Category Archives: news and announcements

Cyborgology Turns Four

Cyborgology Logo

 

We here at Cyborgology recognize the extreme violence that has been done to the sincerity of birthdays. Facebook has hollowed out the intricate, cherished and beloved rituals of celebrating one’s birth and replaced them with virtual Starbucks gift cards and Pusheen stickers. We’ve taken the fake birthdays made up by journalists to heart and decided to celebrate the blog’s birthday (a day late, lol) with one really long post chock-a-block with announcements, retrospection, and nostalgia. So slow down, print out the post below, go to Cape Cod or somewhere that isn’t “online” and have a nice long read.

A note from Nathan Jurgenson and PJ Rey:

Four years ago, together, we launched a blog here at The Society Pages on technology and society. We pretty much just wanted to have fun with it, so we thought we’d name it something ridiculous–something that played on Donna Haraway’s classic conceptualization of the cyborg, which was at the root of our thinking and seemed to be missing in contemporary research. In four years, Cyborgology grew, added contributors, spun off the Theorizing the Web conference, and this blog has come to stand for a specific view of research and thinking about technology and society: one that understands them to be enmeshed; that rejects seeing the Internet as some separate, cyber, space; that speaks to broad publics; and that always takes into account social inequalities and vulnerabilities. We’re immensely proud of Cyborgology. We want nothing more than to see it stay energized and continue to grow. So, we have decided that, after four wonderful years, it is time for new leadership and fresh ideas. We are passing the blog over to long-time Cyborgologists David Banks and Jenny Davis, and we are excited to see what they’ll do running this show.

Happy birthday, Cyborgology. Take care of it, David and Jenny!

-Nathan & PJ

From the New Editors:

Hi, Cyborgology readers. Long time contributors David Banks and Jenny Davis here.

We are excited and humbled to take over editorship for the blog.

We want to take a moment to thank PJ and Nathan for creating this venue, which has thrived as a space for debate, critical thought, and the development of a theoretical perspective on technology in society. At the onset of the blog, Nathan and PJ wrote all of the content themselves, along with the tedious and technical work that goes on behind the scenes. They then grew the blog by carefully curating a team of ‘Cyborgologists,’ and working tirelessly to construct and maintain an intellectual community. We are all richer for their work.

David Banks became the first regular contributor, followed soon after by Jenny Davis. Here are our first ever posts (awww: David’s first post; Jenny’s first post).  It has been an honor to write for PJ and Nathan, and to write with our fellow Cyborgologists, Sarah Wanenchak, Whitney Erin Boesel, Robin James, and Dave Paul Strohecker.

We have lots of new ideas for the future–including more guest posts, so start brainstorming your submissions.  We are also committed to maintaining a tradition of rigorous, critical, and theoretically enriching writing and conversation.

Stick with us, there are big things to come.

-Jenny & David

Personal Messages from Cyborgologists

1383927_10201972285645410_1908949741_nNathan- I started Cyborgology four years ago with PJ Rey, and today we’re handing it to long-time Cyborgologists David Banks and Jenny Davis. I’m very excited for the future of the blog and happy to reflect on the past year. Again, the blog has been a central part of the Theorizing the Web conference, and #TtW14 was my favorite yet. We saw the inclusion of Robin James whose brilliant work has made the blog even more fun to read. The one post of my own from the past year I’d like to highlight was a short reaction to a news story about Facebook throwing a sociology conference. Akin to what I’ve seen firsthand in academic department meetings and conferences as well as in governmental and corporate research groups, so-called “big” data swiftly passes right by basic methodological and ethical issues because the N is sooo biiiig. A sociology graduate student was quoted discussing how neutral Facebook is as a research environment and I responded with a post about this fallacy of neutrality. I was going to leave it there because this was a bad news story quoting a graduate student. I didn’t want to make too much fuss about knocking a straw-position, but I kept seeing this same fallacy even among professors as well as data journalists, corporate social media engineers, governmental research, and so on. The straw people were forming some kind of tragic majority, which lead to expanding that piece into a longer essay for The New Inquiry on “big” data as a special form of contemporary positivism. Hopefully the blog will continue to be a site for examining knowledge-power relations of the social web — and I know there’s a lot of exciting new changes in store for Cyborgology’s fifth year!

unnamed-2PJ- It’s hard to believe that over four years have passed since Nathan and I sat in our neighborhood bar in DC, spitballing silly names for a technology and society blog. It seems impossible to have imagined where this idea was headed and how profoundly it would shape our experience as a grad students. Cyborgology allowed us to start communicating with a wide range people who were excited to discuss the same sorts of questions that we were asking about technology and society, even as our own department proved unreceptive. I quickly realized that many of the most profound insights on these issues were not coming from the conventional academic sources that grad students are taught to rely on (though journal articles and conferences certainly have their place). Most important, Cyborgology has connected me to my fellow Cyborgologists, who have been an invaluable source of support, information, and ideas. I consider myself incredibly fortunate for this. I wish Jenny and David luck as they step into their new roles as our chief editors. I expect Cyborgology’s fifth year to be its best yet!

My favorite post this year, Sex Work and the Limits of American Libertarianism, called out Silicon Valley companies for using free market rhetoric to justify discriminatory actions (namely, limiting sex workers’ access to payment processing and crowd-funding sites). While sex workers are particularly stigmatized, and thus particularly vulnerable to discrimination, these incidents exemplify a system of surveillance, risk identification, and social exclusion that increasingly exerts control over all our lives. I will be thinking about this a lot as I write my dissertation over the next year.

unnamedJenny- I’m feeling pretty lucky that I got to spend another year blogging alongside, and exchanging gif-laden emails with, such a fantastic group of writers. Through the years, I’ve found that my favorite posts are the ones I never meant to write, but felt I had to write. This year, I wrote one such post, Digital Divide in Action: Lessons from a Canceled Flight, while sitting in an airport terminal, fueled by a few hours of sleep and lots of indignation. This post sticks out to me for its intersection of social theory and social justice, embedded in experience. The insistence upon combining social thought with social activism is a hallmark of Cyborgology, represented particularly well in numerous posts this year, such as Sarah Wanenchak’s critique of Apple’s Health app (along with a corpus of writing about gender and gaming), Robin James’ work on gender, capitalism, and ‘Lean In’ culture, and David Banks’ continued discussions of power and surveillance. Taking on a new editorial role this year, I hope to foster this kind of engagement among both regular contributors, and increasingly, guest bloggers. I look forward to bringing new voices into the mix and challenging myself, my fellow bloggers, and our readers, to contend with lines of thought we haven’t yet considered.

TtW14_day1_033David- This last year was a blast!  I had a great time writing Modern Myths: Mundane Enchantment and Creating Ghosts and Enhance! Ugly Websites, Flip Phones, and the Trouble With Technology in Storytelling with Sarah. Fellow Cyborgolgists have also been tearing it up this year with Robin’s ongoing work on neoliberalism, Sarah’s gaming culture coverage, and Jenny’s insightful posts on her own rules for writing and researching. This has been a really productive year for me. My November essay Voting Reduces Diversity in Social Media Participation (Kinda) was the beginning of research that turned into my first New Inquiry essay which I was very proud of. I also really liked the conversations that formed around The Parable of the Coffee Maker and the Design Sir and my two essays (1 & 2) about wearables. My favorite essay of the year though has to be Open (Source) for Business. That essay came out of some serious frustrations with my own dissertation research, where I am constantly working with open source software and hardware that can be maddeningly buggy or confusing. I certainly agree with and support the philosophy of free software but the execution (even in my own work) almost always falls short for common users. It’s a sticky problem that I see myself returning to in the coming year. I also want to play with the form of posts more, perhaps returning to the style that I experimented with in Time Traveling in Troy, New York. I’ve been really inspired by my fellow Cyborgologists to experiment and push the limits of my writing and I hope that as I take on a more editorial role, I can spend more time playing with form as well as content. I’m immeasurably excited to be taking on this new role and working with my fiends for another year. Finally, in case anyone was wondering, I’m still waiting to hear back about my application for the #AmtrakResidency.

unnamedSarah- This last year has been marked by a great deal of transition and reexamination – with my career, with where I live, with what I do and what I want and what truly matters to me. I think my writing here has been a reflection of that, and part of the process for me has been learning to be comfortable with letting more and more of it show – or at least learning to be comfortable with the discomfort. Probably one of the posts that stands out the most to me is “Gravitational Lensing: death, twitter, and (not) making sense of it all“. It was written shortly after my cousin’s sudden and unexpected death from suicide, and is an example of the kind of painful, raw, messy place to which I’d like to have the courage to go more often. It was a revelation for me, before even this last year, that I could write emotion into theory, that I could be sad and angry and passionate and it wouldn’t detract from the quality of what I produced. One of the most damaging things that academia can do, I think, is teach you that powerful emotion is antithetical to good work. So I’ve been unlearning that, and in the coming year I want to keep unlearning. I want to be braver than I have been in terms of where I go and what I’m willing to write about, and I want to push the boundaries of what kind of writing appears here. I want to charge headlong into places I find frightening. I think that’s where some of the best work often comes from.

unnamed-1Robin- Two of my most successful posts this year were On Twitter’s Gender Metric & Femininity As Technology. When I wrote them, thought the argument I was making was so obvious that the posts were more or less filler (that is, they weren’t breaking any new ground, just me blabbing on when I couldn’t think of something more innovative to say). And was I wrong about that! So one thing I learned this year is that I’m a pretty bad judge of what people will find interesting.

My favorite posts of the year were generally the ones about music and sound: A Culture of Moderation: or, no more messages from Satan, Coincidental Consumption & the Thinkpiece Economy, & Big Data & the Physics of Social Harmony. My favorite posts to write are the ones that begin as class discussion with my students; the posts are my attempt to follow up on the ideas and questions my students and I pursued together. For example, my summer 2014 class on Theories of Neoliberalism resulted in Social Media, Because Neoliberalism?, The Financialized Girl, Yo, It’s Communicative Capitalism, & An Attempt At A Precise & Substantive Definition of Neoliberalism. My students are amazingly smart and they push me to be a better thinker; these posts are evidence of that.

Reach Out And Touch…: On Audio Social Media is one post I wish more people would read…especially every time the “why is there no Instagram for sound?” question pops up (again). There, I argue that the reason it’s so hard to make an Instagram for sound is not so much about sound so much as it is about the kind of sociality that social media is designed to support.

I suspect that future posts will be related to both (a) the new book manuscript I’m writing, which is about the relationships among post-identity politics, big data, and neoliberal political economy, and (b) the classes I teach. This spring I’m set to teach Feminist Philosophy & a pop music appreciation class, so I bet there will be some posts stemming from class readings and discussions.

Most Viewed Posts Written This Year

  1. Femininity as a technology: some thoughts on hyper employment by Robin James
  2. The Coolest Thing About Online Dating Sites by Jenny Davis
  3. Apple’s Health App: Where’s the Power? by Sarah Wanenchak
  4. Causes and Consequences of the Duckface by Jenny Davis
  5. A Social Critique Without Social Science by David A Banks
  6. Autobiography Through Devices (Part 1) by David A Banks
  7. Don’t Say Seminal, It’s Sexist by Jenny Davis
  8. On Pharrell’s “Happy” by Robin James
  9. Toward a Drone Sexuality – Part 1: Knowledge and consent by Sarah Wanenchak
  10. An attempt at a precise & substantive definition of ‘neoliberalism,’ plus some thoughts on algorithms by Robin James

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Best. Class. Ever!!

best class everOkay, readers, it’s time to get to work. I recently found out that I get to teach a New Media and Society course in spring 2015. The course, housed in Sociology,  is geared toward upper-level undergraduates and will be listed under “Special Topics,” which basically means it’s a trial run with the potential for eventual inclusion in the official course catalog. I have had this course milling around in my head for quite awhile now, and have an outline ready.

What would really make the course great, though, is input from the scholarly community (broadly conceived). Since Cyborgology has a truly fantastic scholarly community, I’m asking for help here.

Below, I outline the general topics I plan to cover. Your job is to suggest content for any of these topics. You can list them in the comments. I will combine everyone’s suggestions, along with my own existing list, and construct a follow up post. Suggestions can include books, journal articles, blog posts, videos, and popular media pieces in written or visual form.

This only works if you participate, so please, everyone, give me what you’ve got and spread widely.

(more…)

The Entire University of California System went Open Access

The entire University of California system just went Open Access

The entire University of California system just went Open Access

As someone working out of a Science and Technology Studies (STS) Department, I was proud to see that Dr. Chris Kelty (Author of Two Bits) had just won a major battle for open access. Kelty is an excellent example of the kind of scholar that reflexively applies the findings of his scholarship to the everyday concerns of his job. As an Associate Professor of Information Studies at UCLA, he studies open source communities and concepts of responsibility in scientific research. As the chair of the UC University Committee on Library and Scholarly Communication (UCOLASC), he just spearheaded one of the largest windfalls for open access publishing.

On July 24, 2013 the University of California Senate approved a state-wide Open Access Policy that will, according to the press release, make all “future research articles authored by faculty at all 10 campuses of UC… available to the public at no charge.”  This is a huge step forward for the Open Access movement because, as the press release goes on to say,  (more…)

Announcing: Theorizing the Web Presents: Free Speech For Whom?

As many of you already know, the third annual Theorizing the Web is fast approaching this March 1st and 2nd. We’ve moved the conference to New York City with help from CUNY’s Just Publics 365 initiative and we’ve also added a Friday event in addition to the main conference on Saturday. [Also, a reminder: the deadline to submit a 500 word abstract is January 6th!]  On Friday, March 1st,  the conference launches with a full slate of invited presentations at the CUNY Graduate Center’s James Gallery followed by an offsite social gathering. (more…)

Twitter and #NASCAR

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Just a quick post this Saturday about Twitter partnering with NASCAR to cover the Pocono 400. Via Mashable:

The Pocono 400 partnership will revolve around the #NASCAR hashtag, according to a joint press conference Twitter and NASCAR held Friday.

“During the race, we’ll curate accounts from the NASCAR universe and surface the best Tweets and photos from the drivers, their families, commentators, celebrities and other fans when you search #NASCAR on Twitter.com,” reads a post to the official company blog. (more…)

CISPA- the new SOPA

Michael Rogers, Republican Congressional Representative of Michigan's 8th district and sponsor of CISPA

House representative Mike Rogers (R-MI) introduced a bill back in November called the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (H.R. 3523) or CISPA. It has since been referred to and reported by the appropriate committees. Since then, according to Representative Rogers’ own web site, over 100 members of congress have already announced their support for the bill:

The 105 co-sponsors of the bill include 10 committee chairmen.  Additionally, a wide range of major industry and cyber associations, such as Facebook, Microsoft, the US Chamber Commerce, the Business Roundtable, the Internet Security Alliance, TechAmerica, and many others have sent letters of support for the bill.  A list of major industry and association supporters can be found at http://intelligence.house.gov/bill/cyber-intelligence-sharing-and-protection-act-2011

Unlike SOPA and PIPA, CISPA is all about collecting and sharing “cyber threat intelligence” and has less to do with copyright infringement concerns. This bill does not directly threaten the business interests of web companies, which means we should not expect their help in fighting the bill. In fact Facebook, IBM, Intel, Oracle, and Microsoft (among others) have already sent letters in support. (more…)

Technoscience As Activism Conference

 

From June 27-29 I will be hosting (throwing?) the Technoscience as Activism Conference in Troy, NY. We are currently accepting abstracts for conference presentations and workshop proposals through March 15th. The conference is sponsored, in part, through Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s 3Helix Program funded through the National Science Foundation’s GK-12 fellowship. The conference will focus on community-situated design and look for new approaches that interweave social justice and science/technology. Participants are also encouraged to submit full papers for potential inclusion in a special theme issue of the open-access journal PscyhNology. Conference participants will be expected to participate in both moderated panel sessions on the PRI campus as well as hands-on workshops held throughout the Troy community. There are two goals of this conference: 1) To facilitate the free exchange of ideas across multiple boundaries on the topic of technoscience as activism and; 2) offer an experimental alternative to the traditional role/format of academic conferences. This new experimental format includes active collaboration with the geographically-defined community that hosts the conference. (more…)

Panel Discussion: Is Facebook Use a Form of Labor?

The Organizations, Occupations, and Work blog (associated with the American Sociological Association) organized an interesting panel discussion between Chris Prener, Christopher Land, Steffen Böehm and myself. I’ll summarize/critique the positions here and provide links for further reading.

Chris Prener initiated the conversation by asking “Is Facebook “Using” Its Members?” Prener claims that, though the company gives users “access to networks of friends and other individuals as well as social organizations and associations,” Facebook—with it’s advertising revenue “somewhere in the neighborhood of $3.2 billion”—” benefits far more in this somewhat symbiotic relationship.” He concludes that Facebook, and social media more broadly, represent “a [new] space where even unpaid, voluntary leisure activities can be exploited for the commercial gain of the entities within which those activities occur.” (more…)

Submit Your Abstract: Theorizing the Web 2012

The Cyborgology blog is again sponsoring this year’s Theorizing the Web conference. Here’s the info:

On Twitter: @TtW_Conf & #TtW12.

On Facebook: Community Page & Event Page.

Keynote:

“Social Media and Social Movements”

Andy Carvin (NPR; @acarvin) with Zeynep Tufekci (UNC; @techsoc)

Andy Carvin & Zeynep Tufekci

Deadline for Abstracts: February 5th

Registration Opens: February 1st

(more…)

SOPA/PIPA

EDIT [2:49PM EST]- Saw this on my wall:

 

This is the full size of the picture:

EDIT [1:24PM EST]- Buzzfeed has compiled “25 Angry Kids Who Can’t Do Their Homework Because of the Wikipedia Blackout.” While this is pretty funny, it also underscores the need for educators to not just say “don’t use wikipedia” but to help students use networked resources in an appropriate and effective manner.

EDIT [11:25AM EST]- Google has put a black sensor bar over their logo on the search page. Facebook has not done anything officially, but my newsfeed is full of my friends talking about it. Maybe that’s the appropriate response? Public spaces are meant to be forums for discussion, the space itself is somewhat ambivalent.

Original Post- If you’re reading this on January 18th, 2012, then you are probably happy to find something that is not completely blacked out. While many of us, personally, are very much against SOPA and PIPA, all of us at Cyborgology thought it would be better to provide information about participating sites, rather than blackout the blog entirely.

Usually a strike is the beginning of a political battle, but it seems as though the fight to kill SOPA (Stop Online Privacy Act) has already been won by the activists and businesses that feel threatened by some of its provisions. As of last night, Cory Doctorow reported on BoingBoing:

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has killed SOPA, stopping all action on it. He didn’t say why he killed it, but the overwhelming, widespread unpopularity of the bill and the threat of a presidential veto probably had something to do with it

The companion senate bill, the “Protect IP Act” or PIPA is still alive and well though. If you are unfamiliar with SOPA or PIPA, here is a great video from americancensorship.org that describes why the two bills are so concerning:

It is easy to accuse SOPA and PIPA supporters as money-grubbing intellectual property hounds; greedy millionaires who care about their bottom lines over the freedoms on democratic citizens. But I think greed  is only a necessary -not a sufficient- condition for supporting bills like these. The truth is, Congress does not understand the Internet.

For me, the late Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) is synonymous with “Congress doesn’t understand the internet.” If you’re of college age or older, you probably remember the 2006 senate hearing in which Stevens emphatically declared that the internet was not “a dump truck” but was in fact, a “series of tubes.” Technologically mediated communities immediately jumped on the gaff and produced  shirts, songs, and even powerpoint presentations to share in a common joke. Once the novelty had subsided though, some started to worry about the fate of the internet. The blog for 463 Communications, a consulting firm in DC, was one of the first to raise the concern:

Regardless of what side one takes on net neutrality, it must be recognized that when the industry gets involved in a pitched, focused battle, not a lot of broad-based education unattached to a specific agenda is going to happen.  Quite the opposite.

Now, six years later, we are facing the same problem and it is a lot less funny. Even if you choose to ignore the humanitarian and civil libertarian arguments for why SOPA/PIPA is a bad bill, it is still incredibly destructive to business. It threatens to undermine the very basis of the so-called “information economy.” By making web site owners liable for something as mundane as a link to a soundcloud page, Congress would effectively halt some of the most innovative work being done in the fields of social media and web design. Even though the MPAA and RIAA are supporters of SOPA/PIPA, they also stand to lose from it as well. The culture industry relies on the ability to remix and appropriate existing material and turn it into something new and unique. But even something as mainstream and pop as Justin Beiber was originally discovered covering Justin Timberlake songs on Youtube.

At the end of the day, I don’t want my congress to pass a bill that would give Girl Talk more years in jail than a serial killer. More importantly, I certainly do not want to see a bill pass that could give governments the ability to shut down entire web sites. If SOPA/PIPA passes, there will be no more augmented revolutions on these shores.