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):
MOOCs: Massive Open Online Courses. These generally free, multi-thousand student, online college courses, come in a variety of forms (typically differentiated as xMOOCs and cMOOCs), and have become the fertile ground for debates about the future of higher education. Such debates exploded last week when the San Jose State University (SJSU) Philosophy Department published an open letter to Dr. Michael Sandel, explaining to the the Harvard University Professor why they refused to enter into a contract that requires them to incorporate his MOOC on Justice into their curriculum.
The letter from SJSU and the formal and informal responses to it, highlight key tensions expressed by the academic community with regard to MOOCs. The letter itself captures many larger concerns, as professors worry about prioritization of the ‘bottom line,’ lack of interactivity, loss of professorial autonomy, and the perpetuation of class/power/resource hierarchies as students at a few select schools engage in a rich classroom environment, while everyone else views educational videos that were made for someone else, do not account for their needs, and do not incorporate their voices or experiences. The following is an excerpt from the original letter: (more…)
From Haley Morris-Cafiero’s Wait Watchers project
Last week, Hailey Morris-Cafiero, a photographer and college professor, wrote an article for Salon.com about an ongoing project, five years in the making. Morris-Cafiero’s project is to document those who mock her because of her body size. She selects a public venue, sets up a camera in full view, and has her assistant snap photos as Morris-Cafiero engages in the world under the derisional gaze of fatphobic publics. One image shows a teenage girl slapping her own belly while intently staring at Morris-Cafiero eating gelato on a sidewalk in Barcelona; another shows two police officers laughing, as one stands behind her holding his hat above her head; a third shows her sitting on bleachers in Times Square, a man a few rows back openly laughing at her as his picture is taken. The project is called “Wait Watchers.” (more…)
In this post I attempt to tackle a complex but increasingly important question: Should writers cite blog posts in formal academic writing (i.e. journal articles and books)? Unfortunately, rather than actually tackle this question, I find myself running sporadically around it. At best, I bump into the question a few times, but never come close to pinning down an answer.
To begin with full disclosure: I cite blog posts in my own formal academic writing. But not just any blog posts. I am highly discriminate in what I cite, but my discriminations are not of the cleanly methodical type which can be written, shared, and handed out as even a suggested guide. Mostly, I cite Cyborgology and a select few blogs that I know really really well. I have done so in my last three formally published works (two of which are Encyclopedia entries), and successfully suggested blog posts to others via peer-review. When pressed for a rationale (as I have been in conversations with colleagues), I less-than-confidently ramble something like Well I mean, I know these bloggers to be good theorists, and I find their work useful for my own. Some of their work is published only in blog form, and I need those ideas to build my argument. I also don’t want to ignore something good that I know is out there. But I mean, I know there are other good things out there that I don’t know about, or don’t know enough to trust. And I know I’ve written bad ideas on Cyborgology, or ideas that I further developed later, so I guess quality is not a sure thing, but reviewers and editors have accepted it so…[insert sheepish grin]. (more…)
Are human genes patentable? At the beginning of this week, the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) heard arguments to answer just that question. Specifically, the biotechnology company Myriad Genetics, Inc. wants to defend their patent on the isolation of BRAC1 and BRAC2—two genes related to hereditary breast and ovarian cancers. Such a patent grants the company 20 years of monopoly control over the genes for research, diagnostic, and treatment purposes. A group of medical professionals, scientists, and patients are challenging the patent.
The criteria for a medical patent are such that while tools, medications, laboratory produced chemicals etc. can be patented, “Nature” cannot be patented. That which is patented must therefore be created, not merely discovered (regardless of how costly or effortful the discovery). Opponents of the BRAC patent often evoke Jonas Salk, who famously said in response to the potential patent of his Polio Vaccine: “There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?” (more…)
Last week the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) heard arguments on landmark civil liberties cases with regards to same-sex marriage. On Tuesday, the courts took on California’s Proposition 8—a ban on same-sex marriage, and on Wednesday they heard arguments on the constitutionality of DOMA, a law that excludes same-sex couples from federal recognition. In light of these cases, I saw two interrelated trends in my Facebook newsfeed: profile pictures in the form of the red Human Rights Campaign (HRC) equality sign (headline photo), and snarky status updates making fun of these HRC profile pictures, accompanied by a note of support for marriage equality[i]. That is, although both groups shared and expressed the same opinion about same-sex marriage, they disagreed about the appropriate methods for showing this support. This disagreement highlights debates about political activism in the face of new technologies and brings us back to the question: Does slacktivism matter? I will argue here, as I have argued before that yes, it does. (more…)
A distinct feature of academically oriented blogs like Cyborgology is that these are spaces in which theories take shape over time through conversation, contradiction, progression, and stumbles. Rather than a finished product, readers find here a theoretical process, one that is far from linear and often fraught. It is in this messy and fractured way that theories of digital dualism and augmented reality continue to develop here at Cyborgology and connected sites. In this spirit of processual-theorizing, I want to further refine my material mapping of digital dualism for yet a third time*. With the ongoing dualism debates, the time is ripe for theoretical rethinking and adjustments. (more…)
So far, I have been a silent observer of the Dualism debates unraveling over the past few weeks both here on Cyborgology and around The Web (as well as in conference lobbies, coffee shops, and university hallways). Super brief recap: Nicholas Carr is cheezed off at Cyborgologists for their insistence on critiquing digital dualism and digital dualists, and argues that supposedly “dualist” experiences should be taken more seriously. Alternately, Tyler Bickford is peeved that the critique of digital dualism is not taken far enough, and that the Augmented Perspective assumes, incorrectly, that there is some base reality from which to augment. Cyborgologists have worked furiously to address these points, arguing about the role of bodies and emotion, correcting misleading characterizations, clarifying linguistic ambiguities, reintroducing the “Other” theorists, and pushing the theoretical program forward.
BREAKING NEWS: PEOPLE ARE DEBATING AUGMENTED REALITY/DIGITAL DUALISM!!!
This post, however, takes a break from The Great Dualism Debates of 2013 and reflects instead on some musings that have been whirring around in my brain since #TtW13 based on discussions surrounding the Quantified Self.
After returning from my favorite professional weekend of the year (AKA the Theorizing the Web annual conference), I sat enjoying a cup of coffee with a good friend. She asked about my presentation, and we got talking about Self Quantification and Identity. This particular friend is also an occasional running partner and a fellow nutrition enthusiast. We seamlessly moved into her personal tracking habits, and she shared with me that when she uses her calorie tracking app, she ends up omitting a good deal of information, and contextualizing other data. Specifically, she tells me that she “forgets” to track her food while spending weekends with her long-distance boyfriend (during which she tends to eat more), and made a point to write down that it was her birthday to explain why she was so high above her daily allotment one day last month. Interestingly, she does not have any followers on this app, which means her justifications and omissions are purely for own benefit. She is not keeping up appearances for others, but rather, maintaining meanings for herself. (more…)