Category Archives: links

    Alienation, Exploitation & Social Media

    I just published a piece in a special issue of American Behavioral Scientist on the topic of Prosumption and the Prosumer. The article will likely be of interest to many of Cyborgology blog readers. In it, I consider the applicability of Marx’s two main critiques of capitalism—alienation and exploitation—to social media. Though Marx was describing the materialist paradigm of factory production, it is useful to see how far these concepts can be stretched to account for the immaterial paradigm of digital prosumption, because, even if we observe weaknesses in how the concepts graft on to social media, these observations become a starting point for new kinds of theorizing.

    Additionally, I found it important to try to bring alienation into the conversation surrounding social media. Thus far, most Marxian analysis has focused solely on exploitation (many hyperbolically claiming that we have entered an era of hyper- or over-exploitation). I argue that exploitation has remained a constant between material and immaterial modes of production and that what is most remarkable is the fact that productivity occurs on social media with so little alienation.

    You can access the article on the publisher’s site or as a .pdf here.

    PJ Rey (@pjrey) is a sociologist at the University of Maryland working to describe how social media and other technology reflect and change our culture and the economy.

    Design Influencing Behavior: The case of costly medical records

    A recent study on electronic medical records (EMRs) found that they may not fulfill the promise of lowered health-care costs. This  study, and the reaction to it, illustrates much of what is wrong with technology studies, and the unintended social effects of technology itself.

    Many technology studies have false ideas of how web and interaction designers actually work. We collectively tend to think of technology as a “fix” that “automagically” eliminates  “waste,” even if this is not the intent of the designers themselves (which it frequently isn’t).  But as this study points out, there are far more subtle and nuanced issues relating to technology. Specifically, technology makes it easier to do some things. Is it any surprise we end up expecting more things to be done?

    Let me illustrate with EMRs.

    Researchers from Harvard Medical School found that the use of electronic medical records (EMRs) is actually correlated with a higher number of diagnostic tests, such as MRIs, which in turn implies higher — not lower — health-care costs. (more…)

    The Medical Benefits of Body Modification

    Today I bring you one example of how medical technology and body modification are converging.

    The Tongue Drive System uses magnetic field sensors to track the movement of a magnetized tongue piercing.

    The image above comes from the Georgia Institute of Technology, where they have engineered a new form of wheelchair mobility through the use of a tongue piercing. The Tongue Drive System uses a dental plate that captures the movement of the tongue piercing below, which is fashioned with a tiny magnet on top. (more…)

    The Beast of Kandahar

    Iran claims to have captured one of the CIA’s stealth drones which, they say, intruded on their airspace. Usually, I would talk about nations’ continuing development of their capacity for “augmented warfare” and maybe throw in some commentary on how this relates to theories on surveillance and the state. But, to be totally honest, I am incapable of doing that right now. Not because I have deadlines for papers coming up, or because I actually promised that my next post was going to be about Actor Network Theory. Its because… Well…

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    Augmented Urban Spaces: Britain’s Safe Text Street

    On this blog we talk a lot about “augmented reality,” or how the digital and the material are increasingly mutually constitutive. As an example of this concept, I bring you the following development: Britain’s ‘Safe Text’ Street.

    Brick Lane is the first ever "Safe Text" street, complete with padded lampposts to prevent injuries.

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    Hipster Rivivalism: Authentic Technologies of Days Gone Past

    I came across this post a couple weeks back about the “11 Sounds That Your Kids Have Probably Never Heard” and it got me thinking about hipsters, nostalgic revivalism, and technological regression as a source of authenticity.

    DC hipster shows off his ride at the 2011 Brightest Young Things Tweed Ride in Washington, DC.

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    The Social Tattoo Project: Slacktivism on a New Frontier?

    Over the summer of 2011, several interns at BBH Labs (a marketing research firm in New York) came up with The Social Tattoo Project as a way to direct empathy towards natural disasters and social crises that continue to plague populations around the world. They used Twitter to track “trending topics” and then asked the Twitterverse to vote on which issues they wanted to see memorialized in a tattoo, essentially “crowdsourcing” the content of each piece. Volunteers were then selected to receive these tattoo designs without ever having seen them ahead of time. The final five topics included “a cresting wave for Japan, handcuffed hands for human trafficking, a broken heart for Haiti, a pie chart for poverty and a flower flag for Norway” (Corr 2011). The video above is a short clip highlighting the “broken heart for Haiti” design and the woman who had it tattooed onto her body.

    However, this project is not the first of it’s kind. For example, Iraqi American artist Wafaa Bilal took it upon himself (quite literally) to commemorate the deaths of Iraqi’s and American’s since the invasion started in 2003. On March 9th, 2010, he had over 100,000 recorded fatalities of the “War on Terror” tattooed on his back during a live, streaming performance at the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts gallery in New York City titled “…And Counting”: 5,000 dots were tattooed in red ink to represent fallen American soldiers and 100,000 dots were tattooed in invisible ink to represent (largely overlooked) fallen Iraqis. His art project was featured on NPR and DemocracyNow, and became the focal point for discussions about the costs of the “War on Terror.” (more…)

    The (Manic Pixie) Dreamgirl to “Ease the Revolutionary Mind”

    Manic Pixie Dreamgirls in Hollywood Films

    A couple weeks back I posted about Steven Greenstreet’s video titled “The Hot Chicks of Occupy Wall St,” linking it to an emerging media trope called the “Manic Pixie Dreamgirl.” The phrase, coined by Nathan Rabin in his review of the 2005 film Elizabethtown, has quickly become a powerful reminder of the androcentric manner in which female characters are so often constructed in media texts.

    I also connected the media trope to an emerging cultural stereotype about progressive young women. I argued that the manic pixie dreamgirl trope is largely a stereotype about young, progressive, non-conformist women who speak out of turn, defy normative conventions in self-presentation and behavior, and largely serve as “inspiration” for (white) male leads to step forward and grab life by the horns, assuming their rightful place as heirs to power. (more…)

    Examining Cultural Change: Children’s Tattoo Toys

    As part of my research into the popularization of tattooing, I have accumulated quite a few interesting links on tattoo toys for children. I don’t mean those temporary tattoos we all used to get from the vending machines at popular chain restaurants. This toys I am talking about have drawn flack from parents as being “inappropriate” for kids, creating an example of a burgeoning “moral panic”. Some examples include: tattoo inspired toddler wear, tattoo machines for kids, and of course, tattooed Barbie dolls.

    The new Tokidoki Barbie is causing quite a stir

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    Huffington Post Zombie Takeover: #Occupying your BRAIIIINS!

    If you’ve check the Huffington Post today, you will notice something very different: A “Zombie” page has replaced the usual “Culture” section of the website. Just in time for Halloween, the internet newspaper has used the growing cultural obsession with zombies to create a parody of the zombie apocalypse occurring right now in their headquarters. Why? Because why not?

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