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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…)
I don’t recommend doing it, but if you search for “Charles Ramsey” on Reddit, something predictably disturbing happens. First, you’ll notice that the most results come from /r/funny, the subreddit devoted to memes, puns, photobombs, and a whole bunch of sexist shit. Charles Ramsey, in case you don’t know, is the Good Samaritan that responded to calls for help by Amanda Berry- a woman that had been held captive for 10 years in a Cleveland basement, along with Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight. The jokes on Reddit are largely at the expense of Ramsey, poking fun at his reaction to a police siren or his reference to eating ribs and McDonalds. As Aisha Harris (@craftingmystyle) said on Slate: “It’s difficult to watch these videos and not sense that their popularity has something to do with a persistent, if unconscious, desire to see black people perform.” (more…)
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…)
You don’t have to prove that you were there, that it happened, that it mattered, because it doesn’t, because it isn’t worthy of record, because nothing is. You capture an instant of it, a series of seconds. You shoot it out into the ether. Some people see it. You’ll never know how it affected them. You’ll never think it matters.
image via https://twitter.com/mattdpearce/status/331096177393160193
I’m fascinated by the cover of yesterday’s Sunday New York Times. Fixated on the image of Boston Marathon suspected bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, I was momentarily unable to notice the words surrounding it. I was a little stunned, then angry, then captivated. The image, not just the Instagrammed selfie of Dzhokhar, but this photo within the culturally significant New York Times front page, is endlessly sociologically fascinating.
For some, this cover provokes anger (more…)
Does this phone make me seem like…less of a man?
When did mobile phones go from being symbols of status and power to being “emasculating”? Probably around the time they became easier to access than toilets are.
Sergey Brin, of course, would likely say that emasculation arrived with the touchscreen smartphone—when using a mobile phone became a matter of “standing around and just rubbing this featureless piece of glass” while looking down, instead of flexing one’s bicep to bark orders into a massive handset while staring straight ahead (or glaring at a subordinate). Real men don’t “stand around”; real men do stuff! Real men punch buttons with authority, and take decisive action! PJ Rey (@pjrey) and I may have argued that we express agency through our smartphones, but “rubbing”? Touching? That’s, like, girl stuff. Eeeeeeew.
Tongue-in-cheek riff aside, there’s more to Brin’s smartphone insecurity than may be apparent on the (glassy) surface. (more…)
I’m trained – in part – as a historical sociologist, focusing especially on periods of political upheaval, but I don’t have a whole lot of occasion to make use of it at the moment. However, when working on the proposal for my dissertation this past month – which will be on Occupy, emotion, and technology – there emerged an argument that isn’t directly related to my primary thesis but which I like. Not least because I think it’s useful, and it touched on an area that we don’t cover enough in our discussions about what augmented reality really means for how we do different kinds of analysis. We usually talk about augmented reality in terms of a conceptual framework to be applied in the present and into the future, but as I’ve argued before, it’s also useful for how we look at the past and what the past suggests about the present and future. It has temporal applications that are actually quite broad. I think there’s a possibility of being a kind of augmented historian.