TW: discussion of gun violence. I do not provide any detailed descriptions of violent acts, nor do I use any slurs. Some of the links provided below do reference slurs, misogyny, racism, and homophobia.
The mass shooting that took place at Oregon’s Umpqua Community College on October 1st was simultaneously horrifying and unsurprising. As mass shootings, particularly at schools, become more and more the norm, the desperate search for answers continues. Gun control, mental health, school security, and more recently “toxic masculinity” are often cited as the underlying factors at work in these acts. Despite pleas from criminologists, psychologists, and even some media outlets to stop publicizing the identity of mass shooters—thought to be a significant motivation for these acts—each new shooting comes to dominate news media coverage for days, if not weeks, after the incident.more...
I moved to rural Kansas a over a year ago. I live beyond Lawrence city limits, on the outskirts of Stull (where local legend places one of the gateways to hell), and 50 minutes driving to the nearest Google Fiber connection. It’s a liminal space in terms of broadband connection – the fastest network in the country is being built in the neighboring metropolitan area but when I talked to my neighbors about internet service providers in our area, they were confused by my quest for speeds higher than 1mbps. As this collection of essays on “small town internet” suggests, there’s an awareness that internet in rural, small town, and “remote” places exists, but we need to understand more about how digital connection is incorporated (or not) into small town and rural life: how it’s used, and what it feels like to use it.
One of my ongoing projects involves researching digital divides and digital inclusion efforts in Kansas City. The arrival of Google Fiber in Kansas City, KS and Kansas City, MO has provided increased momentum and renewed impetus for recognition of digital divides based on cost, access, education and computer literacy, relevance, mobility, and more discussion and visibility for organizations and activists hoping to alleviate some of these divides and emphasize internet access as a utility. I’ve argued that by reading digital media in relationship to experiences of “place,” we gain a more holistic and nuanced understanding of digital media use and non-use, processes and decisions around implementation and adoption, and our relationships to digital artifacts and infrastructures. In other words, one’s location and sense of place become important factors in shaping practices, decisions, and experiences of digital infrastructure and digital media.
The irony is not lost on me that while studying digital divides in a metropolitan area, I had chosen to live in a location with its own, unique series of inequities in terms of internet connection. These inequities have nothing to do with socio-economic instability or lack of digital literacy, as I had funds and willingness to pay a significant amount for internet service (comparable to the prices charged by urban-based, corporate ISPs), and everything to do with the fact that I lived in an area that felt as if it had been forgotten or intentionally bypassed by the internet service providers (ISPs) I had come to know living in other US cities and towns. more...
I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood-movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids — and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination — indeed, everything and anything except me…It is sometimes advantageous to be unseen, although it is most often rather wearing on the nerves. Then too, you’re constantly being bumped against by those of poor vision…It’s when you feel like this that, out of resentment, you begin to bump people back. And, let me confess, you feel that way most of the time. You ache with the need to convince yourself that you do exist in the real world, that you’re a part of all the sound and anguish, and you strike out with your fists, you curse and you swear to make them recognize you. And, alas, it’s seldom successful… ~Ralph Ellison (1932), Invisible Man
In what follows, I argue that the Black Lives Matter movement is a hacker group, glitching the social program in ways that disrupt white supremacy with glimpses of race consciousness. It is a group that combats black Americans’ invisibility; that “bumps back” until finally, they are recognized. As Ellison continues: more...
Cyborgology is 5! The blog is toddling around now, gnawing on stuff, and even says a few full sentences. Each year we do a little reflecting and look towards the future and this year we will throughout the week, be reposting and sharing our favorite essays and stories from the last year.
This past year we sought out more guest author contributions. and This resulted in some awesome posts, debates, and conversations. . We are especially excited about the responses to our new themed calls. Our first, cameras and justice, interrogated the ways that surveillance, souveillance, and coveillance reflect and alter configurations and definitions of justice. We are currently taking submissions for our second call on small town internet.
Other highlights include excellent fictionpieces by Sunny Moraine and an impressive foray into fiction from co-editor David Banks. Cyborgology co-founder Nathan Jurgenson snuck in to push us (as a scholarly-ish community) to define the over-opined but under-theorized term “selfie.” Robin James dropped a few on point pop culture analyses, and co-editor Jenny Davis continued (over)thinking aboutaffordances
Social justice continued to be a central part of the blog this year, we hope in service to what has emerged as the key movement of our generation #BlackLivesMatter. Sometimes, this meant making the decision not to post for a few days in the wake of tragedy. Other times, it meant highlighting the important work of activists on the ground and challenging those who wished to minimize the struggle.
This year we will continue to theorize, protest, and invite readers to contribute as guest authors. As always, we are open to what you want to see. Thanks for keeping us going.
Authenticity is a tricky animal, and social media complicate the matter. Authenticity is that which seems natural, uncalculated, indifferent to external forces or popular opinion. This sits in tension with the performativity of everyday life, in which people follow social scripts and social decorum, strive to be likeable—or at least interesting—and constantly negotiate the expectations of ever expanding networks. The problem of performance is therefore to pull it off as though unperformed. The nature of social media, with its built-in pauses and editing tools, throw the semblance of authenticity into a harsh light. Hence, the widespread social panics about a society whose inhabitants are disconnected from each other and disconnected from their “true selves.”
For political campaigns, the problem of authenticity is especially sharp. Politicians are brands, but brands that have to make themselves relatable on a very human level. This involves intense engagement with all forms of available media, from phone calls, to newspaper ads and editorials, to talk show appearances, television interviews and now, a social media presence. The addition of social media, along with the larger culture of personalization it has helped usher in, means that political performances must include regular backstage access. Media consumers expect politicians to be celebrities, expect celebrities to be reality stars, and expect reality stars to approximate ordinary people, but with an extra dab of panache. The authentic politician, then, must be untouchable and accessible, exquisite and mundane, polished yet unrehearsed. Over the last couple of elections, social media has been the primary platform for political authenticity. Candidates give voters access to themselves as humans—not just candidates—but work to do so in a way that makes them optimally electable. It’s a lot of work to be so meticulously authentic. more...
Small towns move at the rate of horse and buggy rather than high speed internet, and therefore tend to reside on the wrong side of the digital divide. However, digital divides are not fixed or homogeneous, and small towns can surprise you. This is made clear through the case of Greenville College.
Out far from the glow of St. Louis is the small rural community of Greenville, Illinois. Greenville is a negligible town of 7,000. Most pass it on the interstate without even noticing–or use it as a place to go to the bathroom on the way from St. Louis toward Indianapolis. Amidst its miniscule population is a small enclave of higher-ed: Greenville College. Greenville College, founded in 1892, is a small Christian liberal arts college. Greenville College was once on the unfortunate side of the digital divide–until, out of necessity, it surpassed its urban counterparts. more...
In 1953, Hugh Hefner invited men between the ages of “18 and 80” to enjoy their journalism with a side of sex. It was Playboy’sinaugural issue, featuring Marylyn Monroe as the centerfold, and it launched an institution that reached behind drugstore counters, onto reality TV, and under dad’s mattresses. It was racy and cutting edge and ultimately, iconic. Posing for Playboy was a daring declaration of success among American actresses and the cause of suspension for a Baylor University student [i]. But edges move, and today, Playboy vestiges can be found on the Food Network.
In August, Playboy stopped showing nude images on their website. The New York Times reports that viewership subsequently increased from 4 million to 16 million. That’s fourfold growth!! In what can only be described as good business sense, the company announced that in March, they will stop including nude women in their magazine as well. Putting clothes on appears surprisingly profitable. more...
Why don’t we ever talk about taking over social media companies? We will boycott them, demand transparency measures, and even build entire alternative networks based on volunteer labor but no one ever seems to consider taking all the servers and data sets away from the Mark Zuckerbergs of the world and putting it all in the hands of the users. Even if a company was doing a bang-up job making their products easier to use, freer from harassment, and more productive in creating a better society, there’s still something fundamentally creepy about users having no democratic control over such an important aspect of their lives. Why is there no insistence that such important technologies have democratic accountability? Why are we so reticent to demand direct control over the digital aspects of our lives? more...
Before leaving his post as Australia’s Education Minister, Christopher Pyne approved a major restructuring of the public school curriculum. The new plan makes code and programming skills central. In a statement released by Australia’s Department of Education and Training at the end of September, Pyne laid out plans to disperse $12million for:
The development of innovative mathematics curriculum resources.
Supporting the introduction of computer coding across different year levels.
Establishing a P-TECH-style school pilot site.
Funding summer schools for STEM students from underrepresented groups.
From grade 5, students will learn how to code. From grade 7, they will learn programming. What they will no longer be required to learn, however, is history and geography. The new plan replaces these heretofore core subjects with the technical skills of digital innovation. more...
At this point everyone is undoubtedly aware of the school shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon, though I am certain the method by which we came across the news varied. Some of us were notified of the event by friends with fingers closer to the pulse, and still more of us learned about it first-hand through a variety of content aggregation platforms, such as Reddit.
I would hazard that the majority of people learned about it first and foremost through social media; primarily Facebook or Twitter. I certainly did. A friend first told me about it through Facebook Messenger, and almost immediately after she did, I started to see articles trickling into my newsfeed in the background of my Messenger window. And the moment that happened I shut my Facebook tab down, despite the fact that I compulsively, addictively, have it open almost all the time.
Facebook, when taken on the whole, is a fantastic way for people to compare each others’ lives and share pictures of kittens and children, but when it comes to a tragedy, the platform is woefully inadequate at allowing its users to parse and process the gravity of events as they unfold. It is a thorough shock to a system that thrives on irreverent links and topical memes, and when faced with an item that requires genuine reflection and thought, it is often simpler – indeed, even more beneficial – for users to turn their heads until the kittens may resume. more...
We live in a cyborg society. Technology has infiltrated the most fundamental aspects of our lives: social organization, the body, even our self-concepts. This blog chronicles our new, augmented reality.