The Cyborg project, as articulated by Haraway, is at its core, a utopic project. It is the melding of mechanical and organic, digital and physical, human, machine, and animal in such a way that categorizations cease to hold meaning, and in turn, cyborg bodies break through repressive boundaries.
And yet here we are, at the pinnacle of a cyborg era, inundated with high tech, engaged simultaneously in digital and physical spaces, maintaining relationships with organic and mechanical beings, constituted with and through language, medicines—and increasingly—machines, and we STILL have to deal with bullshit like this (click below to view):
So far, I have been a silent observer of the Dualism debates unraveling over the past few weeks both here on Cyborgology and around The Web (as well as in conference lobbies, coffee shops, and university hallways). Super brief recap: Nicholas Carr is cheezed off at Cyborgologists for their insistence on critiquing digital dualism and digital dualists, and argues that supposedly “dualist” experiences should be taken more seriously. Alternately, Tyler Bickford is peeved that the critique of digital dualism is not taken far enough, and that the Augmented Perspective assumes, incorrectly, that there is some base reality from which to augment. Cyborgologists have worked furiously to address these points, arguing about the role of bodies and emotion, correcting misleading characterizations, clarifying linguistic ambiguities, reintroducing the “Other” theorists, and pushing the theoretical program forward.
People, I am certain, use Snapchat in myriad ways and for all kinds of reasons. Surely, people use the disappearing-message app to document juicy gossip, send goofy but not save-worthy photos, cheat on an exam, share an inside joke, engage in insider trading, or co-view a sunset in the fleeting moment in which the red-purple sky loses its light. I especially like Nathan Jurgenson’s deeply theoretical and thought provoking analysis of Snapchat in terms of image scarcity and abundance. And yet, when I think about Snapchat, my mind always goes to the same, possibly immaturity-induced, place: sexting.
Sexting, made particularly famous by such figures as Tiger Woods, and Anthony—I can’t believe this is your real name—Weiner, is the act of sending illicit images of oneself and/or erotic messages via SMS. Humans are sexual, and have long engaged the technologies of the time in their erotic practices (if you don’t believe me, read James Joyce’s pen-and-paper love letters to his wife).Despite moral panics surrounding sexting (especially among *gasp* teenagers) the problem with this phenomena has less to do with erotic communication, and more to do with the medium of erotic communication coupled with the affordances and dynamics of networked publics. Snapchat is a technological solution to the problem, but one with unique—possibly problematic in a different way—implications of its own. (more…)
R.U.X. (Rockwell Universal Sexbots), written by Maurice Martin and directed by Sun King Davis, was first written and performed as a charity effort to raise money for HIPS (Helping Individual Prostitutes Survive); it ran as a five-part serial in Arlington’s October 2011 Hope Operas. It was rewritten as a full play for DC’s 2012 Fringe Festival, where it took the award for best comedy. The show just finished up a brief encore at Fall Fringe. While this comedy has already been widely and positively reviewed by DC theater critics, it deserves a piece that engages its rather weighty themes.
The story takes place in near-future America (similar in setting to the spate of early twenty aughts robot films such as Bicentennial Man, A.I., and I, Robot), where anthropomorphic robots have become a common consumer product. Louis Rockwell Jr. (John Tweel) has just been made acting CEO of the Rockwell Universal Carebots company, after his father (Frank Mancino) fell into a coma. Louis Jr. has a new vision that would transition the company away from producing robots designed for childcare and, instead, move it into designing robots for—you guessed it—sex. After rebranding the company “Rockwell Universal Sexbots,” he hires Dr. Callie Veru (Aubri O’Connor), a young and romantically inexperienced software expert to program the robots with the capacity to fulfill human desire. To program robots to respond to human desire, however, the characters must first understand it, and this interrogation of human desire becomes the axis on which the entire plot rotates. (more…)
This is part of a series of posts highlighting the Theorizing the Web conference, April 14th, 2012 at the University of Maryland (inside the D.C. beltway). It was originally posted on 4.11.12 and was updated to include video on 6.5.12. See the conference website for additional information.
I am very happy to have the opportunity to preside over the panel on technologies of identity. Internet is intimately related to people’s identities; a point that is almost self-evident. People express, reinforce and even sometimes construct new identities via the Internet. But how exactly does this happen? through what mechanisms? How, for example, do people who date online maintain or challenge their identities concerning their sexual preference, class, race, etc. in ways similarly and differently than those who date exclusively offline? Or, how do second-generation immigrants take advantage of the Internet to reshape society’s perceptions of them? How, for instance, do people’s conception of consumption change when faced with the new possibility of shopping online? How does our desire for power and pleasure manifest itself through online social networks? …the questions are endless…
Internet meet identity are both fascinating topics: we expect expect analyses that are both interesting and insightful. And that is the promise our presenters try to fulfill with their intriguing papers.
*Note: Due to an unforeseen scheduling conflict, Nicholas Boston will not be able to attend the conference.
[Paper titles and abstracts after the jump.]
In an earlier post, I wrote about the intersections of gender, technology, and economy using Apple’s “personal assistant” Siri as an example. With the recent release of the Japanese version of Siri, I thought I would provide an update on the available languages and their use of a default masculine or feminine voice.
As Langdon Winner aptly points out, artifacts have politics. They have politics built into them, are used with political intention, and interpreted through political lenses. Often times, however, the politics of an artifact are hidden from view, disguised, or misleading. Here at Cyborgology we often deconstruct the political meanings and implications of different kinds of artifacts. Today, I want to deconstruct two artifacts that operate with the potential for, and under the guise of, technologically facilitated feminist liberation. Specifically, I look at the Fuck Skinny Bitches internet memes, and the now vastly present and prevalent female-coded masturbation devices (i.e. vibrators and dildos)[i]. I argue that these artifacts, rather than dissolving hierarchical gendered boundaries of bodily control and sexual pleasure, surreptitiously trace over these boundaries with invisible ink, only to be revealed under the light of critical sociological analysis.
Recently, we have seen in influx of internet memes that attempt to provide a feminist rejection of hegemonic standards of the beautiful body. These memes contrast images of curvaceous women to very slender women and include text that preferences the larger body/bodies. These are portrayed as the feminist answer to the unrealistic body sizes showcased and revered on runways, red carpets, and the annually released Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition. I call these Fuck Skinny Bitches memes. A couple of examples are pictured below. (more…)
- Sometimes, we forget birthdays… (Image Credit: Someecards.com)
Last Tuesday, Slate’s editor David Plotz wrote about a social experiment he performed last July.
I was born on Jan. 31, but I’ve always wanted a summer birthday. I set my Facebook birthday for Monday, July 11. Then, after July 11, I reset it for Monday, July 25. Then I reset it again for Thursday, July 28. Facebook doesn’t verify your birthday, and doesn’t block you from commemorating it over and over again. If you were a true egomaniac, you could celebrate your Facebook birthday every day. (You say it’s your birthday? It’s my birthday too!)
Plotz’s Facebook wall was filled by well-wishers on all three of his “birthdays.” He writes,
My social network was clearly sick of me. I received only 71 birthday wishes on July 28, down from more than 100 on my first two fake birthdays. And even more skeptics caught on to the experiment: 16 doubters, compared with 9 from three days earlier.
Most of us here at Cyborgology have written at least one post about augmented warfare and revolution. I suggested that the panopticon has moved to the clouds, and PJ warns that we may soon see it descend into a fog. In the wake of the Arab Spring, we have all commented on what it means to have an augmented revolution (also here, here, and here). The Department of Defense is well aware of this global trend, and is dumping lots of money into understanding how to maintain what I will call online superiority. Just as nations fight for ground, air, and sea superiority in a given conflict, they must now maintain a presence in online meeting spaces. Surveillance and intelligence efforts have always been a part of warfare, and monitoring and disrupting information flows has always been a tactical advantage. While previous engagements in informational warfare have been about information exchange, what we see now are efforts to gain online superiority in order to directly disrupt physical, financial, or tactical resources.
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.