The rant that anything digital is inherently shallow, most famously put forth in popular books such as “The Shallows” and “Cult of the Amateur,” becomes quite predictable. Even the underlying theme of The Social Network movie was that technology trades the depth of reality for the shallowness of virtuality. I have asserted that claims about what is more “deep” and “real” are claims to truth and thus claims to power. This was true when this New York Times panel discussion on digital books made constant reference to the death of depth and is still true in the face of new claims regarding the rise of texting, chatting and messaging using social media.

Just as others lamented about the loss in depth when moving from the physical to the digital word, others are now claiming the loss of depth when moving from email to more instant forms of communication. E-etiquette writer Judith Kallos claims that because the norms surrounding new instant forms of communication do not adhere as strictly to grammatical rules, the writing is inherently “less deep.” She states that

We’re going down a road where we’re losing our skills to communicate with the written word

and elsewhere in the article another concludes that

the art of language, the beauty of language, is being lost.

There is much to critique here. Equating “depth” to grammatical rules privileges those with more formal education with the satisfaction of also being “deeper.” Depth is not lost in abbreviations just as it is not contained in spelling or punctuation. Instant streams of communication pinging back and forth have the potential to be rich with deep, meaningful content. more...

Christina Campbell wrote an interesting piece for promoting a slacktivism campaign that encourages Facebook to broaden the way it defines relationships and to give users the option of a write-in box to describe their own relationships.  She provides several examples of how the rationalization of our lives for marketing purposes via the online profile ultimately serves to privilege some lifestyles while marginalizing others.

Useful visualization of what social network sites different areas of the globe are using.


Yesterday, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved a new set of rules regarding how Internet service provides (ISPs) must treat the data they transfer to individual Internet users.  The rules have been pitched as a compromise between the interests of two industries: On the one hand, content providers like Google, Facebook, or Amazon tend to favor the concept of “net neutrality,” which holds that all types of data should be transferred at the same speed and, ostensibly, creates an even playing field where start-ups can compete with industry titans.  On the other hand, ISPs like Verizon and Comcast want to charge for a “fast lane” that would bring content to consumers more rapidly from some (paying) sites than from other (non-paying) sites.  (A more extreme possibility is that ISPs would completely block certain sites that do not pay a fee).

The crux of compromise is that the new net neutrality rules will only apply to wired connections, leaving mobile connections virtually unregulated. more...

Life is rough for men wealthy enough to own an iPad: “how to carry it in a manner that is practical and yet, well, masculine.”

This is from a New York Times story that chronicles the danger of the iPad on a man’s masculinity, specifically, the need for a carrying case that does not look too much like –gasp!– a woman’s purse. The horror of appearing slightly feminine runs so deep that CNET ranks bags with a “humiliation index” (would be better to call it a “heteronormativity index”).

The story turns especially dark when we learn that Apple’s neglect has resulted in some men not being able to leave the house with their iPad. Or even worse, not buy one at all in fear of not appearing masculine enough. But there is hope for these rich males: “Scottevest plans to introduce an iPad-compatible blazer in time for Christmas.” See the manvertising here.

The Cyborgology editors dropped in on artist Jonathan Monaghan‘s studio to discuss his art and how it relates to technology and our contemporary world.

The impetus for my animation “Life Tastes Good” was seeing different depictions of polar bears on television. If they are selling soda, they are having a great time, if they are illustrating climate change, they are dying slow painful deaths. I decided to mix this disparate imagery into a new schizophrenic reality using the same 3d animation tools as those Coke commercials. These alternate digital realities I create in my work are both familiar and alien; playing with our desires, dreams and anxiety.

Jonathan Monaghan’s work is art in the age of hyperreality. Baudrillard offered hyperreality as a bloated, obese and dying environment liquidated of meaning, and here we see the simulated polar bear literally expiring on the screen. Monaghan has turned the simulated polar bear against itself by reintroducing it to the real. more...

Google Earth software [creates] a more realistic world that blurs the line between virtual life and reality and helps make the program look more like a variation of the Star Trek Holodeck.


It is long established that digital identity is a highly fluid concept. Since the earliest days of public engagement with the Internet, this has been a feature of the discourse: the realm of the virtual allows one to construct identity from the ground up, to assume a kind of control over self-presentation not possible in the realm of the flesh, to be or to seem to be anyone, anything, anywhere.

In practice, of course, this is clearly not the case–or not the whole case. Virtuality affords people a kind of power in the construction of the digital body that they do not have with their actual body. But when one presents the self online, they most often present that self in settings and contexts that other people have constructed. This is one place where problems with the presentation of the digital body tend to arise. When one plays in someone else’s garden, one might be expected to play by their rules. This is generally well and good, but things turn problematic when the “rules” involve the imposition of categories or identities that people may not accept.

This issue recently came to a head regarding deviantART’s “gender” field in its user profile. The trouble in question started when a user who identified as “neutrois” took issue with the fact that the choices in the field were restricted to male and female–there had been an “unspecified” option, but for unclear reasons it had been removed, forcing users to choose between only the two. There followed a number of exchanges with deviantART support personnel. These got rather heated, and it became clear that there was significant confusion on deviantART’s part regarding the difference between sex and gender (which amounts to the difference between genitalia and identity). In the end, though an “other” option was added, most people following the exchanges felt that it was not a satisfactory solution. more...

The premise of this blog is that technology is fundamental to our selves, lives and all of reality. And this point is best exemplified by Facebook. The site’s founder and CEO is TIME magazine’s 2010 Person of the Year. Is this the correct choice? Perhaps Julian Assange? Donna Haraway, anyone?

“African-American and Latino adults in the US who use the internet are twice as likely as whites to use the website Twitter.” [Note: it might be best to strike the words “the website” from that sentence since many access the service using other sites and mobile applications.]

Via the BBC.