Search results for digital dualism

2MRYUkUWhat causes someone to turn to radical ideology and violence? It’s an important question, and one that has occupied the pages of many a newspaper, magazine, and blog as of late. In the case of ISIS, blame gets directed at many targets—the “backwardness” of Islamic beliefs, decades of military actions in the Middle East, global warming, Western-backed corrupt governments in the region, and of course, the internet. As Kashmir Hill notes in this excellent essay:

“Technology and the internet are being invoked in fearful terms because it is easier to point the finger there than unpack the multifold and complicated reasons behind these acts—the growth of hateful ideologies, racial and ethnic tensions, the ease of buying semi-automatic weapons, the long-term effects of an ongoing war waged by drones, and twisted minds that embrace violence.”


American Beauty computer prison

Otherwise productive conversations on online harassment hit a brick wall when it comes to enforcement. Community enforcement does not always work because community standards are often the reason harassers feel comfortable harassing in the first place. Appeals to external or somehow impartial moderators or enforcers might work really well, but then what do we do with the offender; especially the really bad ones that might follow through on their threats and need to be isolated or restrained in some way? This is a perennial problem of societal organization and we are just now starting to come to terms with how this old problem manifests through digital technologies. Exacerbating this issue is the state of our current law enforcement and judicial process and the renewed attention to its very basic flaws thanks to the Black Lives Matter movement and allied progressive and radical communities. It is difficult if not impossible for anyone that considers themselves left of progressive to unthinkingly prescribe police enforcement and jail time for someone that breaks the law, no matter how much we agree with that law. How then, do we deal with today’s news that a Kentucky county clerk is now in federal prison for refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples? more...

Image Credit: Kris Krüg
Image Credit: Kris Krüg

When someone starts talking about privacy online, a discussion of encryption is never too far off. Whether it is a relatively old standby like Tor or a much newer and more ambitious effort like Ethereum (more on this later) privacy equals encryption. With the exception of investigative journalism and activist interventions, geeks, hackers, and privacy advocates seem to have nearly universally adopted a “good fences make good neighbors” approach to privacy. This has come at significant costs. The conflation of encryption with privacy mistakes what should be a temporary defensive tactic, for a long term strategy against corporate and government spying. It is time that we discuss a new approach. more...


(Image from the People’s Climate March Facebook page:

When it comes to data analysis, sometimes non-findings speak louder than findings. Particularly when non-findings shine a light on questions that aren’t being asked.

 On 21 September 2014, UMd Professor of Sociology Dana R. Fisher took a small army of friends and graduate students to New York City to survey demonstrators at The People’s Climate March (PCM). The PCM survey is part of a longer thread of Dr. Fisher’s research, which surveys protestors to get a better understanding of who protests, how they are mobilized, and how their participation in protests relates to other forms of civic engagement they may partake in. Nate Silver’s data-nerd playground sent a film crew to follow us to make a short documentary of our experience. The doc is part of their series The Collectors, a look at how scientists can apply rigorous research methods to a variety of unique settings outside of the laboratory.

The PCM’s greatest appeal—the thing that got us all up before dawn on a Sunday to take a bus from DC to Manhattan—was the sheer volume of potential data it made available to us. While more conservative estimates put the number of demonstrators at around 100,000, PCM organizers themselves suggest that it was closer to four times that. In any case,, who planned the march in collaboration with a long list of partner organizations, trumpeted the event as the “largest climate march in history.” By all accounts, they were right; the PCM was the brightest star in a constellation of nearly 2,600 simultaneous climate protests happening all over the world that day.

This thing was big, it was global, and it mobilized a lot of people.

Part of’s plan was to arrange protesters into neat blocks, according to where they fit along a spectrum of participant identities and organizational affiliations. Their hope was to organize participants into city-block-sized sections that would each represent a single unified ideological or social position. The map below details what these blocks were supposed to look like, and who was supposed to fill them during the assembly period before the march began. more...

Meet the folks who make the Cyborgology Blog happen.


David A Banks (@da_banks) is a writer, researcher, and teacher. He is co-chair for Theorizing the Web, editor-at-large for Real Life, and Associate Research Advisor for the Social Science Research Council. His work has also been featured in Real Life, The New Inquiry, The Baffler, Tikkun Magazine, The Altand McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. David’s work focuses on the geographies of authenticity: how places buy and sell their histories to visitors and potential new residents, usually on social media. He’s also interested in the ideological training of engineers. When he isn’t writing he is watching Star Trek with his partner Britney and their two cats. 

unnamedJenny Davis (@Jenny_L_Davis) is a lecturer in the School of Sociology at the Australian National University. She studies identity, culture, and technology. She approaches her research theoretically and methodologically from multiple directions, utilizing formal theory and experimental work, participant observation and ethnography. She is engaged in several ongoing projects which often make guest appearances—in varying forms—through the content of her blog posts. Her publications appear in Sociology, Communication, and Interdisciplinary journals. An active proponent of accessible scholarship, you can find select articles un-paywalled on her page. When she’s not teaching, writing, or editing Cyborgology, she’s running amok after three particularly high-energy dogs.

Regular Contributors

Profile 10Crystal Abidin (@wishcrys) Dr Crystal Abidin is an anthropologist and ethnographer. She researches vernacular internet cultures and study young people’s relationships with internet celebrity, self-curation, and vulnerability. Her current projects look at contemporary internet folklore, grief and death in digital spaces, romance and coupling in public spaces, and mixed heritage. She is presently finishing up two monographs on blogshop culture and the Influencer industry. Crystal is Postdoctoral Fellow with the Media Management and Transformation Centre (MMTC) at Jönköping University, Researcher with the Swedish Retail and Wholesale Development Council, and Adjunct Research Fellow with the Centre for Culture and Technology (CCAT) at Curtin University

Nathan Ferguson (@natetehgreat) is a writer who lives in Columbia, MO. He has a BA in creative writing and is interested in narratives – their affordances as a technology and in conjunction with other technologies, e.g. mass media and digital platforms, but also race, gender and carceral systems. When he’s not writing for Cyborgology or occupied at his desk job, he is active in the Mid-MO DSA chapter, learning to cook, hanging out with his girlfriend B or probably somewhere petting a cat.

Maya Indira Ganesh (@mayameme) Maya is an Indian feminist researcher, writer, and activist living in Berlin where she works with Tactical Technology Collective as the Director of Applied Research. At Tactical Tech, she works as an in-house writer, leads the organisation’s projects on Gender and Technology, and does research to support the organisation’s work on the social and political implications of living in a data society. She has a particular interest in ethnographic approaches to how individuals and communities interact with technology, from in-depth portraits of mobile phone use by women, and queer people in Bombay, to how LGBTQ, black, mixed race, and working class activists in Kenya and South Africa negotiate privacy and security in using technology for organising and activism. She conducted one of the first studies of Indian women’s online spaces in 2008, identifying patterns of online harassment, and intimacy, in the Indian internet. She has Masters degrees in Applied Psychology (Delhi, 1997) and Media and Cultural Studies (Sussex, 2007), and is a doctoral candidate at Leuphana University, Lüneburg studying how ethics is being shaped in terms of accountability for artificial intelligence in autonomous vehicles.

gabi-schaffzinGabi Schaffzin (@GabiSchaffzin) is pursuing his PhD in Art History with an Art Practice concentration at the University of California San Diego. His art and research consider the visual representation of pain and illness in a technologically mediated world dominated by a privileging of data over all else. You can see the emerging dialog between his research and artistic practice—much of which draws on the imagery and rhetoric of advertising and product design—at

PhotoBrownIntroMarley-Vincent Lindsey (@MarleyVincentL) is a doctoral student in history at Brown University. He was happily studying Medieval Europe and the Hispanic Atlantic in college when he took a class called “Critical Videogame Studies.” Upon realizing people could (and should!) take the web seriously, he started writing about games, digital media and the digital humanities. Currently, he’s thinking about how the web transforms old questions asked by historians, how historical tropes are currently used and transformed online, and how people will write histories in the future (hint: with archives of memes and messengers.) In his spare hour, he’s probably playing Pokémon or exploring cities.

Facetune_23-03-2018-21-23-19Jessie Sage (@sapiotextual) is an independent scholar interested in sex work advocacy, feminism, and reproductive justice. She has received an MA in Philosophy from Duquesne University, a Graduate Certificate in Women’s and Gender Studies from Duquesne University, an MA in Theology from the Graduate Theological Union at UC Berkeley, and a BA in philosophy from the University of San Diego. She has taught philosophy, ethics, and women’s and gender studies at Duquesne University and Chatham University, and has also worked as a doula. She currently works as a Pittsburgh based alternative model, clip producer, phone entertainer, and feminist activists. She is the co-creator, producer and host of the Peepshow Podcast (, a podcast which brings together sex workers, writers, activists, artists, and journalist to talk about issues of sex and social justice; and the co-founder of Pittsburgh’s Sex Worker Outreach Project (@PghSWOP).


Britney Summit-Gil (@bsummitgil) is a PhD student in Communication and Media at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Her research includes mass media representations and the negotiation of identity in digital environments, specifically constructions of masculine identities. She’s interested in bridging traditional humanities-based approaches with qualitative sociological methods, such as textual analysis informed by ethnographic inquiry. Her academic focus includes community building online, the “postfeminist” media landscape, and the various ways people interpret mass media texts from television and film to inform their understanding of the world. Using affect theory, rhetorical theory, and cultural and media studies approaches she tries, with varying degrees of success, to map the intersections of mass media, digital media, and capitalist ideologies. She lives in upstate New York with two awesome cats and her spouse David Banks. In her spare time she makes cookies, watches trash TV, and browses Reddit because “research.”

unnamedSarah Wanenchak (@dynamicsymmetry) is a doctoral candidate in sociology at the University of Maryland, where their work concerns technology and social movements and how emotion and meaning evolve when the two merge. They have also written extensively on the intersections of social justice, narrative, and video games, and their essay work has been featured in The New Inquiry. They write science fiction and fantasy under a pseudonym and have published several novels to date, and their short fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies and magazines, as well as in multiple Year’s Best collections. They spend way too much time yelling about things on Twitter.

Past Contributors

weboesel_bio_picWhitney Erin Boesel (@weboesel) is a researcher at both the Berkman Center for Internet & Society and the MIT Center for Civic Media, where she uses qualitative methods and network analysis to study framing and influence in online media (particularly as related to sexual and reproductive health and rights). She is a co-chair of the International Workshop on Misogyny and the Internet (Cambridge, June 2015), an organizer of the annual conference Theorizing the Web (NYC), and an organizer of the unconference Point to Point Camp (Cambridge, May 2015); in her “spare time,” she continues her ongoing (since 2010) ethnographic study of the group Quantified Self and does occasional freelance writing. Her Masters thesis focused on direct-to-consumer genetic testing, personal genomics, and self-tracking practices as part of a new form of biomedicalization that she cheekily terms “biomedicalization 2.0”; her undergraduate thesis was a three-act play. Her other major (academic) interests include social media, sex and gender, and the sociology of emotion; her theatre scripts have been performed in Cambridge, MA, and her creative writing has appeared both under her legal name and under various pseudonyms. [Whitney uses her full name in professional or formal contexts, and her last name is pronounced “basil”—like the herb.]

unnamed-1Robin James (@doctaj) is Associate Professor of Philosophy at UNC Charlotte. She is author of two books: Resilience & Melancholy: pop music, feminism, and neoliberalism will be published by Zer0 books in early 2015, and The Conjectural Body: gender, race and the philosophy of music was published by Lexington Books in 2010. Her work on feminism, race, contemporary continental philosophy, pop music, and sound studies has appeared in The New Inquiry, Noisey, SoundingOut!, Hypatia, differences, Contemporary Aesthetics, and the Journal of Popular Music Studies. She is also a digital sound artist and musician. Her website, which has PDFs of all her publications, is

dave_stroheckerDavid Paul Strohecker (@dpsFTW) is getting his PhD from the University of Maryland, College Park. He studies under Patricia Hill Collins and George Ritzer, focusing on issues of intersectionality, consumption, and popular culture. He got his BA in 2009 from Texas A&M University, where he studied under Joe R. Feagin, and wrote for the blog He currently studies popular culture, but remains interested in issues of race relations, white privilege, and gender inequality. He is currently doing work on the popularization of tattooing, a project on the revolutionary pedagogy of public sociology, and more theoretical work on zombie films as a vehicle for expressing social and cultural anxieties.

Founding Editors

Nathan Jurgenson1383927_10201972285645410_1908949741_n (@nathanjurgenson) is a social media theorist, contributing editor at The New Inquiry, a researcher at Snapchat, and a sociology graduate student at the University of Maryland. The research is driven most fundamentally by the understanding that we increasingly live in an “augmented reality,” a perspective that views the digital and physical as enmeshed, opposed to viewing them as distinct (what he calls “digital dualism”). Nathan is also interested in and has published on how social media has triggered the rise of the digital “prosumer” (one who produces that which they consume and vice versa). Most recently, Nathan has been writing about surveillance, privacy, visibility, and the self. This is being applied to social media and photography for a forthcoming book, and in other work, the design of social platforms around ephemerality and metrics.

unnamed-2PJ Rey (@pjrey) is a PhD candidate at the University of Maryland. He co-founded the annual Theorizing the Web conference and the Cyborgology Blog together with Nathan Jurgenson. His MA thesis argued that social media is an environment where exploitation thrives in a relative absence of alienation. He is beginning dissertation research examining digitally-mediated sex work with a particular interest in how such work is experienced as embodied interaction. When not dissertating, he dabbles in portrait/event photography and hifi geekery.

Guest Authors

Nilofar Ansher (@culture_curate) is pursuing her Master of Arts in Ancient Civilizations from the University of Mumbai, India. She is an editor, writer and researcher and blogs at

Jeremy Antley (@jsantley) is a writer/student/gamer who currently lives in Portland, OR and writes on all sorts of interests on his blog, Peasant Muse.

Sally Applin (@AnthroPunk) is a Ph.D. Candidate at the University of Kent at Canterbury, UK, in the Centre for Social Anthropology and Computing (CSAC). Sally researches the impact of technology on culture, and vice versa.

Mike Bulajewski (@MrTeacup) is a Master’s student in Human-Centered Design & Engineering at the University of Washington.

Piergiorgio Degli Esposti (@pgde) studies Market and Consumption Behavior and is Assistant professor at Bologna University, Italy and a Marketing Consultant.

Ned Drummond (@maneatingflower) is a designer and artisan currently living in Washington, DC.

Nathan Fisk (@nwfisk) is a danah boyd fanboy and adjunct lecturer teaching “Youth and Teens Online” in the Science & Technology Studies department at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Doug Hill (@DougHill25) is a journalist and independent scholar who has studied the history and philosophy of technology for fifteen years. More of this and other technology-related topics can be found on his blog, The Question Concerning Technology.

Rob Horning (@marginalutility) is an editor of the New Inquiry.

Airi Lampinen (@airi_) is a graduate student in Social Psychology at the University of Helsinki, Finland, and a researcher at Helsinki Institute for Information Technology HIIT. Currently, she is interning at Microsoft Research New England.

Tanya Lokot (@tanyalokot) is a second-year PhD student at the University of Maryland, College Park, pursuing a degree in journalism and media studies. Her interests include social social movements, urban protest in post-Soviet countries, digital media, augmented dissent, memes and data visualization.

Cheri Lucas (@cherilucas) focuses on literary nonfiction and memoir on her blog, Writing Through the Fog, and explores ideas on the self, relationships, social media, memory, and home in a physical-digital world. She is based in San Francisco.

Timothy McGettigan is a professor of sociology at Colorado State University – Pueblo.

Christine Moore (@thisthingblows) studies sexuality and is currently pursuing her Masters in sociology at the University of Texas San Antonio. She reluctantly tweets.

Sang-Hyoun Pahk is a sociology student at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Dave Parry (@academicdave) studies how the digital network transforms our political relations. He is an assistant professor of Emerging Media at the University of Texas at Dallas. His work can be found at

Matt Rafalow is a Ph.D. student in Sociology at University of California, Irvine, studying intersections of technology, youth, and social inequality.

George Ritzer is a distinguished professor at the University of Maryland and the author of many books including The McDonaldization of Society and Enchanting a Disenchanted World.

L. M. Sacasas (@FrailestThing) is a PhD student in the University of Central Florida’s “Texts & Technology” program exploring the intersections of bodies, spaces, and technology. He blogs at The Frailest Thing.

Evan Selinger (@evanselinger) is an associate professor of philosophy at Rochester Institute of Technology.

Behzod Sirjani (@beh_zod) is a PhD Student in Media, Technology, and Society at Northwestern University. He thinks out loud frequently on Twitter and on his blog.

Marc Smith (@marc_smith) is a sociologist specializing in the social organization of online communities and computer mediated interaction. Smith co-founded the Social Media Research Foundation, a non-profit devoted to open tools, data, and scholarship related to social media research.

Bonnie Stewart (@bonstewart) is an educator, writer, and Ph.D student exploring social media subjectivities at the University of Prince Edward Island, Canada.

Francesca Tanmizi is an ex-Sociology major at Loyola Marymount University who only realized she missed writing Sociology essays after graduation.

Samuel Tettner is a Venezuela-born globally situated cyborg, interested in science, technology and their critical and empowering understanding, currently pursuing a Masters degree in Society, Science and Technology in the Netherlands.

James Vincent (@jjvincent) is a writer and journalist from London. He tweets in a generally noncommittal fashion.

Samuel Zwaan (@mediawetenschap) is a teacher and student in Media Studies at Utrecht University.


Latest in the arsenal of moralpanic studies of digital technologies is a recent article published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior, written by psychologists and education scholars from UCLA.  The piece, entitled: “Five Days at Education Camp without Screens Improves Preteen Skills with Nonverbal Emotion Cues,” announces the study’s ultimate thesis: engagement with digital technologies diminishes face-to-face social skills. Unsurprisingly, the article and its’ findings have been making the rounds on mainstream media outlets over the past week. Here is the abstract: more...

Online Dating2

Romantic love occupies a significant amount of space in both popular culture and, often, the human psyche. It is why the girlfriend activation system free download has access to pieces of information when it comes to romantic love. It is the muse of artists, musicians, and poets; the downfall of great characters; the impetus for sheer giddy joy, deep comfort, and the sharpest most debilitating pain. Truly, what else matters when you’re in the arms of a lover? What else is of import after a lover breaks your heart? Of course, romantic love, as conceived in the contemporary West, has an end game: marriage and/or life partnership along with the formation of a family.

This has not always been the case, and is not the case everywhere. The notion of romantic love began with knights and ladies of nobility and had nothing to do with marriage, or even sex, while arranged marriages and dowry agreements have little to do with romantic love.  That is, the coupling of love with marriage is not compulsory, but culturally constructed as such. And it strikes me, when I think about it, as a bit of an odd couple. more...

Earlier this week, I became aware of an art piece called “x.pose,” which is intended to make a statement about the data exhaust we generate and what large companies may or may not be doing with it. x.pose is a collaboration between two artists, and the first paragraph in a description of it on one of their websites reads as follows:

x.pose is a wearable data-driven sculpture that exposes a person’s skin as a real-time reflection of the data that the wearer is producing. In the physical realm we can deliberately control which portions our bodies are exposed to the world by covering it with clothing. In the digital realm, we have much less control of what personal aspects we share with the services that connect us. In the digital realm we are naked and vulnerable.

First, yes: digital dualism. I’ll set that point aside and come back to it later. Right now, I want to focus in on that first sentence, particularly where it says “exposes a person’s skin.” A person—sure, that could be any of us.[i] The sculpture exposes “skin” belonging to a person, a wearer. Data exposure is like bodily exposure. That’s not gendered, right?

Actually, it’s quite gendered. While x.pose draws attention to some important issues, it also starts from a number of problematic assumptions and reinforces some of the most sexist and patriarchal strains of privacy critique. Just in case you had any doubt, here’s what the piece looks like:

Newsflash: We can’t all wear that.


Image From Jeremy Brooks
Image From Jeremy Brooks

The wearable is going through an adolescence right now. Products like Google Glass, Oculus Rift, or the Pebble smartwatch are a lot like teenagers: They’ve come into their own, but still aren’t sure about the place in society. They are a little awkward, have problems staying awake when they need to be, and they attract derision by the New York Times. And just like human adolescence, this phase probably has a horizon. People could warm up to the idea of face computers, battery life will get better, and (eventually, hopefully) the public will learn to ignore Ross Douthat. But for right now, the wearable is in a precarious situtation. Are wearables like Glass relegated to the same fate as Bluetooth earpieces and the Discman, or can they be saved? Is the entire category irredeemable or have we yet to see the winning execution? more...

Panel Preview

JoAnne McNeil (@jomc)

Hashmod: Lauren Burr (@burrlauren)

This is one post in a series of Panel Previews for the upcoming Theorizing the Web conference (#TtW14) in NYC. The panel under review is titled Streetview: Space, Place, and Geography

It is difficult, if not impossible to talk about the Web without using physical metaphors to describe digital configurations. “The Web” after all isn’t really a web at all… Or is it? Offices, hydroelectric dams, bodies, and miles upon miles of interconnecting strands of copper, fiber, and electromagnetic signals makeup this amorphous thing that we call The Web. The panelists in Streetview aren’t talking about metaphors but are actually illuminating and revealing the physical contents and infrastructure of the web. Sites that seem  ephemeral and intangible to most of the world, are real flesh and mortar offices for a select few. It is this select few that gentrify entire metropolitan regions and run server farms that consume a city’s worth of fossil fuels. The Web is also deeply enmeshed in our own lives as it serves up wayfinding tools and documentation repositories.