For thoses interested, here is the abstract from my thesis proposal. I’m still working to develop it and I need to get it to my group ASAP. But it’s finally coming together.

Over the last fifteen years tethered digital video cameras, commonly referred to as webcams, have transitioned from primarily one to many broadcast devices to peer to peer communication instruments. Today people across the globe use webcams, in conjunction with internet chat software, as tools for establishing and maintaining interpersonal relationships. This shift in function has gone largely unexamined by both media outlets and researchers studying computer mediated communications (CMC). Of the analysis that is undertaken, much is based on folk biases and dubious research ideologies which rely upon an implicit relationship between technology and performance. Simply put the reason that either webcams cause people to become exhibitionists or only exhibitionists utilize webcams. Through a variety of methods, including historical research, ethnographic interviewing, and semiotic analysis, I intend to disprove such reductionist theories and present an alternative model for how webcams and a variety of other social factors mediate online interactions. The process I undertake will present methods for better applying social science tools to the field of CMC.