cw: suicide

This isn’t the essay I originally set out to write. That essay is sitting open next to this one, unfinished. But in being unable to finish that piece, I was inspired to write this one.

In January 2013, web developer and activist Aaron Swartz hanged himself in his New York apartment. At the time, Swartz was facing serious jail time for using a guest account on MIT servers to download millions of academic papers from the online journal repository JSTOR. Swartz, who was also integral in the development of RSS web feed format and the news aggregation site Reddit, sought to make publically available the academic content that JSTOR held behind its subscription paywalls.


From #whatshouldwecallgradschool titled "Reflecting Back on Grad School"
From #whatshouldwecallgradschool titled “Reflecting Back on Grad School”

Here is a list of skills that, as a grad student at one time or another, I’ve been expected to have with absolutely no offered training whatsoever: more...

Claire Lomas, promoted by the media as the “Bionic Woman” just made history and sparked inspiration by completing the London Marathon in 16 days.  Averaging about two miles per day, this woman with below-chest paralysis walked her 26.2 miles to finish proudly in 36,000th place. She did so with the help of a ReWalk suit, a supportive family, and the goal of raising money for spinal cord injury research.

The ReWalk suit resembles closely the Ekso suit that I wrote about previously and raises similar questions. They both enable people with spinal cord injuries to stand and walk. They are heralded by the companies as tools to enhance rehabilitation, mobility, and dignity. They also both leave me with the same uncomfortable uncertainty: is this progress or ableism? (See link above for a full delineation of this uncertainty and a lengthy discussion in the comments section). more...

Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA) is the sponsor of the "Research Works Act"

It seems as though Congress, having grown tired of pissing off large swaths of the country, are now opting to write bills that anger a very particular group of people. Almost a month ago, on December 16, 2011, California Republican Congressman Darrel Issa introduced the “Research Works Act” which would kill government-assisted open-access journals. As PJ said before, journals (especially the closed private ones) are the dinosaurs of academia and as Patricia Hill Collins later noted, more...

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...