An Amazon Prime Air Drone
An Amazon Prime Air Drone

The Victorians were into some weird stuff but one thing that could stand to make a comeback is a subgenre of speculative fiction called “utopian romance.” These books were somewhat light on plot and spent most of their pages describing utopian futures where everything you could ever want or need was directly at your finger tips. I suppose that is as good a way as any to work through the existential angst that persists in the face of incredible violence mixed with the lavishness of global empire. One person that was not too keen on these novels was a legal stenographer by the name of Ebenezer Howard. He was reading one such utopian romance called Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy which described something akin to Amazon: an enormous network of hyper-efficient delivery systems that could get you just about anything you want nearly as soon as you wanted it. more...

 

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Hello fellow bloggers! Today I want to give you some helpful tips and tricks for using Twittr.com. Twittr, also called Twitter or http://www.Twitter.com, is like Friendster but not as good. (They’re working on it!) Twittr is a social network based off of the Alfred Hitchcock movie The Birds and only lets you post 140 characters at a time but lets you tweet as many times as you want. The service is fairly limited (the company doesn’t even know what harassment is) but there’s still a lot of options so let’s dive right in!

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Hello Everyone,

We are excited to announce that co-editors David A. Banks and Jenny Davis will be guest editing a special issue of the open access journal Social Sciences on Social Media, Internet, and Society. The CFP is below and we hope to get lots of submissions from the extended Cyborgology family! CFP and submission instructions are below and here.

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Photo credit: Karri Huhtanen on Flickr

I sit too much. You probably do too. The rise of office jobs and screen-based work and leisure has taken its toll. Incredible advances in chair-comfort technology have made sitting irresistible. And if a cat crawls into your lap… forget it. That chair is your new home. Sitting is the new smoking. It’s killing you. Quick, run for the hills. Or better yet, buy an activity tracker. I guess.

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Unfortunately, sitting and smoking are two of my favorite things

I bought an activity tracker. For all of my distaste of the quantified self, I did it anyway. This isn’t a product review—I’m not interested in the strengths of weaknesses of various activity trackers paired against each other—but if you’re interested, I bought a Fitbit Alta because it is small and not ugly and it tells me when I get a text message, which is fun and exciting. What follows is a personal reflection on why I bought it, how it’s changed my day-to-day activity, and why I think these observations are significant.

I bought an activity tracker for three major reasons. First, I wanted to track my sleep. I’ve always had problems with sleep—too much, too little, not restful, so restful that I could be mistaken for a corpse, and so on. Some times I can get nine hours of sleep and still need an afternoon nap, and other times I can run on three or four hours of sleep without even noticing. This is actually a symptom of bipolar disorder, and part of managing my health is paying attention to my sleep and understanding how it can trigger mania and depression.

That leads me to my second reason: the silent alarm. I’m an early riser and (sometimes) a heavy sleeper. My husband is a late riser and a light sleeper. A silent alarm seemed like a good solution—I can get out of bed relatively quietly without pangs of guilt. Now we just need to replace all of the flooring in the entire apartment so it doesn’t sound like an ogre is walking through the kitchen.

Finally, I was enticed by the “get up and move” feature, which reminds you to walk around for 2-3 minutes every hour. At ten to the hour it sends me a polite and encouraging message like “Get up and move!” or “Want to take a walk?” When I reach my hourly step goal it celebrates my achievement. It fact, it celebrates everything I do. 7,000 steps? Here, have some excessive vibrations and fireworks! Sleep well last night? “Sweet, you met your goal!” It’s like a little digital cheerleader, patting me on the back for slightly decreasing my sedentary lifestyle.

Fitbit never shames me, which is more than I can say for myself. If you don’t meet your goal, no worries. No frowny faces or bright red alerts. It is only celebratory. This works for me, as self-flagellation is a bad habit of mine. Of course, there’s a practical element of this for Fitbit as a company; who wants to wear a wrist band that chastises you for watching a movie in the afternoon?

I’m surprised how much I like counting my movements. I bought this device with the expectation that I would send it back. I thought it might be annoying, or that I would feel guilty for how sedentary I am. Or, I thought it would just be a piece of crap that didn’t work. But I’ve had it for almost two weeks now and I still like it. I also forgot how nice it is to have a clock on my wrist. Whoever thought that up was really on to something.

But here’s what troubles me about how much I like this tracker—I bought it because I felt so out of touch with my own body. I find it comforting to know, as a quantifiable fact, that I am tired because I didn’t sleep well. I’m surprised by how often I need to be reminded to move. It’s not exactly shocking, but seeing the direct correlation between how much work I get done and how little I move is disturbing. It’s almost as if my mind is waging a war against my body, and the activity tracker is a UN diplomat trying to broker a peace.

It’s a deeply human experience to look for a techno fix for our problems; from the first weapons and tools made by pre-homo sapiens to the index card I taped over my annoying coffee maker light, there is a long human tradition of seeing a problem and inventing a technology to fix it. Sometimes a techno fix has a reasonable amount of success addressing particular problems, and sometimes it offers a misguided alternative that fails to address the root causes of inequality and social ills.

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So many problems can be solved with index cards and duct tape

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Works on Microwaves as well!

The activity tracker does a bit of both; it helps mediate the gap that I feel between my perception of my body and the material conditions of that body, but fails to address the structural conditions of a society that requires so many of us to sit at a desk for eight to nine hours a day, five (or six!) days a week. Until we shorten the work day, demand more breaks that allow us to be active in whatever way we are able, or diversify the types of work that require long periods of sitting, activity trackers are a bandaid on the bullet wound of sedentary lifestyles that are killing us.

OK, gotta go—I need 56 steps to meet my goal for the hour.

Britney is on Twitter.

Toilets are rife with politics. The things we do immediately before and after using the toilet are subject to all sorts of social and cultural power structures. Even getting a toilet in the first place can be swept up in the larger political debates about development and infrastructure investment. Everything from global finance to local political corruption can determine whether or not any given person on this planet gets to relieve themselves with comfort and dignity. It is a sad but true fact that an estimated 2.5 billion people do not have regular access to a toilet. Enter “The Nano Membrane Toilet” an invention from Cranfield University which uses state-of-the-art nano technology to make a toilet that does not require plumbing. Instead it needs batteries, regular servicing of complex and proprietary parts, and safe, dry removal of wax-coated solid waste. The decision to help fix this enormous problem is laudable but the Nano Membrane Toilet side-steps the real social and economic problems that keep people in unsanitary conditions. It might even create new, unintended sanitation problems. more...

Louis

The students in my Cultural Studies of New Media course are currently in the process of giving midterm presentations. The assignment was to keep a technology journal for a week, interview a peer, and interview an older adult. Students were to record their own and others’ experiences with new and social media. Students then collaborated in small groups to pull out themes from their interviews and journals and created presentations addressing the role of new and social media in everyday life.

Across presentations, I’m noticing a fascinating trend in the ways that students and their interviewees talk about the relationship between themselves and their digital stuff– especially mobile phones. They talk about technologies that are “there for you,” and alternatively, recount those moments when the technology “lets you down.” Students recount jubilation and exasperation as they and their interviewees connect, search, lurk, post, and click.

Listening to students, I am reminded that the contemporary human relationship to hardware and software is a decidedly affective one. The way we talk about our devices drips with emotion—lust, frustration, hatred, and love. This strong emotional tenor toward technological objects brings me back to a classic Louis C.K. bit, in which the comedian describes expressions of vitriol toward mobile devices in the wake of communication delays. For Louis, the comedic value is found in the absurdity of such visceral animosity toward a communication medium, coupled with a lack of appreciation for the highly advanced technology that the medium employs. more...

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From the beginning of his entrance into the race, we’ve been clamoring to categorize Trump, to understand where he fits into the political and cultural landscape. First, he was a flash in the pan, an inevitable “also ran” with whom voters would quickly lose interest. He’s an “outsider,” despite his bragging about pulling the strings of politics through political donations for decades. He’s a fascist, hell-bent on whipping up national fervor to undermine democratic institutions and further bolster white supremacist power. And, of course, he’s a troll just trying to get voters riled up.

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At Nancy Reagan’s funeral presidential candidate Hillary Clinton told MSNBC that the Reagans “started a national conversation about AIDS.” The response to that obviously false statement was swift and loud. Even Chad Griffin, the president of the Human Rights Campaign (which endorsed Clinton), tweeted “Nancy Reagan was, sadly, no hero in the fight against HIV/AIDS.” Clinton’s apology was posted to Medium the very next day. Picking a platform for a message goes a long way in picking the demographics of your message’s audience. The decision to use Medium for her apology was pitch perfect: older (and statistically more conservative) voters who watch cable news will see her praising the Reagans while younger voters who might turn to Medium to read the definitive take down of Clinton will find her own apology next to their favorite authors. More than just an apology though, the post goes on to give a small history of AIDS-related activism before going on to describe the present challenges facing those infected with HIV. More than an apology Clinton’s Medium post is an example of what I’m calling the “Explainer Candidate.” more...

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CW: Cissexism, genital mutilation, penis shaming

“You know what they say about men with small hands?”

—Marco Rubio

Shame and genitals go together like peanut butter and jelly. The story of Adam and Eve tells us just how enduring this shame is. With knowledge came shame, and their nakedness and the differences of their genitals started a downward spiral of fear—fear of our own genitals, and fear of others. From mutilation of the labia and clitoris, to castration, to the disturbing obsession with the state of transgender and nonbinary people’s genitals, we have been conditioned to judge, manipulate, and even destroy these most sensitive body parts. And I really, really wish we would stop doing that. more...

Polling

Horse-race style political opinion polling is an integral a part of western democratic elections, with a history dating back to the 1800’s. Political opinion polling originally took hold in the first quarter of the 19th century, when a Pennsylvania straw poll predicted Andrew Jackson’s victory over John Quincey Adams in the bid for President of the United States. The weekly magazine Literary Digest then began conducting national opinion polls in the early 1900s, followed finally by the representative sampling introduced the George Gallup in 1936. Gallup’s polling method is the foundation of political opinion polls to this day (even though the Gallup poll itself recently retired from presidential election predictions).

While polling has been around a long time, new technological developments let pollsters gather data more frequently, analyze and broadcast it more quickly, and project the data to wider audiences. Through these developments, polling data have moved to the center of election coverage. Major news outlets report on the polls as a compulsory part of political segments, candidates cite poll numbers in their speeches and interviews, and tickers scroll poll numbers across both social media feeds and the bottom of television screens. So central has polling become that in-the-moment polling data superimpose candidates as they participate in televised debates, creating media events in which performance and analysis converge in real time. So integral has polling become to the election process that it may be difficult to imagine what coverage would look in the absence of these widely projected metrics. more...