Category Archives: meta-cyborgology

Announcing Theorizing the Web 2014: #TtW14


As most of Cyborgology readers know, the blog puts on a conference called Theorizing the Web (now in it’s fourth year). We have some exciting new ideas for 2014. By popular demand, #TtW14 will now–for the first time–feature two full days of programming. We’ve also moved out of an academic-institutional space and into a gorgeous warehouse in Brooklyn, NYC. All of this means that, in addition to the competitively-selected papers and invited speakers, we can experiment with more ways to push the norms of academic conferences. The goal of Theorizing the Web has always been to create the event we’d want to attend.

If you are interested in presenting at Theorizing the Web, here’s the call for papers.

Anyone can attend, you just have to sign up. Traditional conferences get expensive and often leave people who don’t have some sort of institutional backing out in the cold. We want to include as many as possible, so TtW works on a pay-what-you-can model (minimum $1). This means that those with limited funds can still attend, relying on the generosity of those who can afford a little more. Register and pay what you can here.

All the information you’ll need should be on the conference website, and, if not, feel free to comment below or write to

If you think others would be interested in this event, please share. The Twitter hashtag is: #TtW14

Thanks for all the support these first three years, and we’re excited for the fourth Theorizing the Web!

Cyborgology Turns Three

Cyborgology Logo

Today is Cyborgology’s third birthday (see the first post)! Each year we do a little reflecting. (more…)

Dude-ly Digital Dualism Debates

no-girls-signIf you’re a regular reader of Cyborgology, chances are good that you caught the most recent “brouLOL” (yes, that’s like a 21st century brouhaha) over digital dualism and augmented reality. If you’re a careful reader of Cyborgology, chances are good you also caught (at least) one glaring omission in much of the writing featured in this wave of commentary. What was missing?

Ladies, gentlemen, and cyborgs, allow me to (re)introduce you to Jenny Davis (@Jup83) and Sarah Wanenchak (@dynamicsymmetry)—oh yeah, and my name’s Whitney Erin Boesel (I’m @phenatypical). None of us identify as men, and all of us have written about digital dualism. In fact, you may have seen our work referenced recently under some collective noms de plume: “the other digital dualism denialists,” “others on this blog,” “others,” “other Cyborgologists,” “other regular contributors,” etc. If you’re a crotchety sociologist with a penchant for picking apart language (ahem: guilty), it doesn’t get much better than this. During the conversation earlier this month, the named and cited Cyborgologists were (almost) always men—while Jenny, Sarah, and I were referenced obliquely (at best) in an unnamed “other” category. (more…)

Cyborgology Turns Two

Cyborgology launched two years ago today [see the first post], and we have a little birthday party post today. Below you will find lists of the most popular articles generated over the past twelve months since our first birthday. But first, we’d like to let each Cyborgology Editor highlight one post they wrote in the past twelve months, and say a little something about that post, where it went after being published, and a little about blogging itself.  (more…)

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Black Box Tactics: The Liberatory Potential of Obscuring The Inner Workings of Technology

I want to start out by saying that “liberatory” is not in the standard OS X spell check dictionary. There aren’t even spelling suggestions. It is totally foreign. I think that’s telling. Also, our blog’s CSS prevents us from giving our entries long titles. The Title is part of the story, so let me put it in a more readable format:

Black Box Tactics: The Liberatory Potential of Obscuring The Inner Workings of Technology


There we go. Now where was I? Oh right, I haven’t started yet. Let me do that: (more…)

Overcoming Tote Bag Praxis

TtW12 twitter backchannel

The TtW12 Twitter back channel. Photo by Rob Wanenchak

Theorizing the Web 2012 was great. Everyone involved did a bang-up job. I certainly learned more in a single day than I usually do at weekend-long establishment conferences. I have said a lot about conferences (here, here, and here) as have fellow cyborgologists (Sarah, Nathan, and PJ). All of these posts have a common thread: academia is changing, but conferences seem out of date in some way. They are needlessly insular, they rely on hefty attendance fees that are increasingly cost-prohibitive,  and they rarely take advantage of social media in any meaningful way. The relative obduracy of conference styles come into high relief once they are compared to the massive changes to institutional knowledge production. Universities have adopted many of the managerial practices of private companies. They are also acting more like profit-seeking enterprises: putting massive resources into patenting offices and business incubators, hiring less tenure-track teaching staff, and employing armies of professionalized managers that run everything from information technology services to athletic facilities. Conferences, on the other hand, have seen few innovations beyond what I call Tote Bag Praxis.  (more…)

#TtW12: Thank You!

We would like everyone who participated in, attended, followed and helped with making Theorizing the Web 2012 a success! The sessions were smart, the energy was fun and the tweets were so prolific that we were Twitter-trending in Washington D.C. More news, reactions, analyses, photos and videos to come.

Cyborgology editors (standing in the foreground) Nathan Jurgenson (left) and PJ Rey (right) introduce #TtW12 keynote speakers Zeynep Tufekci of UNC (left) and Andy Carvin of NPR (right). Photo by the great Rob Wanenchak.

Prosuming Star Wars: Fan Fiction on the Digital Frontier

On this blog we often talk about the role of the prosumer, or actors that are both producers and consumers and that serve to muddy the longstanding distinction between production and consumption. For example, Jenny Davis and Nathan Jurgenson wrote on prosuming identity online, and how Web 2.0 technologies (especially social media) have allowed for the creation of new identities like transability and asexuality. Similarly, Nathan Jurgenson has written extensively on how social media has contributed to the “participatory, prosumer, dissent” of the Occupy Movement, playing into the much larger atmosphere of augmented dissent that has gripped the Middle East and other parts of the globe for some time now. And finally, Jenny Davis and I have written on the “Jailbreak the Patriarchy” Chrome Application, which allows users to genderswap the content they read on the internet.

Occupy DC encapsulates our "atmosphere of augmented dissent." Photo by Nathan Jurgenson.

Each of these examples reveals the tight association between social media and prosumption. That is, social media has greatly expanded the role of the prosumer in contemporary (augmented) society. This is because the individual voice is amplified through the digital networks of Web 2.0 technologies like Facebook, Reddit, and Twitter. Just as the Arab Spring and Occupy have changed the conversation regarding participatory democracy, prosumers are continually reworking culture through the creation of memes, identities, and new online content, blurring the distinction between the production and consumption of cultural forms. A great example of the prosumption of culture is fanfiction.

And this brings me to Star Wars. Finally.

This feature-length fanfilm titled “Star Wars Uncut” is a shot-for-shot remake of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, produced entirely from 15 second film clips sent in by fans. Casey Pugh, a 26-year-old web developer from Brooklyn created the film after posting on his blog asking for submissions. These fans each prosume Star Wars as both a brand and a cultural artefact (Bruns 2007) when they rework iconic scenes with a “twist,” allowing for the expression of new cultural forms and greater participatory expression from the larger Star Wars fan community.

The film, which won the 2010 Emmy for Interactive Media, is also an example of what Nathan Jurgenson has called “curatorial media”, where old media forms (eg: print newspapers) are augmented by new crowdsourcing capabilities of social media. The film above is an example of curatorial media because centralized gatekeepers (ie: Casey Pugh himself) selected which film clips to include. He then edited the film shot for shot, splicing together disparate scenes produced by widely different fans around the globe. I myself watched the first 45 minutes of it, mostly because I was curious and also because I was a huge Star Wars nerd as a kid.

Darth Vader and her stormtroopers.

Although the film clips can be a little jarring at times (especially when jumping from live action to crudely animated MS Paint images and back in a matter of a few seconds), it does serve as a humorous reworking of an extant cultural forms. That is, many film clips reveal anachronistic revisions to the actual film.For example, the entrance of Darth Vader onto the rebel starship (arguably one of the most iconic scenes in the original film), has been replaced by an all female squad or storm troopers, Vader himself briefly appears as a female.

Throughout the film we get several more examples of this sort of literary prosumption (Olin-Scheller and Wikstrom 2010), bolstering my claims that social media and Web 2.0 have allowed for an effervescence of collective cultural production and consumption. Fanfiction has long used extant cultural forms for the creation of new cultural forms, the homoerotic revision of Spock and Kirk’s relationship on Star Trek as but one iconic example.

Homoerotic tension between Kirk and Spock has been a treasure trove for fan fiction revisionism.

Although this film is not the first of its kind, it is a great example of participatory filmmaking. As new technologies continue to incorporate more and more social media capabilities (cell phones, tablets, etc), it is likely that we will see increasingly utility of the term “prosumer.”

We Have Never Been Actor Network Theorists

Joseph Wright's "An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump" Depicts the beginnings of Enlightenment science

Two weeks ago, I wrote a Brief Summary of Actor Network Theory. I ended it by saying,

My next post will focus on ANT and AR’s different historical accounts of Western society’s relationship to technology. While Latour claims “We Have Never Been Modern” we at Cyborgology claim “we have always been augmented.” I will summarize both of these arguments to the best of my ability and make the case for AR over ANT.

The historical underpinnings of ANT are cataloged in Laotur’s We Have Never Been Modern and are codified in Reassembling the Social. I will be quoting gratuitously from both.

In We Have Never Been Modern, Latour comments on a debate between the political philosopher Thomas Hobbes and natural philosopher Robert Boyle. Latour describes the debate this way: (more…)