.

Before you take a foray into Chatroulette be forwarned that there are many, many pictures of male genitalia, some female too. There is tremendous variety of everything imaginable in this virtual reality circus.

So what is the psychological appeal of the Internet’s latest phenomenon? We live in the “instant age” and what could be more random and spontaneous than Chatroulette? It has the flavor of both legitimized voyeurism and exhibitionism. After all, how harmless can it be to troll the net for “whatever shows up?” The lure of the unexpected, too, has so much potential, it gets the adrenaline pumping: with a click of the mouse one can be transported into worlds previously unknown.

To actually find someone to have a genuine conversation with might be a bit of a challenge, but it could happen, maybe. In a world where connections to others are sometimes tenuous at best, Chatroulette isn’t going to be a website to facilitate meaningful, deep relationships. Perhaps that is exactly what the participants are seeking to avoid. More than likely Chatroulette and its yet to be developed subdomains will continue to be wildly successful since being “seen” and “seeing” have an appeal all their own. Chatroulette is an anthropological expose of our world as it exists in the 21st century.

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About Dr. Juliann Mitchell, PhD