“Anybody with a heart can watch that and feel good about it,” Funch says.
In the near-decade that Opentopia has been active, only a handful of owners have asked to have their camera removed, and Funch has obliged.
In fact, Funch says more often people want to be added to the site.
The cameras range from capturing the banal to the bizarre.
A Russian hospital used to have a streaming camera in an operating room, where viewers could watch medical procedures in process.
This antidote to reality television encourages patience and discovery: the subtle thrill of live surveillance footage, of watching while being unseen, brings the power of spying to any viewer with a broadband connection and time on their hands.
Webcam aggregation sites touch on the paradox of data availability — we choose to share much of our lives publicly but often feel uneasy at the thought of being watched.
The reality is that so much of what we do, especially when viewed through the stationary lens of a webcam, is mundane.
In fact, the sheer ordinariness of our day-to-day routines can be seen as protection, a way to inoculate against privacy invasion by turning the Big Brother eye on yourself.
He knows the cameras are for the people watching them, not for the cats and dogs in front of them.
“The animals could care less whether they’re on camera or not,” Sachson says.
A half-dozen puppies pounce, leap and roll, chasing each other around an indoor playroom.