Posts Tagged ‘ cyborgs ’

Social Media: You Can Log Off But You Can’t Opt Out

We all know them: the conscientious objectors of the digital age.  Social media refusers and rejecters—the folks who take a principled stance against joining particular social media sites and the folks who, with a triumphant air, announce that they have abandoned social media and deactivated their accounts. Given the increasing ubiquity social media and mobile communications technologies, voluntary social media non-users are made increasingly apparent (though, of course, not all non-users are voluntarily disconnected—surely some non-use comes from a lack of skill or resources).

The question of why certain people (let’s call them “Turkle-ites”) are so adverse to new forms of technologically-mediated communication—what Zeynep Tufekci termed “cyberasociality”—still hasn’t been sufficiently addressed by researchers. This is important because abstaining from social media has significant social costs, including not being invited to or being to access to events, loss of cultural capital gained by performing in high-visibility environments, and a sense of feeling disconnected from peers because one is not experiencing the world in the same way (points are elaborated in Jenny Davis’ recent essay). Here, however, what I want to address here isn’t so much what motivates certain people to avoid smartphones, social media, and other new forms of communication; rather, I want to consider the more fundamental question of whether it is actually possible to live separate from these technologies any longer. Is it really possible to opt out of social media? I conclude that social media is a non-optional system that shapes and is shaped by non-users. Continue reading

Trust and Complex Technology: The Cyborg’s Modern Bargain

A few weeks back, I wrote a post about special pieces of technology (e.g., backpacks, glasses, a Facebook profile), which become so integrated into our routines that they become almost invisible to us, seeming to act as extension of our own consciousness. I explained that this relationship is what differentiates equipment from tools, which we occasionally use to complete specific tasks, but which remain separate and distinct to us. I concluded that our relationship with equipment fundamentally alters who we are. And, because we all use equipment, we are all cyborgs (in the loosest sense).

In this essay, I want to continue the discussion about our relationship with the technology we use. Adapting and extending Anthony Giddens’ Consequences of Modernity, I will argue that an essential part of the cyborganic transformation we experience when we equip Modern, sophisticated technology is deeply tied to trust in expert systems. It is no longer feasible to fully comprehend the inner workings of the innumerable devices that we depend on; rather, we are forced to trust that the institutions that deliver these devices to us have designed, tested, and maintained the devices properly. This bargain—trading certainty for convenience—however, means that the Modern cyborg finds herself ever more deeply integrated into the social circuit. In fact, the cyborg’s connection to technology makes her increasingly socially dependent because the technological facets of her being require expert knowledge from others. Continue reading

Equipment: Why You Can’t Convince a Cyborg She’s a Cyborg

Everybody knows the story: Computers—which, a half century ago, were expensive, room-hogging behemoths—have developed into a broad range of portable devices that we now rely on constantly throughout the day. Futurist Ray Kurzweil famously observed:

progress in information technology is exponential, not linear. My cell phone is a billion times more powerful per dollar than the computer we all shared when I was an undergrad at MIT. And we will do it again in 25 years. What used to take up a building now fits in my pocket, and what now fits in my pocket will fit inside a blood cell in 25 years.

Beyond advances in miniaturization and processing, computers have become more versatile and, most importantly, more accessible. In the early days of computing, mainframes were owned and controlled by various public and private institutions (e.g., the US Census Bureau drove the development of punch card readers from the 1890s onward). When universities began to develop and house mainframes, users had to submit proposals to justify their access to the machine. They were given a short period in which to complete their task, then the machine was turned over to the next person. In short, computers were scarce, so access was limited. Continue reading

The Cyborgology of “Blade Runner”

“We’re not computers, [...] we’re physical,” explains the Blade Runner‘s chief antagonist, a replicant named Roy Batty. In this moment of dialogue, Blade Runner engages a frequent themes of the Cyborgology blog—the implosion of atoms and bits, which we term “augemented reality.” In this statement, Roy unpacks the assumption that digitality and physicality are mutually exclusive, while, simultaneously, transcending the boundary between the two. Put simply, Roy is contending that computers cease to be mere computers when they become embodied. In contrast to the familiar theme of cyborganic trans-humanism, Roy is articulating (and embodying) the obverse theory: trans-digitalism.

This Copernican turn—de-centering humans’ role in understanding of the universe—is, undoubtedly, one of the great contributions of the cyberpunk genre (and science fiction, more broadly). Quite provocatively, it points to the possibility of a sociology, or even anthropology, where humans are no longer the direct object of inquiry. The question, here, shifts, from how we are shaped by and interact with our tools, to how technology itself becomes an actors (or even agents!) in a particular social milieu. Continue reading

Cyborgs and the Augmented Reality they Inhabit

The Cyborgology Blog has recently hosted much discussion on the topic of augmented reality (i.e., the co-constitution of online and offline, digital and physical). A few threads to follow as background are:

Digital Dualism versus Augmented Reality by Nathan Jurgenson

Virtual, Mediated, and Augmented Reality by PJ Rey

why i don’t like “augmented reality” by Sang-Hyoun Pahk

Defending and Clarifying the Term Augmented Reality by Nathan Jurgenson

I’d like to extend this discussion by clarifying the relationship between augmented reality and the namesake of the Cyborgology blog (i.e, the cyborg). The two concepts are intimately connected. Continue reading


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