Last week, Wiley-Blackwell held an online conference, entitled: Wellbeing: A Cure-all for the Social Sciences? I was an invited respondent for a paper that might be of  interest to Cyborgology readers called, “Internet Technology and Social Capital: How the Internet Affects Seniors’ Social Capital and Wellbeing.”  Below, I have reproduced my summary and comments more...

Facebook and other social-networking sites subsist on information, though not just any information. These sites have an insatiable appetite for the intimate details of their users’ lives. In fact, your personal information is a sine qua non for social-networking sites on two levels: 1.) People, primarily, use the Web to learn about the people and things they care about (like you). 2.) The same information that draws people to your profile, is useful in targeting advertisements to both you and your visitors.

Because these sites feed on personal information, they develop strategies to elicit such information from users.  For example, you may have to register and build a profile before accessing content.  The result as a sort of pay-to-play system where information is the common currency.  And, in order for this information economy to grow and intensify, it must continuously solicit new information and make more of the existing content public. more...

In the future, we will all probably have some Facebook skeletons. They might be regrettable pictures in various states of inebriation and/or undress, unfortunate status updates, etc. I’ve argued that the media has overblown these risks because, as the digital dirt on our collective hands becomes more commonplace, the stigma it carries will erode. However, the 2010 midterm elections in the United States suggest a point that I previously neglected: the stigmatization of digital dirt may be eroding, but eroding for whom?

It seems clear that the acceptance of a little digital dirt is occurring much faster for men than for women. And, what the 2010 elections made clear is that there is a double standard for women to keep a perfect online presence, while men are more easily forgiven. more...

We’re not living fully in our lives.  We’re living a little bit in our lives and a little bit in our Facebook lives.

Sherry Turkle has never failed to be a provocative and insightful theorist of human-technology interaction, but on this point, I could not disagree more.  Unfortunately, Turkle continues to reify the false dichotomy between the digital and material worlds.  We are NOT half in the digital and half in the virtual world.  Instead, we are all fully immersed into an augmented reality.

Moreover, I would argue that Second Life has become red herring in the digital/material debate.  Most Internet users don’t even know what Second Life is.  The paradigmatic example of online-offline interaction, at this historical moment, is Facebook, particularly Facebook mobile apps.

In any case, you can read the interview here and judge for yourself.

Rather than compiling my own charts this week, I have gathered a number of figures created by the Pew Internet & American Life Project that address in the US.  This first chart shows that it was only in 2008 that 50% of adults in America first had broadband access at home.  These data might not be the best representation of access, however, because we know that many people, particularly blacks and Hispanics, are accessing the Internet through mobile devices and may be living in urban environments where public wifi is ubiquitous more...

The brilliant blog Next Nature has posted a fantastic 1969 Playboy interview with Marshall McLuhan for you to enjoy. McLuhan is one of the most famous media theorists ever to write. Check it out.

Because all media, from the phonetic alphabet to the computer, are extensions of man that cause deep and lasting changes in him and transform his environment.

Marshall McLuhan

Body modification, a growing practice and subculture that now spans the world, has made extensive gains in merging the body with technology. Stretched earlobes, facial tattooing, and dermal implants have become more conspicuous as of late in many urban locales, and it is no longer surprising to find people going to greater lengths to modify their bodies in sometimes unique and shocking ways. For more examples, spend some time on one of the most popular online body modification community websites, Body Modification The site documents the diverse array of practices that members engage in to explore, test, stretch, and construct their bodies in new ways. (Warning: The content is not for the squeamish).

Particularly, I want to focus in on a few keen examples of the merging of body and technology, or as I call it, the new cyborg body. more...

This wonderful infographic was published last year in The Visual Miscellaneum, and has recently been posted online.  I thought the Cyborgology readers might appreciate a link.

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.