Tagcyborg anthropology

Cyborgologist Nathan Jurgenson Interviewed On Mindful Cyborgs

Nathan Jurgenson This week cyborgologist Nathan Jurgenson joined Chris Dancy and me on Mindful Cyborgs. Nathan is the co-founder of the site Cyborgology, co-founder of the Theorizing the Web conference, a contributing editor at The New Inquiry and a sociology graduate student at the University of Maryland.

You can download or listen to it on Soundcloud or on iTunes, or just download it directly.

Here are a couple highlights from the transcript:

If you’ve taken a lot of photos, if you’re a photographer and you spend a lot of time with the camera in your hand or up your eye. You develop the thing that is called the “camera eye,” that is even when the camera is not at your eye you start to see the world through the logic of the camera mechanism. You see the world as a potential photo with a framing, lighting, the depth of field and so forth. And that’s called the camera eye and I think social media, especially Facebook, has given us the sort of documentary vision or the Facebook eye where you see the world as a potential Facebook post or tweet or Instagram photo.

That is you see the present as always this potential future past, this sort of nostalgic view of the present. I don’t think it takes us out of the moment. Some people say that, that you’re not experiencing life in the moment because you’re worried about posting it on Facebook. I think that’s just a different experience of the moment. But it’s worth debating whether that’s a better experience or worse experience.

What Eric Schmidt was getting at when he was talking about how using a smartphone is emasculating and you need to have this Google Glass that is somehow more masculine or something like that. It was really, I thought, offensive. And I think the correct reading of that was that the smartphone, now, everybody has a smartphone. How can you look like you’re a rich, powerful man if you have this thing that everybody has?

Well, there’s Google Glass now and again reinforces how what a cellphone used to do. When people see you wearing the Google Glass will say oh, well, you’re an important rich, powerful man. It’s really I think sad in sort of an offensive way to market that product. They’ve done a terrible job marketing Google Glass I think.

More show notes, plus the complete transcript, inside.

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Big Dada, IRL Fetish And More On Mindful Cyborgs Episode 2

Mindful Cyborg

Mindful Cyborgs: Contemplative living in the age of quantification, augmentation and acceleration.

Hosts: Chris Dancy and Klint Finley.

Listen or download on Soundcloud and iTunes.

Follow: Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest.

Transcript, show notes and more inside.

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Mindful Cyborgs Ep 1: Data Exhaust, Augmented Dating and Fractalnoia

Mindful Cyborg

Mindful Cyborgs is a new podcast (or internet radio show, if you will) hosted by Chris Dancy and me. The tagline is: “Contemplative living in the age of quantification, augmentation and acceleration.” In our first episode we talk about data exhaust, augmented dating, fractalnoia and more. You can listen to it or download it from Soundcloud or iTunes.

Show notes and full transcript inside.

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3 New Dossiers: Process Church of the Final Judgement, Amber Case, David Cronenberg

Three new dossiers are up:

The Process Church of The Final Judgement, the 60s cult.

Amber Case, the cyborg anthropologist.

David Cronenberg, the body horror film director.

Humanity’s Next Evolution May Be Mental, Not Biological

Mark Changizi, author of the upcoming book Harnessed: How Language and Music Mimicked Nature and Transformed Man, writes:

Where are we humans going, as a species? If science fiction is any guide, we will genetically evolve like in X-Men, become genetically engineered as in Gattaca, or become cybernetically enhanced like General Grievous in Star Wars. [...]

Simply put, none of these scenarios are plausible for the immediate future. [...]

We have already been transformed via harnessing beyond what we once were. We’re already Human 2.0, not the Human 1.0, or Homo sapiens, that natural selection made us. We Human 2.0’s have, among many powers, three that are central to who we take ourselves to be today: writing, speech, and music (the latter perhaps being the pinnacle of the arts). Yet these three capabilities, despite having all the hallmarks of design, were not a result of natural selection, nor were they the result of genetic engineering or cybernetic enhancement to our brains. Instead, and as I argue in both The Vision Revolution and my forthcoming Harnessed, these are powers we acquired by virtue of harnessing, or neuronal recycling.

In this transition from Human 1.0 to 2.0, we didn’t directly do the harnessing. Rather, it was an emergent, evolutionary property of our behavior, our nascent culture, that bent and shaped writing to be right for our visual system, speech just so for our auditory system, and music a match for our auditory and evocative mechanisms. [...]

The road to Human 3.0 and beyond will, I believe, be largely due to ever more instances of this kind of harnessing. And although we cannot easily anticipate the new powers we will thereby gain, we should not underestimate the potential magnitude of the possible changes. After all, the change from Human 1.0 to 2.0 is nothing short of universe-rattling: It transformed a clever ape into a world-ruling technological philosopher.

Seed: THE NEXT GIANT LEAP IN HUMAN EVOLUTION MAY NOT COME FROM NEW FIELDS LIKE GENETIC ENGINEERING OR ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE, BUT RATHER FROM APPRECIATING OUR ANCIENT BRAINS

(via Justin Pickard)

New Interview with Cyborg Anthropologist Amber Case

Cyborg Annthropology

Cyborganthropology.com, Cases website dedicated to the subject, identifies three categories of human-machine combo: “cybernetic organism”; “hybrid of machine and organism”; and “creature of both fiction and lived social reality.

“Case believes its the increasingly mobile internet and its ability to act as an extension of the brain—to store and share unique information with increasing automation and independence—thats turning more and more people cyborg. As Case says, shes not talking about Terminator, shes talking about the Facebook wall and the Twitter stream; how these technologies give us the ability to create an external version of our personalities with which others can interact in our physical absence.

She borrows the term “second self,” originally coined by sociologist Sherry Turkle, to describe this unique digital existence.”When people first went online, they had avatars and fake names and silly pictures and would play around with… multiple identities and it wasnt a big deal,” explains Case. “It was fun, it was play. Now, peoples identities are tied. You sign up to Facebook with your real name.

“Not only does the modern internet user create a second self thats more closely related to the person behind the machine, but their relationships with their computing devices are becoming more intimate. An integral aspect of Cases cyborg studies is to track these changes.

Portland Mercury: I, Cyborg

My interview with Amber is here.

Grinding Interviews Cyborg Anthropologist Amber Case

Amber Case

Grinding interviews cyborg anthropologist, and one of the most influential women in tech, Amber Case:

Reality is boring. Waiting in line at the DMV suck. Real life takes time. Digital life is more instantaneous. In real life, the time and space between goals and accomplishments is often large. For some, it is physically impossible to achieve certain things, like purchasing a Ferrari or rising above middle management in their career path. Online gaming, especially sites like Farmville step in to take care of that void. Whereas one doesn’t have the money, time or room for a real garden, Farmville provides one without the back aching labor. All reality is replaced by small icons, and time is compressed so that goals and accomplishments are right next to one another. Everything has a point value and a reward. When real life takes so long to reward someone, online gaming is often a better and more enjoyable alternative.

In the future, hybrid reality, or life which is both a game and real, might blot out the mild dystopia that we all live in. Or it will make us more intolerable of the space between reality. And for those who spend a lot of time in reality, Foursquare is a good add-on for making the mundane exciting. To be crass, one might say that Foursquare is kind of like dogs pissing on fire hydrants and having other dogs come along and sniff them to see who’s been there. The dog with the most potent urine is mayor of the fire hydrant.

Grinding: Talking with Amber Case

See also:

Here’s my interview with Amber

Here’s our conversation on hypersigils

John Robb’s response to Jane McGonigal’s TED talk

New Hearing Aid Uses Your Tooth To Transmit Sound

How Technology Made Us Humans


The Man of Year Million

In his book, “The Artificial Ape,” anthropologist and archaeologist Timothy Taylor makes the startling claim that we did not make tools, tools made us.

He reminds us that the oldest stone tools we’ve found are 2.5 million years old. But the genus to which we belong, Homo, is only 2.2 million years old, at least according to the current fossil record. Our species, Homo sapiens, has been around for less time than the gap between tool creation and our genus.

In a fascinating interview with New Scientist, Taylor believes “earlier hominids called australopithecines were responsible for the stone tools . . . The tools caused the genus Homo to emerge.”

How does that reverse the human-technology equation? Taylor believes that the creation of tools – in his example a sling to carry an infant – is “how encephalisation took place in the genus Homo.” The creation of technology to take care of infants allowed them to be born more helpless. In other words, the development of initial tech allowed evolutionary forces to shape us in a particular fashion. In fact, perhaps forced them to do so.

ReadWriteWeb: How Technology Made Us Humans

Will our brains shrink due to our external ones? Not necessarily. The current trend is a demand for more and more intelligent and educated people to operate and program those machines. Even though I’d like to see computers get easier to operate and program, I would still expect see a demand for humans to do increasingly complex work with them.

Medieval Cyborgs – Artificial Memory as Mindware Upgrade

Fuckin' RIFTS

Abstract:

The philosopher and cognitive scientist Andy Clark has argued that humans have always been ‘natural-born cyborgs,’ that is, they have always collaborated and merged with non-biological props and aids in order to find better environments for thinking. These ‘mindware’ upgrades (I borrow the term ‘mindware’ from Clark, 2001) extend beyond the fusions of the organic and technological that posthumanist theory imagines as our future. Moreover, these external aids do not remain external to our minds; they interact with them to effect profound changes in their internal architecture. Medieval artificial memory systems provide evidence for just this kind of cognitive interaction. But because medieval people conceived of their relationship to technology in fundamentally different ways, we need also to attend to larger epistemic frameworks when we analyze historically contingent forms of mindware upgrade. What cultural history adds to our understanding of embedded cognition is not only a recognition of our cyborg past but a historicized understanding of human reality.

Our cyborg past: Medieval artificial memory as mindware upgrade

(via Adam Greenfield)

See also: My interview with cyborg anthropologist Amber Case

Hypersigils reconsidered

Lain

Above: a still from Serial Experiments Lain

I’ve been thinking recently about Grant Morrison‘s “hypersigil” concept, but considering as not an occult/magical practice, but as as a cybernetic phenomena.*

It started as a conversation between my friends Nabil Maynard and Amber Case on Twitter on the subject of Serial Experiments Lain (which I haven’t seen). Amber said:

There were a ton of parallels between that show and my life, especially now, where my online presence affects offline interactions. [1]

My online presence actually creates who I am. It’s a machine that produces my identity and exists outside of me. [2]

That reminded me of hypersigils. Morrison explained hypersigils thusly:

The “hypersigil” or “supersigil” develops the sigil concept beyond the static image and incorporates elements such as characterization, drama, and plot. The hypersigil is a sigil extended through the fourth dimension. My own comic book series The Invisibles was a six-year long sigil in the form of an occult adventure story which consumed and recreated my life during the period of its composition and execution. The hypersigil is an immensely powerful and sometimes dangerous method for actually altering reality in accordance with intent. Results can be remarkable and shocking.

Experiment:

After becoming familiar with the traditional sigil method, see if you can create your own hypersigil. The hypersigil can take the form of a poem, a story, a song, a dance, or any other extended artistic activity you wish to try. This is a newly developed technology so the parameters remain to be explored. It is important to become utterly absorbed in the hypersigil as it unfolds; this requires a high degree of absorption and concentration (which can lead to obsession but so what? You can always banish at the end) like most works of art. The hypersigil is a dynamic miniature model of the magician’s universe, a hologram, microcosm, or “voodoo doll” which can be manipulated in real time to produce changes in the macrocosmic environment of “real” life.

-”Pop Magic” by Grant Morrison from The Disinfo Book of Lies, pg. 20. (For more information, listen to Morrison’s talk from DisinfoCon (also available on DVD)

Invisibles

Above: an image from The Invisibles. The character in the center wearing a suit is King Mob, the character from Invisibles that Morrison identified himself with. Below: a photograph of Grant Morrison from his web site.

grant morrison

There has been extended internet-drama on occult sites regarding what does and does not count as a hypersigil. I think Morrison is clear that the hypersigil takes the form of a serial narrative – whether that be a comic series, a movie trilogy, a series of songs or albums, or what have you. But others have made a compelling argument that the definition needn’t be so limited. Nick Pell, in his essay “Beyond the Sigil: Creating YR own Mind Viruses” in Magic on the Edge, makes a compelling case for this, using Shepard Fairley‘s “Andre the Giant has a Posse” and “Obey Giant” campaigns as examples of other types of extended, non-static sigils.

However, for purposes of this essay, I’m only going to consider “hypersigils” as narrative works- but I do want to consider narrative beyond strictly fictional narratives. For example, one can create a narrative in a personal blog or Live Journal or their Twitter or Facebook updates.

After suggesting a connection between hypersigils and cybernetics, Nabil replied:

The number of ways that hypersigilism applies to the internet/cybernetics is kind of staggering when you think on it. [1]

Think about something as basic as a myspace/facebook profile, the choices we make defining the online persona [2] which creates a manifest change in the offline world. [3].

The things we choose to place on the internet reflect and magnify the awareness of self to ourselves and those around us. [4]

hypersigil feedback

Above: a diagram I made illustrating feedback loops of perception in hypersigils

The way I see it, the online persona, fictional self, or avatar one creates can create feedback loops to reinforce behaviors and perceptions and have a create significant “real world” changes in a person’s life over time. In the case of Grant Morrison, he was also shaping his persona in the letters column of The Invisibles, in interviews he gave, and his public persona at comic conventions.

Nabil says: “I know of one person who used net-anonymity to explore gender before pursuing changing gender IRL.” [1]. I suspect that’s rather common. Also, to go back to my interview with Amber from last week, in which she gives advice to liberal arts majors looking to establish a career outside academia:

Create an online presence that is ubiquitous and enjoyable to interface with. Let it be known who you want to be. Put that on your business card and on your social profiles.

Which, of course, is exactly how she came to be a “cyborg anthropologist.”

So I find myself wondering: what is and isn’t hypersigilic activity online (and off?) Is creating an avatar on an MMORG? If so, what about playing a character in a pen and paper role playing game?

I think it depends on the role of online and offline feedback involved – if playing a character (online or off) changes the way you think of yourself and *especially* if changes the way OTHER people think about you, then yes – I think it does.

*There was some discussions on cybernetics and complex adaptive systems and the occult at Esozone: The Other Tomorrow lead by Joseph Thiebes, deadletter b, Wes Unruh, and Edward Wilson but I missed them. I suspect the overlaps have been discussed elsewhere, if the curious reader wishes to look.

See Also:

The Other Tomorrow Manifesto

Hypersigil, Hyperstition, or Simply Interesting Living?

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