An Illustrated Dictionary of Cyborg Anthropology by Amber Case

Posted by on December 28th, 2011

Amber Case, Cyborg Anthropologist (who we’ve interviewed here) has produced this excellent dictionary of terms for her field.

For those who came in late…

Cyborg Anthropology is a way of understanding how we live as technosocially connected citizens in the modern era. Our cell phones, cars and laptops have turned us into cyborgs. What does it mean to extend the body into hyperspace? What are the implications to privacy, information and the formation of identity? Now that we have a second self, how do we protect it?

This text covers various subjects such as time and space compression, hyperlinked memories, panic architecture, mobile technology, interface evaporation and how technology is changing the way we live.

But wait, there’s also cute illustrations by Maggie Nichols, like this one for Hyperlinked Memories:

I just bought mine, perhaps this is why you should cash that cheque from the Chemical Bank your nan put in your holiday card?

Futurama and Orkut – mind-swapping and projected identities

Posted by on August 24th, 2010

I was very disappointed with the recent Futurama ep Lethal Inspection, in which Bender learnt he was created without the online backup unit that made all other robots immortal. To me, this would’ve been the perfect opportunity to rip on mind-uploading; have Professor Farnsworth mocking Ray Kurzweil’s head-in-a-jar, asking him what happened to that Singularity of his.

So when this most recent episode of Futurama, The Prisoner of Benda, did some genuine SF for once, exploring the relationship between body and identity, I thought it deserved props. Also, because it was hilarious, and peaked with this insane scene (SPOILER):

Futurama Thursdays 10pm / 9c
Leela and Fry’s Mutual Attraction
Futurama New Episodes Big Lake A New Comedy from Will Ferrell and Adam McKay

This is what I want from my SF; crazy human, alien, robot body-swapping action. (Versus lame iPhone/Twitter satire.) See io9 for a more in-depth review.

In other Identity news, Orkut (the SNS that we are constantly told is “huge in India and Brazil”) are now letting you split your personality; or more accurately easily control what aspects of your life you share to different groups of ‘friends’.

YouTube Preview Image

Facebook have a clumsy implementation of this, but Orkut seems to be the first to tackle this big problem in Social Network design properly: do you want your boss, co-workers and friends getting the same information? More details over on Read Write Web.

Post-Privacy and the democratization of celebr1ty

Posted by on April 6th, 2010

It is with much interest that I have observed the rapid popularity of This is an extremely powerful service that simply let’s the user:

Create a box where friends can ask questions anonymously.

So not only are people microblogging their life, replying to each other and retweeting; now they can hold their own Press Conferences.

Now, to help understand this, let’s go back to danah boyd’s seminal piece on Super Publics:

A reporter recently asked me why kids today have no shame. I told her it was her fault. Media is obsessed with revealing the backstage of people in the public eye – celebrities, politicians, etc. More recently, they’ve created a public eye to put people into – Survivor, Real World, etc. Open digital expression systems coupled with global networks took it one step farther by saying that anyone could operate as media and expose anyone else. What’s juicy is what people want to hide and thus, the media (all media) goes after this like hawks. Add the post-9/11 attitude that if you hide something, you are clearly a terrorist. Should it surprise anyone that teenagers have responded by exposing everything with pride? What better way to react to a super public where everyone is working as paparazzi? There’s nothing juicy about exposing what’s already exposed. Do it yourself and you have nothing to worry about. These are the kinds of things that are emerging as people face life in super publics.

What’s the difference between micro-celebrity (let’s say anyone with a few thousand followers on Twitter) and the sub-lebrities Joan Collins is bitching about? Nothing! They are just two of the ways we are entertaining each other to death, waiting for the world to end. One is for Hipsters and the other is for Chavs; that’s the only difference.

In fact, can it be that the only reason celebrity biographies are so popular is that we are data-mining them for content and clues?

This is the democratization of celebr1ty.. a new Golden Age.. when anyone that is entertaining enough and has an internet connection can develop a Cult following.

In the spirit of this, Ask Us Anything!

Amber Case: Cyborg Anthropologist

Posted by on March 20th, 2010

What exactly is a cyborg anthropologist? 

Let Amber herself tell you, in this video from late last year on ‘prosthetic culture’:

 YouTube Preview Image

Like to know more?  Our friends over at Technoccult just did a great interview with her.

Thanks for the YouTube link Vertigo Jones!

4Chan founder speaks to CNN

Posted by on February 23rd, 2010

Chris Poole, founder of 4Chan, did a short interview with CNN.

He has some very interesting things to say about online identity and lifestreaming and, well, truth:

He also spoke at the TED 2010 conference. Can’t wait to check that out when it goes online.

Karl Schroeder on ‘Rewilding’

Posted by on August 1st, 2009

The following speech by Karl Schroeder is an excellent summation of the future we’ve been documenting here, the world that lies just around the corner:

YouTube Preview Image

His thoughts on, well I guess you have to call it Nature 2.0, are a nice progression on some of Kevin Kelly’s ideas in his book Out of Control.

via BoingBoing | Futurismic

Augmented ID – a coming AR identity app for the phone

Posted by on July 11th, 2009

From PSFK:

Swedish software and design company The Astonishing Tribe are currently developing Augmented ID, an augmented reality concept for mobile phones. This utilizes facial recognition software (supplied by Polar Rose) to visualize the digital identities of those around you.

By simply aiming your mobile device at someone, you would be able to access that individual’s pre-selected information through floating icons that would appear around their image. These could contain anything from a phone number and email address to links to their favorite content or social networking platforms.

YouTube Preview Image

Arab scientists want you to friend your robot

Posted by on May 6th, 2009

From Technology Review:

..building a meaningful relationship with a robot may soon get easier if Nikolaos Mavridis and pals from the Interactive Robots and Media Lab at the United Arab Emirates University have anything to do with it. They say the key to building a longer, meaningful relationship with a robot is to become embedded in the same network of shared friends and together build a pool of shared memories that you can both refer to. Just like a real friend.

So the team has created the world’s first robot that does both these things–it has its own Facebook page and it can use the information it gathers from this social network in conversations with “friends”.

They’re planning to implement their programme in a humanoid robot called IbnSina (see picture), that they have developed at their lab.

The rise of the lifeloggers and self-trackers

Posted by on September 10th, 2008

The Washington Post has an interesting overview of the rising lifelogger scene. There is what might perhaps be a little generational-bias in there, but they have still come back with some interesting anecdotes:

When San Francisco couple Brynn Evans and Chris Messina heard of a new Web site called BedPost, they registered an account before the site was even out of beta. BedPost was created to map users’ sex lives online — everything from partner to duration of the encounter to descriptive words, which could later be viewed as a tag cloud….After all, they already use project-management site Basecamp to chart the nonsexual parts of their relationship.

They use location tracker to study where they’ve been.

They track their driving habits on, their listening habits on, and their Web-surfing habits, to the minute, on

“Brynn uses a service to track her menstruation,” says Messina helpfully. (Two of them, in fact: and Some of these trackings are visible to other people, but mostly the couple monitors the information just for themselves.

Before BedPost, they’d been using an Excel spreadsheet to track each interlude since the beginning of their six-month relationship, though they found the interface limiting. They saw BedPost and thought, “Oh, look, this guy’s doing this, too, and he’s actually making plots of it. Plotting was cool,” says Evans.

Messina and Evans prefer the term “data junkies,” spoken with the self-effacing self-awareness that comes from months of meticulous self-study.

Self-trackers like Messina and Evans could spend hours online, charting, analyzing, tracking. Life as a series of pure, distilled data points, up for interpretation.

It’s not about tracking what you do, they say. It’s about learning who you are.

In San Diego, statistics student David Horn already belongs to BrightKite, and, which tracks his Internet usage. He’s also experimented with to map food intake and calorie expenditure…Horn is working with his engineer girlfriend, Lisa Brewster, to develop an all-encompassing life tracker, under the working title of “I Did Stuff.”

“I’d like to track the people I talk to,” says Brewster, “and how inspired I am six hours later. And definitely location history — where I am, what time — ”

“Correlated with weather history,” interjects Horn. “And allergy data, pollen and mold in the air.”

Plus, “Web sites I read and their effect,” says Brewster.

These ideas are the types of heady possibilities that will be discussed by the members of a new group in San Francisco called Quantified Self. Members plan to meet monthly to share with one another the tools and sites they’ve found helpful on their individual paths to self-digitization. Topics include, according to the group invite: behavior monitoring, location tracking, digitizing body info and non-invasive probes.

And on it goes.

What are they odds that we have readers in the Bay Area heading along to Quantified Self? Hit us back with a report if you go!

via @chris23

Clive Thompson talks about Ambient Awareness in the New York Times

Posted by on September 6th, 2008

“It’s like I can distantly read everyone’s mind,” Haley went on to say. “I love that. I feel like I’m getting to something raw about my friends. It’s like I’ve got this heads-up display for them.” It can also lead to more real-life contact, because when one member of Haley’s group decides to go out to a bar or see a band and Twitters about his plans, the others see it, and some decide to drop by — ad hoc, self-organizing socializing. And when they do socialize face to face, it feels oddly as if they’ve never actually been apart. They don’t need to ask, “So, what have you been up to?” because they already know. Instead, they’ll begin discussing something that one of the friends Twittered that afternoon, as if picking up a conversation in the middle.

This is just a small sample of Clive Thompson‘s excellent piece in the NY Times, I’m So Totally, Digitally Close to You.

It’s a great overview of the emergence of ambient awareness (or intimacy); how a whole generation are using to online tools to maintain relationships, discover and re-connect with each other.

The anecdote about Facebook’s introduction of the News Feed is particularly interesting. How people’s first reaction was to rebel against ‘lost privacy’, but soon came to appreciate the benefits – the gestalt, if you will – of being able to scan what their friends have been up to.

Great work Clive!

Twhirl embraces

Posted by on July 21st, 2008

twhirl logo In a move that I suspect will benefit both parties immensely, the latest version of Twhirl now supports the new microblogging service.

This just cements Twhirl as the desktop client of choice, since it already supported not only Twitter, but Friendfeed and Seesmic accounts (not to mention allowing broadcasting to Jaiku and Pownce).

So what is As they explain on the Twhirl blog: is a very young service, just a few weeks old. So please keep in mind that it does not support all functionality you are used to from twitter. For example, it does not allow to send private, direct messages, so everything you post is visible to everyone.

Not to mention no text-messaging support either! So why bother integrating it? Because it is built from the ground up to be far more stable and scalable!

As CNET exclusively reported:

…the Twhirl client won’t have to ping the servers to get updates; instead, updates will be sent directly to the Twhirl client. This makes nanoblog conversations more live–you can have a back-and-forth without hovering over the “update” button. It also means that your Twhirl client doesn’t have to be hitting the servers every few minutes for updates, which reduces the load profile on the service, theoretically at least.

So how is this win-win for both Twhirl and Twhirl gets a more robust alternative (ie no FailWhales) to Twitter, something that will keep people using it’s software. gets to tap into an existing user-base, something that will help give it momentum, and encourage developers to extended its feature-set to be a true competitor to Twitter. How they solve the Web->SMS problem though, I am very keen to see.

Right, the best for last. Rumor has it that integrated time-lines are in Twhirl’s immediate future; ie one time-line, multiple services. If they would just switch Pownce and Jaiku from broadcast/cross-posting to full integration we would be just about there.


(Apparently, I really like Twhirl…)

Laugh and your avatar will soon laugh with you

Posted by on July 12th, 2008

From New Scientist Tech:

Software that can automatically recognise “non-linguistic” sounds, such as laughter, and generate an appropriate facial animation sequence, could improve the quality of web-based avatars or computer-animated movies.

Animated characters are already “learning” to lip sync when played human speech. But this is only part of the picture – we laugh, cry, yawn and sneeze our way through life, and realistic computer animations must be able to mimic the facial expressions that accompany these sounds too.

Darren Cosker at the University of Bath, UK, and Cathy Holt at the University of Cardiff, UK, have developed software to automatically recognise some of these vocalisations and generate appropriate animation sequences.

See how:

YouTube Preview Image

Twitter-based Assistant instructions translated into Brazilian Portuguese

Posted by on July 9th, 2008

The instructions to configure your own Twitter-based Digital Assistant have now been translated into Brazilian Portuguese over on Jardel’s Corner.

So Grinders of Brazil, you can point your non-English reading friends over there.

It’s worth pointing out that I think we’re all open to having an of our original content here translated into any language. I sure welcome it!

Rhode Island school turns kids into SPIMEs

Posted by on June 18th, 2008

From Natural News:

schoolA Rhode Island school district has announced a pilot program to monitor student movements by means of radio frequency identification (RFID) chips implanted in their schoolbags.

The Middletown School District, in partnership with MAP Information Technology Corp., has launched a pilot program to implant RFID chips into the schoolbags of 80 children at the Aquidneck School. Each chip would be programmed with a student identification number, and would be read by an external device installed in one of two school buses. The buses would also be fitted with global positioning system (GPS) devices.

Parents or school officials could log onto a school web site to see whether and when specific children had entered or exited which bus, and to look up the bus’s current location as provided by the GPS device.

I am all for the future, but not when it is being driven by Fear.

That being said, it would be cool to have a screensaver that shows your child and pet running around on a GoogleMap.

thanks for the tip-off Ryan Jarrell!

A breakdown of current telepresence technology

Posted by on May 2nd, 2008

Traveling without moving has become an economic and environmental imperative. Matter is more expensive than energy; energy is more expensive than information; it is cheaper to move information than people or things. So what is to stop us moving less, and telecommunicating more?

Want to read a fantastic overview of the current state of telepresence technology? Then check out The fake-space race!

Can you imagine starting your work day on this?

haptic workstation

via Next Nature

University of Washington researchers combine RFID and Social Networking

Posted by on April 8th, 2008

Ok, we’ve been reading about RFIDs here for a while now. So it’s probably no surprise to learn that University of Washington researchers are busy ‘prototyping the future’; namely mucking around with RFID tags and getting paid for it.

Yes, clearly I wouldn’t mind that job. However, they’re not just running around tagging things. This is where it gets interesting:

They created an application called RFIDDER that lets people use data from radio tags to inform their social network where they are and what they’re doing. The feature can be used on the Web and on a mobile phone, with a connection to the social-networking service Twitter.

Borriello can let Welbourne, the project’s lead graduate student, see where he is all day, or he can modify settings so Welbourne can only see where he is within 15 minutes of their scheduled meeting. The system is transparent, so each can tell if the other has checked his whereabouts.

The lab’s Personal Digital Diary application detects and logs a person’s activities each day and uploads them to a Google calendar. Users can search the calendar to jog their memories about when they last saw someone or how, where and with whom they spent their time.

That’s freaking excellent. A service that is constantly and automatically answering the question “Where Am I?” (as opposed to Twitter’s “What Am I Doing?”).

For starters, that makes an awesome addition to one’s personal lifelog.

And that information is conditionally shared with the members of your network? Nice.

Because you’re going to need a lot of control to prevent information overload. Just as most of us disable replies in Twitter for those we don’t follow, so would we really not care where person-X is all the time.

I’m thinking something like notify me when:

  1. my Contact changes Location (ie new City)
  2. when we have an appointment (integrates with GoogleCalendar, etc)
  3. I’m about to unexpectedly run into them.

And throw in a broadcast mode for good measure; just so you can say look at where i am!

But why else would you want to be constantly updated whenever your Buddy goes to the toilet? Unless you’re uber-stalking person-X. Or they’re your child or something.

Of course, all of this is nothing compared to massive ambitions of that South Korean experiment, New Songdo City . But it’s still pretty neat.

via Futurismic

BRAINWAVE: Common Senses

Posted by on April 2nd, 2008

Artificial neural networks are often used in voice recognition systems and IA research. They consist in mathematical computations that mimic the neural network patterns of the nervous system. Jamie O’Shea’s Alvin is a realization of an interactive and electronic neural network constructed with physical hardware. When left alone Alvin is dormant, but if you the lay your hand on the interface provided, you will set an electronic neural-like network in motion.

Alvin is a cellular automaton organized around eight cells which produce sound. The sound one cell produces is determined by what sound the other cells are making. This interrelated input and output scheme is an artificial neural network; a simulation of a brain. The imitation of life goes even further, because Alvin’s sound circuits are built and destroyed by one another, rather than just turned on or off.

Swarm, by David Bowen (whom i interviewed a year ago), is an autonomous roaming device whose movements are determined by houseflies housed inside the device itself.

The chamber where they live contains food, water and light to keep them warm but also sensors that detect the changing light patterns produced by their movements. The sensors send the light data to an on-board microcontroller, which in turn activate the motors moving the device in relation to the movements of the flies.

BRAINWAVE: Common Senses is on view until April 19, 2008 at Exit Art Gallery in New York. This exhibition is part of Exit Art’s Unknown Territories series of exhibitions that explore the impact of scientific advances on contemporary culture and examine in particular how contemporary artists interpret and interact with the new knowledge and possibilities created by technological innovation in the 21st century.


Bluetooth Microphone for Your Tooth

Posted by on April 1st, 2008

An extremely small microphone is packaged with solar panel and battery to provide the most portable unit to date. The durable composite resin filling is designed to fit in a hole 2.2mm in diameter and 1.7 mm deep and will pick up sound and vibrations from your mouth to produce incredibly clear sound.

The Bluetooth Dental Insert Microphone will soon be available over at Chinavision, who also points out that “All dental work should be performed by a qualified dentist, Chinavasion does not take responsibility for injury resulting from the installation of this product”.


Robot babysitter keeps kids occupied in Japanese store

Posted by on March 30th, 2008

    - photo via

Inhuman babysitters aren’t all that uncommon around the world, but a new creature recently placed in a Japanese department store is a godsend for shopaholics with rugrats in tow. Developed by Tmsuk, the 1.4-meter tall bot is employed at a Fukuoka retailer in order to keep watch over rambunctious youngsters that are dropped off by their overworked parents. Reportedly, said critter boasts an integrated projector and camera, a colorful yellow / white outfit and the ability to identify children by name based on a special tag that each kiddo wears while playing. Of course, the manufacturer isn’t looking to just shove one or two of these into every store in Japan — oh no, it’s hoping to create similar robots that could one day “guide customers through the aisles of a store,” fill their carts or whisper the joke of the day in a French accent into their ears.


Twitsig – be Present via your sig. on forums and blogs

Posted by on March 22nd, 2008

via the Twitter blog comes word of Twitsig:

Many forums, Blogs, and other web services allow you to have images as part of your signature. allows you to display your current twitter status as an image.

Sounds pretty handy to me. Here’s an example: