So Tuesday night’s big reveal of Xbox One – Microsoft’s new incarnation of their console – appears to have been a disaster of spectacular proportions. This is interesting in itself, though not totally unexpected; people often react to new things in less than positive ways. But what’s especially interesting are the things that Microsoft got wrong and the specific elements that people are finding so problematic. On Microsoft’s part, they first amount to a baffling inability to understand the actual living situations of its own market, but they also amount to the continuation of a trend that I’ve written about several times before, namely: the worrying inclination of companies and their designers to remove agency from tech owners.
In other words, owners increasingly = users.
There’s A LOT more to (self-)tracking than Quantified Self
When people ask me what it is I’m studying for my PhD research, my answer usually begins with, “Have you ever heard of the group Quantified Self?” I ask this because, if the person says yes, it’s a lot easier for me to explain my project (which is looking at different forms of mood tracking, primarily within the context of Quantified Self). But sometimes asking this return question makes my explanation more difficult, too, because a lot of people have heard the word “quantified” cozy up to the word “self” in ways that make them feel angry, uncomfortable, or threatened. They don’t at all like what those four syllables sometimes seem to represent, and with good reason: the idea of a “quantified self” can stir images of big data, data mining, surveillance, loss of privacy, loss of agency, mindless fetishization of technology, even utter dehumanization.
But this is not the Quantified Self that I have come to know. (more…)
The Cyborg project, as articulated by Haraway, is at its core, a utopic project. It is the melding of mechanical and organic, digital and physical, human, machine, and animal in such a way that categorizations cease to hold meaning, and in turn, cyborg bodies break through repressive boundaries.
And yet here we are, at the pinnacle of a cyborg era, inundated with high tech, engaged simultaneously in digital and physical spaces, maintaining relationships with organic and mechanical beings, constituted with and through language, medicines—and increasingly—machines, and we STILL have to deal with bullshit like this (click below to view):
Describing “types” of capitalisms, their components, the central logics they operate by is always a risky game: nothing is ever entirely new, there are always outliers, the different types always overlap, and so on. However, I’d like to speculate very briefly on a specific trend within Silicon Valley capitalism, what strikes me as an anti-capitalism sort of capitalism. I’m speaking of this type of capitalism not as something that is fully realized in reality, but as an “ideal type”, a hypothetical possibility that we can determine if or how much validity it has in illuminating the world–or at least one small chunk of the contemporary economy. Mostly, I’m just musing on a smart, fun piece by Sam Biddle about the rhetoric of Tumblr founder David Karp before Yahoo’s acquisition of the site for one billion dollars.
The rhetoric is familiar for those who follow Silicon Valley and is indicative of a particular type of capitalism. (more…)
Don Emmert /AFP/Getty Images
This entire process is ourselves talking to ourselves. It’s an exercise in massive, masturbatory self-analysis. And while we engage in this self-centered groping, they watch, silent and impassive. To the extent that they give us answers at all, it’s placation. They become the blankness to which we attach anything. They are not self-defining. They allow us that control, a consensual kind of tyranny, a sado-masochistic power exchange. They understand that much. They know what we need to believe. They know what we need.
June is the month of drones, as Adam Rothstein and Olivia Rosane of The State present Murmuration, a festival of drone culture. I’m excited about this – no big surprise there – and given that I’ve been writing for it a bit, I’ve been returning to some of the other things that have been written before now on the subject of drones, and what drones are, and what we are to drones and vice versa, and what difference it all makes anyway.
Here, there be spoilers.
For Christmas in 2004 I received every episode of the original series on VHS. Each tape contained two episodes separated by the kind of cheesy music you might expect from a local news daytime talk show in 1992. I watched all 30 or so tapes, multiple times, sometimes with my high school English teacher during lunch after he had finished sneaking a cigarette in his beat up Civic. I have fond memories of eating turkey sandwiches and laughing at William Shatner’s fighting style. But what was more important (to us anyway) than the unchoreographed fight sequences were the literary parables. I see no exaggeration or hyperbole when people describe Star Trek as a philosophy or a religion, but I see it much more as a political orientation. The crew might go where no one has gone before, but the show rarely strayed from the very basics of the human condition. Star Trek holds a mirror to the society that produced it, and J.J. Abrams’ trek is most certainly a product of the Endless War on Terror. (more…)
Photo credit: Rajiv Mehta
I’ve spent the last span of days trying to figure out what I want to say (first) about Quantified Self Europe 2013 (#qseu13), which took place in Amsterdam on 11 and 12 May. The conference spanned a truly amazing pair of days, both of which I spent furiously live-tweeting and paper-scribbling field notes as my jet-lagged brain threatened simultaneously to implode and to explode (in the best of all possible ways) on both an intellectual and a personal level. The Twitter-length post is easy: “Wow, #qseu13 was so awesome!” A few chapter-length essays would be easy as well, given enough time. A blog post, though…blog-length is hard.
For the sake of continuity, I’ll start this first post by picking up where I left off last week. On the first day of this year’s Quantified Self Europe, I hosted a breakout session [pdf] called, “The Missing Trackers,” in which I posed questions about who might be missing from the Quantified Self community, what we might learn about the Quantified Self community by looking at who’s missing from it, and whether those absences might be a problem. (more…)
Let’s play a guessing game: How far do you have to read before you can guess what I’m describing?
To begin, it’s both an organization and a group of people. It’s quite large; over a million people participate. They don’t all participate together, though; rather, they meet up regularly in much smaller groups, in cities all over the world. Participants are almost all doing some kind of self-tracking, which usually includes things about their bodies, their activities, what they eat, and sometimes how they feel. When the smaller groups get together, meetings include both presentations and time for participants to get advice from each other about their self-tracking projects.
If you’re a regular reader of Cyborgology (or someone I’ve talked to about my dissertation project), you might think I’m talking about Quantified Self—and that would not be an unreasonable guess. But in this case, the group I’ve described isn’t Quantified Self; it’s Weight Watchers International. (more…)