Category Archives: commentary

Human After All?: a bit on Beats

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Beats Music is the first streaming service that may make me cease regular use of my full-to-the-brim 80 gig iPod classic. I use that dinosaur because I am really picky about my music–by which I mean, I know exactly what I want to listen to, and I want to have easy access when and wherever I may be in the mood to listen to, well, anything from Nicki Minaj to Nitzer Ebb, which are right next to one another in my iPod “Artists” list. I love crass, stupid pop music (“Timber,” anyone?), so it’s not that I’m a snob who wants to have what I think are my elite tastes reaffirmed–I just want to have reliable access to what I do actually like without having to wade through crap I don’t.

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Some Thoughts on Location-Based Dating Apps

Over the past several weeks, I’ve been interviewed twice about location-based dating apps. These are mobile applications that connect people with others in their geographic proximity, often in real-time. Popular examples include Tinder, Grindr (and its counterpart, Blendr), and SinglesAroundMe.  The apps are largely photo based, and offer an opportunity for serendipitous meet-ups, in which users can potentially find love, sex, or general companionship.

The fact that I was invited to take part in these interviews is a bit odd, since none of my own empirical research pertains specifically to dating or dating technologies. I did, however, write a post for Cyborgology about race and online dating sites, which got some attention, and I do (obviously) maintain research interests and projects in new technologies more generally. So anyhow, I agreed to fumble my way through these two interviews, offering the interviewers caveats about my knowledge gaps. In the end, I’m glad that I did, as their questions—much of which overlapped—pushed me to think about what these applications afford, and how they intersect with the realities and politics of love, sex, and gender relations. (more…)

The “1:1 self-to-body ratio”

This week in my grad seminar, we discussed new materialism, technology, and embodiment via Elvia Wilk’s Cluster Mag article on “How the feminist internet utopia failed, and we ended up with speculative realism,” and Julian Gill-Peterson’s blog post “We Are Not Cyborg Subjects, We Are Artisans.” Wilk’s article is about, in part, the way that posthumanism, as a concept and an area of academic study, shifted from 90s cyberfeminism to postmillennial new materialism/speculative realism. It’s also a feminist analysis of the expectation that our online selves accurately and truthfully represent our “real” fleshy bodies (as are manifest, for example, in the nymwars). Peterson’s post is about transgender embodiment; it uses a new materialist framework to argue that technology is not something mixed in with an already self-sufficient body (e.g., a cyborg), but a co-requisite of embodiment from the beginning. As Peterson argues, “all bodies are formed through technogenesis and the active participation of the body’s materiality in its continual becoming, its continual modification.” Things like games, toys, interaction with caregivers–all these things draw out and shape its bodies potentialities into a typically “human” body, one that, for example, knows how to use its opposable thumb, and has hand-eye coordination. Peterson’s point is that trans* embodiment isn’t more or less technologically mediated/assisted than regular embodiment–it’s just different technologies with a vastly different politics. The world has been materially, technologically, socially, epistemically, and politically organized to make bodies cis-gendered, so trans* embodiment requires working against the grain or bending the circuits of normative technogenesis.

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#review: Social Media: A Critical Introduction

#review features links to, summaries of, and discussions around academic journal articles and books. Today I review Christian Fuchs’ book–Social Media: A Critical Introduction.

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Generally, I’m not a big fan of textbooks. The bold words and broadly glossed-over content beg for flash-card style teaching. Because of this, I always opt for edited volumes and peer-reviewed journal articles, sprinkled with blog posts and popular media clips. Fuchs Social Media: A Critical Introduction, however, is not your typical text book. Rather than a corpus of definitions, the book is at once a review of the field, an argument about how scholars should approach the field, and a biting critique of the social media landscape.

As indicated by the title, Fuchs’ work examines social media from a critical perspective. Critical, for Fuchs, refers explicitly to Marxism and neo-Marxism, with power and resource distribution the key focal points. A Marxist take on social media examines exploitation and domination by studying both political economy and political communication of social media. That is, a critical perspective looks at who owns the means of production in both the financial and attention economies, and how various media perpetuate, reflect, or potentially upend, an inherently exploitative capitalism.

Early in the book, Fuchs makes an effort to differentiate this perspective from other uses of the term “critical,” and to distance this work from non-Marxist scholarship. Reminiscent of a debate summarized by PJ Rey, Fuchs explicates this distinction: (more…)

Notorious Learning

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I learn a lot on Tumblr. I follow a lot of really great people that post links, infographics, GIF sets, and comics covering everything from Star Trek trivia to trans* identity. I like that when I look at my dashboard, or do a cursory search of a tag I will experience a mix of future tattoo ideas and links to PDFs of social theory. Invariably, within this eclectic mix that I’ve curated for myself, I will come across a post with notes that show multiple people claiming that the post taught them something and so they feel obligated to reblog it so others may also know this crucial information. If you’re a regular Tumblr user you’re probably familiar with the specific kind of emphatic sharing. Sometimes it is implied by one word in all caps: “THIS!” In other instances the author is ashamed or frustrated that they didn’t know something sooner. For example, I recently reblogged a post about America’s Japanese internment camps that contained a note from another user who was angry that they were 24 when they first learned about their existence. I want to give this phenomenon a name and, in the tradition of fellow regular contributor Robin James’ recent “thinking out-loud” posts, throw a few questions out there to see if anyone has more insights on this. (more…)

Time, Aesthetics, and Text: Why Sherlock gets it right

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A couple of weeks back, I had the pleasure of doing a quick interview on NPR’s Marketplace, using the post that David Banks and I co-wrote on the poor use of technology in film and TV (and written fiction) as a jumping-off point. I want to expand on something I said in that interview, as well as some things David said in a great post on the BBC’s Sherlock, and how texting is used as a visual storytelling component in a way that I don’t think I’ve ever seen text of any kind presented before. This is partly because – true confession – I hadn’t seen a whole lot of Sherlock before the last week or so, when I finally sat down to watch all of it. So I’m very late to the party, but some things struck me.

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Riot Sounds and Leaky Algorithms

ATR’s diagram for “riot sounds.”

Over at the CUNY Digital Labor Working Group Blog, I’ve been participating in a symposium on Angela Mitropoulos’s book Contract and Contagion. I think there are a lot of conversations and ideas that will be of interest to Cyborgology readers, so I want to highlight a few of these and encourage you to visit the DLWG blog and participate in the conversation yourself.

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My Application for the #AmtrakResidency

_AmtrakResidency__

Full Name*: David A. Banks

City*: Troy

State*: New York

email*: david.adam.banks at gmail dot com

twitter*: @da_banks

Facebook URL: https://www.facebook.com/DABanks

Instagram handle: thoriumdirigible

Why do you want an #AmtrakResidency?* [In 1,000 characters or less (including spaces)]

I want to be a part of the #AmtrakResidency insomuch as this is one of only a handful of options left to me as an author. Its good to see that someone is willing to give away a thousand dollar ticket for a couple of tweets and a blog post. I want my workspace to be funded by a tax structure written by corporations combined with ticket sales from working stiffs going back and forth on the Northeast corridor. Food is included in this trip right? (more…)

Announcement: Interface to Host TtW14 Special Issue

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The 2014 Theorizing the Web (#TtW14) committee is excited to announce that we will  partner with Interface,  an open access  journal, to publish a special issue based on papers form the TtW14 conference program. The special issue will include peer-reviewed articles and non-peer-reviewed essays, as well as invited panel reviews. All TtW14 presenters are welcome to submit. Look below the jump to learn why we selected Interface as our platform.  (more…)

Keurig: Your New Coffee Overlord

what does that even meeeeeeean

what does that even meeeeeeean

Last February, I – piggybacking off a great short essay by Ed Felter on what he called “Property Rights Management” – said that I wouldn’t be surprised to see things like DRM making their way into other devices that don’t explicitly have to do with the kinds of software and firmware in which we’re accustomed to seeing DRM.

Literally one year later: Keurig!

The moral of the story is always listen to me.

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