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.


“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


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 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.

Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA) is the sponsor of the "Research Works Act"

It seems as though Congress, having grown tired of pissing off large swaths of the country, are now opting to write bills that anger a very particular group of people. Almost a month ago, on December 16, 2011, California Republican Congressman Darrel Issa introduced the “Research Works Act” which would kill government-assisted open-access journals. As PJ said before, journals (especially the closed private ones) are the dinosaurs of academia and as Patricia Hill Collins later noted, more...

The Cyborgology blog turns one today! [our first post]

We are thrilled with the blog’s success and the community that has grown around it. It has been exciting to see the increase in page views, high quality comments, and discussions on sites like Twitter and Facebook. The Faux-Vintage photo essay took on a life of its own and a recent post on Chomsky was rewritten for (here). The blog has advanced a theoretical position we call “augmented reality,” positioned art as theoretically significant, focused on social justice issues and has played host to much audio and video from a range of events. The highlight was watching this community come to life at the Theorizing the Web conference that grew out of the blog.

We began Cyborgology to fill a void we observed in popular and academic discourse: conversations about technology often lacked theory, and theoretical debate often neglects technology.

Since we created the blog 365 days ago, more...

Photo Credit: Wyatt Kostygan

Cyborgology editor Nathan Jurgenson will be in Zuccotti park Saturday, and contributing author David Banks will be participating in a new occupation in Albany, NY. Nathan will be providing his insights on social media and the OWS movement. David will be watching closely and commenting on the birth of a local occupation.


I am attempting to organize a session on online play, gaming & leisure at the Eastern Sociological Society Meetings, February 23-26, 2012 in New York City.

If you’re working on a relevant project, submit a title and a 200-250 word abstract (anything over 250 words will not be accepted) here. I’ll review the submissions on October 1st and see if we have enough to make a proposal.  Feel free to submit you papers through the ESS general submissions process as well if you plan to attend regardless of whether we are able to get a panel into the program. more...

Cyborgology Editors Nathan and PJ have teamed up with Dr. Chris Donoghue to organize a session (or sessions, or perhaps a mini-conference, depending on the number of quality submissions) on social media at the Eastern Sociological Society Meetings, February 23-26, 2012 in New York City.

If you follow Cyborgology, Theorizing the Web, or know anyone who wants to present on social media at a Sociology conference, please see our Call for Abstracts. All we need is a title and a 200-250 word abstract (anything over 250 words will not be accepted). Papers will be competitively chosen.

Submit your abstracts here.

The Cyborgology team will be hosting a meet up @ 8pm tonight (Friday) at the Flamingo Garden Bar. Hope you’ll join us.

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I’m currently doing field work in Kumasi, Ghana and will be back next week with some really great original content. Until then, I am sharing a piece of media that I have been looking forward to, but currently have absolutely no time to watch. Amy Goodman moderates a discussion between Lacanian Philosopher and pop-culture critic  Slavoj Zizek and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. This is the first interview Assange has given since being put under house arrest without charges filed against him by Sweden or the UK. Zizek considers operations like Wikileaks are the “harbingers for the end of global capitalism as we know it.” Again, I haven’t watched this yet, but I go into it with the following questions in mind: Can we make this kind of conclusion? Or is this a matter of digital dualism mixing with the cautious optimism of the far left? Are we fetishizing information technology to such a degree that we conflate its revolutionary capacity to disrupt technological systems, with its ability to tear apart similar social systems? Technological and social systems can and do follow isomorphic and parallel organizational structures but that does not mean that a technology’s ability to disrupt one, is on par with its ability to disrupt the other.


The card being used to advertise the service
The SMS service will be advertised using an ad campaign that is based on field work from the previous year by Dr. Audrey Bennett of RPI's Language Literature and Communication Department..

Next month I’ll be in Kumasi, Ghana doing field research and I thought I’d share what I hope to accomplish over there, since my work is informed by much of what I write about on this blog. (I will be blogging over here.) We hope to set up an information system by which Ghanaians can find condom sellers nearby. The primary interface will be text messaging using a fantastic open-source project called FrontLineSMS. By texting a certain number, the user will be asked to send their district and a list of nearby landmarks. The database will send back a list of condom sellers within a reasonable walking distance. We also hope to have several other front-end access points that are already becoming popular places to socialize. Our aim is to increase access to condoms in order to reduce the infection rate of HIV/AIDS. As of 2009, according to UNICEF, 230,000 people (about 2% of the population) live with HIV in Ghana. I should also note that cell phones are not a luxury item in Ghana. Adoption has exploded over the past several years, and it is estimated that about 67% of Ghanians own a cell phone.