The orange represents the intensity of Flickr images taken and geotagged to a particular area. The blue is Twitter use. Looking at New York City above, we see that people tweet from different places than they photograph. For example, tourists photograph some areas while people tweet more from work and home.
While the tide is turning, comics are still an under-appreciated medium in 2011. This despite increased interest in superheroes given the Hollywood treatment and critical attention to thoughtful indie pieces like Fun Home and Love and Rockets. It’s a shame because comics’ juxtaposed panels, their special way of framing time in terms of space, are well equipped to address those intersections of identity, technology, and visual representation that get so much play in mainstream and academic press. Image Comics’ Infinite Vacation is one new ongoing title that tackles those ideas head on.
Writer Nick Spencer is a rising star whose big hit, Morning Glories, blends teenage drama with the surreal paranoia of 60s TV thriller The Prisoner. In Infinite Vacation, Spencer teams with artist Christian Ward to tell the story of Mark, daily user of a ubiquitous, near-future technology which allows anyone to buy or sell their existence in parallel universes through a smartphone app; for $25,000 Mark can become the hero cop version of himself, and it’ll cost at least $3000 for him to become a Mark who did not just get walked out on by that mystery girl in the coffee shop.
Mark is a cyborg less like Robocop and more like the average Facebook user who presents their preferred self to the world via an array of edited images, clicked “likes”, and comments with friends (i.e., exactly how Cyborgology editors define the cyborg in their inaugural post). Identity definition and presentation through web spaces and consumer devices is a major theme in Infinite Vacation, whether it’s the RSS feed of your alternate selves’ lives and deaths or that mystery girl saying, “That thing in your hand isn’t worth shit to me…” when Mark tries to prove his seriousness by showing how expensive his app-assisted reality purchase would have been. A gorgeous opening spread (below) has infinite Marks fitted into generic male outlines, reminiscent of your chosen profile picture replacing the pale blue Facebook default. more...
While many write about the various ways that the Internet makes us less safe, namely cyberbullying or being attacked by someone you met on Craigslist, it is also important to look at the new possibilities the web creates to ease suffering occurring in the physical world. When the Cyborgology editors recently spoke to WYPR about cyberbullying, we also discussed cybersupport, as is the case of Dan Savage’s It Gets Better YouTube project. The folks at WYPR also pointed us to another interesting example, the Egypt-based Harassmap created by a group of volunteer techno-activists. According to this report [.pdf], 83% of Egyptian women and 98% of female travelers to this country report being harassed. Given the very limited legal recourse for women in Egypt, this online tool is one way to provide voice to the vulnerable.
The map above is a screen-shot from the Harassmp site. Women in Cairo can report incidences of sexual harassment from their mobile phones via text message. The incident that occurred in the physical world is then digitized as a plot on the map using the phone’s GPS. This provides the masses a reality now augmented with a digital layer that seeks to “act as an advocacy, prevention, and response tool, highlighting the severity and pervasiveness of the problem.” The story of social media is not just how it harms people, but also how it helps.
The Pew Internet & American Life Project has just released new figures on the use of what they are calling “location based” or “geosocial” services (e.g., Foursquare, Gowalla, or Facebook Places). These services encourage social interaction through the sharing of location-based information. Usage patterns break down along some interesting lines. I have taken the liberty of compiling some tables for you.
Men are currently twice as likely to use geosocial services as woman. more...