Archive for May, 2011

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

Why Journals are the Dinosaurs of Academia

Answer: They wield enormous (and terrifying) power, yet they are ill-adapted to function in a changing environment.

In most corners of society, it’s a become a trope to say that the Internet has changed everything; but online communication is still far from integrated into the norms and practices of the academy, whose pace of change and adaptation is nothing less than glacial. Anyone familiar with academic careers knows that conventional (read print) journal publications are the be-all end-all criterion in evaluating potential hires—the meaning behind the well-worn cliché: “publish or perish.”

The practice of using journal articles as the sole criterion in evaluating an academic’s productivity is an artifact of an epoch long-passed. In the age of the printing press, journals were, by far, the most efficient and enduring form of communication. They enabled disciplines to have thoughtful conversations spanning decades and continents. They also facilitated the transmission of the knowledge produced through these conversations to younger generations. In fact, it is nearly impossible to imagine the emergence of Modern science without existence of this medium. Thus, in the beginning, journals become symbolically and ritually important because they were functionally necessary. (While journals were medium du jour during Durkheim’s productive years, he surely would have recognized the reason behind their status in the cult of the academic.) Continue reading