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One of the first news stories about the June 12th Orlando shooting that I read focused on the mother of a young man trapped inside Pulse nightclub, and the text messages that she had exchanged with her son. When I first read the story, the fate of the young man was not yet known, although his text messages had ceased by 3am, and his mother was quoted as having a “bad feeling” about the outcome. That day, as the names of the victims trickled out, I followed the news intently, hoping that somehow this young man’s name would not appear on the list of the deceased. But it did.

Like so many others across the country and the world in the wake of the Orlando massacre, I experienced an intense form of empathy for the victims and their families, made possible in part by increasingly timely and intimate forms of news gathering in the digital age. I read the news from a position of safety and security, but still felt that empty pit in my stomach, still had to stop in my tracks as the young man’s name came across my constantly updating Twitter feed. Millions of others felt something similar. But what becomes of all this empathy? more...

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One of the most interesting and unimagineable ideas about the nature of reality in the 21st century is that we are living in a computer simulation. Philosopher Nick Bostrum posed the question in Philosophical Quarterly (2003) this way: given the enormous computing power of any posthuman civilization, and the likelihood that they would run simulations to better understand their evolutionary history, it is entirely possible that we are living in a simulation created by a higher intelligence. Since Bostrum’s essay was published, many theorists have laid out reasons for entertaining the hypothesis, which are typically grounded in the mathematic nature of our current understanding of the universe. But I think we’re overlooking the most compelling argument in favor of the simulation hypothesis to date: the meteoric rise of Republican presidential candidate Donald J. Trump.

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For nearly six years Cyborgology has been dedicated to producing thoughtful essays and commentary about society’s relationship to technology. Writers enjoy significant freedom to write essays and stories of varying length, style, and topic. We are now looking for several new contributors to join Cyborgology.

What we are looking for: People willing to write about society, culture, and technology in an accessible but smart way. Contributions can take many forms and we are flexible about writing frequency. Scrolling through the last few months of Cyborgology is the best way to get an idea of the style and frequency of pieces we want to see. We are especially interested in writers from under-represented or marginalized subject positions. You do not need to be affiliated with any institution of higher learning but you do have to be comfortable writing about and through theoretical concepts. Of course writing schedules are very flexible and we are open to whatever work arrangement you can put together. The best way to know what kind of work we want is to read the site and check out our submission guidelines for guest posts.

The benefits of writing for Cyborgology: For better or worse, Cyborgology is a volunteer effort. None of us get paid and we do not anticipate that changing anytime soon. Writing for Cyborgology has, however, been known to open up new opportunities of a monetary nature. We are also proud to have a dedicated, smart audience that likes to share and discuss our ideas. Work on Cyborgology has also been linked to and shared by large media organizations including The New York Times, The Washington Post, Buzzfeed, Huffington Post, Pacific Standard, and many more. All writing on Cyborgology is covered under a Creative Commons attribution license and authors retain full control over their work. We are also a member of an awesome community of blogs and publications under The Society Pages umbrella.

How to apply: As our past and present contributors can attest– writing for Cyborgology is a strange animal. Therefore, we’ve done our best to simulate writing for Cyborgology in the application process. We want three polished writing samples between 500-1000 words, at least two of which need to grapple with a current event between now (July 18, 2016) and the due date which is September 1, 2016. It is totally fine to send us something you’ve published elsewhere or turned in for an assignment.  We may also ask if we can run some of your submissions as guest posts before we make any final decisions. Writing samples should be saved as either .doc or .docx and sent as an attachment to david.adam.banks [at] gmail.com. In the email please indicate the best email address to reach you, a short three sentence bio, and any other accomplishments you think we should know about. A full cover letter is not necessary.

The 2016 U.S. Olympic Women's Gymnastics Team

Every 2 years, Olympic trials provide the rare opportunity to watch people’s huge and impossible dreams coming true. I love the Olympic trials. All of them. I love them so much. If shoe-tying were an Olympic sport, I would be entirely rapt with the selection process.  However, I am especially enamored by women’s gymnastics (in trials and in The Games)—I trace this back to my own budding gymnastics career cut short at the fragile age of 8 when, upon receiving an invitation to join my gym’s competition team, my mom said Hell-No-Competitive-Gymnastics-Is-Too-Intense and signed me up for basketball.

So imagine my delight when I discovered and immediately dove gleefully into the podcasts, blogs, and Twitter feeds that make up the gymternet—a network of gymnastics enthusiasts who nerd out about the sport and its athletes.  I had (and still have) so much to learn.  Jessica O’Beirne’s  GymCastic podcast is like the mother of the gymternet. The podcast goes in depth with gymnasts, coaches, and experts, and is a must-do for many of the big names in the sport (see: McKayla Maroney’s interview after deciding to retire).  In the blogosphere, Lauren Hopkins’ Gymternet blog has shot into popularity, and includes gymnastics history lessons, commentary, FAQs and funny memes. Linking around through the contributors at both GymCastic and Gymternet leads to an array of additional fantastic content. more...

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CW: Discussion of assault

“It happened in the light of day, in a safe neighborhood, 200 feet from a police station.” Cut to a disembodied torso, a hand caressing the scars up the abdomen, panning up to a scarred chest and a woman with a soft expression. She is Kathy Roma, and in 2000 she was attacked by a stranger in broad daylight and stabbed repeatedly. Now, she serves as communications director for Nimb, “a smart ring that keeps you safe and sound.” The developers are currently raising funds on Kickstarter, with $186,530, far exceeding their goal of $50,000. more...

Fourth_of_July_2016_4534_1_Fireworkscredit to Fourandsixty

This July 4th, PBS viewers in the DC metro area were outraged to be reminded of the fact that they were watching television.

It’s actually not quite that simple, though it’s fun to phrase it that way. Here’s what happened: this past Monday was an extremely muggy and cloudy one in our neck of the woods; in other words, not at all the idea climatic conditions for a fireworks display. PBS, in something of a bind regarding how to maximize the spectacle for its live broadcast of the Independence Day celebration in front of the White House, elected to include archival footage of past fireworks displays with its live broadcast of the currently-happening fireworks.

People were displeased.

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Image credit: Kevin Dooley on Flickr

This is a follow-up post to this essay on accusations of censorship on Reddit and the unpredictable consequences of algorithmic quirks.

Reddit is the self-described “front page of the internet.” Millions of users rely on Reddit to keep them informed on a wide range of topics from world news to gaming developments to the latest in pictures of cute dogs (or, often as not, reposts of pictures of cute dogs). But what happens when the front page fails us, and how do Reddit administrators respond? more...

I grew up watching a lot of Star Trek. It would be an understatement to say that the franchise was a big part of my life. Immediately after the last episode of Star Trek: Voyager I cut off my hair. I took Enterprise as a personal insult. If I saw J.J. Abrams I’d probably try to blind him with a strobe light while yelling, “How’s that lens flare working for you?!” I was feeling much more optimistic about the new TV series incarnation under Bryan Fuller until a couple days ago when, in an interview with Collider he told a reporter asking about casting decisions: “I’ve met with a few actors, and it’s an interesting process. There’s a few people that we like and we want to carry on what Star Trek does best, which is being progressive. So it’s fascinating to look at all of these roles through a colorblind prism and a gender-blind prism, so that’s exciting.” I try not to notice the color of flags but I’m pretty sure I’m seeing red ones. more...

Williams Response

Before the first word was written, Orange is the New Black was already fucked.

In an essay we posted earlier this week, guest author Apryl Williams refers to the 4th season of Orange is the New Black as a spectacle, comparable to the lynch mobs that used the destruction of black bodies as a form of entertainment. In her excellent post, Williams especially laments the lack of a trigger warning accompanying the graphic death of a key black character, one which unapologetically mirrored the 2014 suffocation of Eric Garner. Had there been black writers, Williams contends, things would have been different—she would have been warned instead of just “entertained.”

Williams and others critique the writing decisions that played out in Season 4 and attribute the season’s missteps to a very white writing crew. Indeed, by Isha Aran’s careful calculation, exactly zero black people have been involved in writing Orange is the New Black across its 4 seasons.

Undoubtedly, Williams is right that the series, and the 4th  season in particular,  would have been generally better, and also more carefully written and produced, with a racially diverse staff. The issue of racial representation in the writing room is one that pervades the popular media industry, and Orange, a show about prisons that tells stories about race, is a cautionary tale. Rather than reimagine how much better the season could have been with the inclusion of writers of color, however, I think the critique of a whitewashed profession and industry stands strongest when we table the quality of the writing altogether. Because even if Orange is the New Black Season 4 had been the greatest story of our time, it would remain, unacceptably, told by the wrong people. more...

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Orange is the New Black’s newest season demands to be binge watched with its notorious twists at every episode style. When it came out on June 17th, I began my annual binge session and had completed it by Saturday, June 18th.

If you haven’t heard, the series delivered “The mother of all finales” at the end of this season. As I mourned the death of a major black character, I found myself simultaneously mourning the real deaths of Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Freddie Gray and the list unfortunately goes on. The stylized portrayal of a death in prison custody at the hands – or knee rather – of a white correctional officer was unmistakably close to Garner’s “I can’t breath.” Though those words were never uttered, anyone who has kept up with news in the last year would find haunting familiarity in the fictional inmate’s all-too-real gasps for air.

With her small frame and spine gradually being crushed by the full weight of the white correctional officer as she tried to breathe but failed, the imagery was almost too painful to watch. But I had come this far, I had to continue. At the end of the season, instead of falling into my usual “showhole” syndrome, I was angry and emotionally distraught. This had a visceral, personal effect and nobody warned me it was coming. As the other inmates grieved the death of their friend and urged those in charge to move her body, I wondered who was responsible for writing these scenes and this episode. Surely, a person of color would have cautioned against such tactics without ample viewer preparation. It appears as though the perspective of black viewers was not taken into consideration; a likely result of the limited representation we have in media production. Then I realized that to a white audience, a warning would not have the same meaning or importance. more...