Webcams to Save Nature: Online Space as Affective and Ethical Space

D.J. Kamphof*

*Corresponding author for this work

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This article analyses the way in which websites of conservation foundations organise the affective investments of viewers in animals by the use of webcams. Against a background of-often overly-general speculation on the influence of electronic media on our engagement with the world, it focuses on one particular practice where this issue is at stake. Phenomenological investigation is supplemented with ethnographic observation of user practice. It is argued that conservation websites provide caring spaces in two interrelated ways: by providing affective spaces where users' feelings are evoked, articulated and organised; and by opening up ethical space where the beauty of animals appears as an incentive to care. As an alternative to thinking of on- and off-line places as clearly delineated and of bodies and technologies as separate entities, the analysis focuses on trajectories of engagement that cut through these in various directions. In actual acts of looking and being affected, users, animals, places and technologies are intimately entwined. The article further suggests how focussing on trajectories of involvement can be developed to evaluate various websites and their user activity in relationship to clearly defined goals, e.g. conservation goals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)259-274
Number of pages16
JournalFoundations of Science
Issue number2-3
Publication statusPublished - May 2011


  • Affective space
  • Ethical space
  • Nature conservation
  • Phenomenology
  • Webcams

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