Internet users can, as of Friday, take on the role of Big Brother using the latest surveillance technology to observe the lives of ten UK people.
These individuals have chosen to give up their privacy and spend up to 70 days in isolation, with the sole company of each other and a myriad of high-tech surveillance equipment.
This is not purely the result of exhibitionist tendencies, however. Following in the footsteps of similar undertakings in Germany and Holland, the whole event will be the subject of a Channel Four television programme and viewers will each week choose a contestant to be expelled until just one remains. The survivor will win £70,000.
Everything about the lives of these contestants will be scrutinised by surveillance cameras, and the voyeuristic will be able to keep a constant eye on them through the Big Brother Web site located at http://www.channel4.com/bigbrother/. For the truly addicted, updates will even be available on WAP phones.
Channel 4 believes that the project represents a landmark in the convergence of Internet and television.
"Channel 4 is delighted to be pioneering the largest ever cross media project in the UK," says head of interactive commissioning at Channel 4, Stevan Keane. "Big Brother is a bold enterprise and places the channel at the forefront in exploring new ways of marrying the two most powerful media."
Whilst this project may be reminiscent of other Webcam Web sites, the organisers say that there is also a more serious side to it.
"Even though it is a contest, it is also a serious experiment," says editor of the Big Brother Web site, Morgan Holt. "Oxford psychologists will study how people live in isolation."
The project is anticipated to be a roaring success and Holt says that the Web site is expected to receive upwards of five million hits each day.