photo by John Hill

For all those folks whose only impediment to climbing Mount Everest has been their inability to Tweet updates while on the journey: your excuses are now dried up. Representatives from Ncell, Nepal’s main mobile network, announced recently that they have installed cellular service that reaches all the way to the top of Mount Everest, the world’s highest point. According to the Reuters report:

“The installation could help the tens of thousands of mountain climbers and trekkers who visit the Mount Everest region in the Solukhumbu district every year. They have to depend on expensive satellite phones to remain in touch with their families as the remote region lacks proper communication facilities.”

This development has interesting implications for the Cyborgology blog’s ongoing discussion of augmented reality and the limits of material experience. When we think about the material world being augmented by virtual content, we tend to think about it in an urban context, usually in tandem with marketing or networking efforts. But how do we begin to think about augmenting the reality that exists in the remotest and most dangerous of regions, like the summit of Mount Everest?

The statistics aren’t entirely clear, but best estimates say that the number of climbers who have successfully reached the summit of Everest only goes into the low two thousands, and at least two hundred of those who have attempted the climb have perished. Most of those who the mountain has claimed remain where they died, frozen into the rock for all time. Some of those bodies are plainly visible from established routes up the mountainside, mummified by the dry air and harsh wind at that altitude. That’s some pretty real reality right there. So how augmented could it get? more...

Here’s an interesting interview with Alice Marwick about how the “long tail” of the Internet the has reconstituted fame as a localized or “micro” phenomenon.

Contrary to the point made by Marwick, I think the important question is not whether will we get fifteen minutes of fame nor whether we will be famous to fifteen people, but whether we can have (or even desire) fifteen minutes of privacy.

While we do not necessarily use the term “cyborg” in the way Donna Haraway used it in her famous 1985 “Cyborg Manifesto,” Haraway’s work is of great importance to many of the topics covered on the Cyborgology blog.

As I see it, the primary takeaway from Haraway is the existence of a recursive relationship between technology and social organization.  More importantly, as each iteration of this relationship unfolds, there opens a new field across which power relations operate.  Haraway is far more optimistic than Foucault or Baudrillard, however, who opine about our inability to escape the techno-social system.  For Haraway, we become empowered by figuring out, and, subsequently learning to manipulate, the code that organizes society in any given technological milieu. more...

The Pew Internet & American Life Project has just released new figures on the use of what they are calling “location based” or “geosocial” services (e.g., Foursquare, Gowalla, or Facebook Places).  These services encourage social interaction through the sharing of location-based information.  Usage patterns break down along some interesting lines.  I have taken the liberty of compiling some tables for you.

Men are currently twice as likely to use geosocial services as woman. more...

This great video demonstrates some possibilities of how our increasingly augmented reality might look in the future. Data will be displayed all around us in interesting new ways. Information can be incidental, ambient, playful, and above all we are given a picture of an augmented reality not driven exclusively by advertising.

Media surfaces: Incidental Media from Dentsu London on Vimeo.

Last week, Kokoro Co. Ltd. released video of the latest iteration of its work in robotics, taking another step in the process of bridging the “uncanny valley”—the idea that the closer that robots and other non-human objects approach to looking authentically human, the stronger a reaction of revulsion, fear, or mistrust they inspire in their human observers. Kokoro is well-known in the robotics field for creating lifelike humanoid robots capable of recognizing and mimicking human facial expressions and body language. You may recognize the Kokoro name in reference to the I-Fairy, a humanoid robot that presided over a wedding in Japan last summer, and the Geminoid project, where customers can have themselves reproduced in silicone and wire.

The Actroid-F (the ‘F’ stands for female) robot was built and programmed to monitor patients in a hospital setting. Currently, programmers are teaching the robot to mimic patients’ facial expressions, and to recognize the differences in their smiles and grimaces. The result is a very lifelike robo-nurse that can be used to monitor the feelings and needs of hospitalized patients. On the surface, this seems like a good idea; we already use machines to monitor patient vital signs and administer life-saving medicines, so why not use machines to monitor patient morale? more...

Because I am usually trapped in the Sociology Department’s data dungeon on Wednesdays, I have decided to establish a recurring series of posts that discuss new trends or data.

Last week, I compiled some data from a 2005 Pew study to explore whether college students are using Online dating.  I’ve now replicated that chart for Pew’s 2009 data.What’s most striking about these data is their sizable departure from the 2005 data.  Particularly, because the movement is opposite of the expected direction (i.e., upward).  more...

Check out Aram Bartholl‘s amazing Dead Drops project that involves a whole bunch of USB thumb-drives sticking randomly out of walls in public spaces. You are walking in New York City, you see a little USB sticking out of a brick wall, and you just need to know what it is about, what files you can download from it, and perhaps what you’d like to upload back into this public information project. I just love that it imports the ethic of the free, open, public, massive creative projects that have a long history on the web to physical space. [via GBlog]Indeed, this theme of technology embedded in with the physical runs through much of Aram’s work. It fits into my argument that we currently live in an “augmented reality,” one where, as I have stated, “digital and material realities dialectically co-construct each other.”[check out] ~nathan

Cyborgology editors Nathan Jurgenson and PJ Rey discuss their take on “cyberbullying,” the recent rash of teen suicides, and the Internet’s role in providing social support to alienated teens.  The complete interview is now streaming.

check out this great comic about sexism on the web and the issues with calling it out [via Feminist Philosophers]