Panel on Cyborgs at U of O’s What is Media 2: What is Life?

what-is-life-university-of-oregon

CONFERENCE-EXPERIENCE-EXHIBITION

University of Oregon in Portland • April 6-8, 2017 • whatis.uoregon.edu

On Saturday, April 8, 2:45-4:00pm I’ll be chairing a session on Cyborgs.

Chair: Amber Case, Fellow, Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society, Harvard University/Visiting Researcher, MIT Center for Civic Media.

  • Caroline Alphin, ASPECT-Alliance for Social, Political, Ethical and Cultural Thought, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
    “Cyborg Neoliberalism: Practicing Neoliberal Subjectivity through the Fitness Tracker”
  • Justin Barnard, English, State University of New York (SUNY) at Fredonia
    “Ex Humana: How Technology is Changing What it Means to be Human”
  • Patrick Dunham, Comparative Literature, University of Oregon
    “The Eradication of Reality in the Age of the Simulation”
  • Lucy Benjamin, Media Studies/Film Studies, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands
    “Loving Life: Romantic Encounters of the Modern Cyborg”

About
The 7th annual What is…conference will take place April 6-8 at the White Stag complex in Portland. The conference engages communication, media, and nature by examining everyday life—our lifestyles and lifeworks—emphasizing the environments we live in. The event emphasizes how communication is instrumental in and for living systems. What is life and how is life mediated? It builds on last year’s conference-experience, What is Media? (2016), expanding a transdisciplinary notion of medium/media with special attention to its material, historical, and ecological ramifications.

The event marks the second collaboration with scholars from the natural sciences (physical and life sciences) and the arts. Panels and roundtables will present a wide range of topics including but not limited to: media literacies, complexity, ethics, ecocriticism, data, food, health, economics, rights/privacy, audiences, platforms and living technologies.

The conference-experience will continue the focus on an integrated view of communication for the 21st century, and plant the seeds for deeper investigations into complexity in systems, environmental and ecological approaches. In acknowledging art/science, technology, and environments/nature, communication is at an emergent crossroads.

Join me at the Future of Money and Digital Ethics at Sibos in Geneva, Switzerland on Sept 26 and 28, 2016!

logo-sibos-amber-case-future-of-moneyOn Monday, September 26th and Wednesday, September 28th, 2016  I’ll be speaking on the Future of Money and Digital Ethics on two panels at the Sibos International Banking Conference in Geneva, Switzerland.

When

Future of Money

Monday 26 September
14:00 – 15:00
Plenary – PLR

Digital Ethics

Wednesday 28 September
10:30 – 11:15
Innotribe – INNO

Future of Money Overview

Delegates will hear Amber Case, Cyborg Anthropologist and Harvard Berkman Klein Center Fellow, speak on security, calm technology and intrusive media. Case says: “I want to talk about the idea that you should own your information first, and a third party should only be able to access that information for a temporary period in order to get something done. The idea user experience would be one where you can you can see what’s happening to your data, and authorise transactions at each point of exchange.”

Case, author of the book Calm Technology (O’Reilly Media), will also discuss a number of principles for managing the devices and the data that comprise the Internet of Things. “We live in an age of intrusive media. Technology should be there when you need it, and not when you don’t,” says Case. If we are all cyborgs now, as Case suggests (in the sense that we use technology to enhance, extend and add to our innate abilities), the challenge for the future will be to achieve a harmonious relationship with our technology. “Technology should enhance the human experience, not detract from it. Our devices should amplify the best of humanity and the best of technology. Artificial Intelligence can help automate our systems, but customer service is still essential,” says Case. That’s something humans can never automate. “It wouldn’t be wise for human connection to be replaced by machines,” Case concludes.

The Future of Money session at Sibos has become the “crystal ball” identifying major disruptive trends that are likely to affect the financial services industry in coming years.

In previous years, this session covered topics such as the latest developments on virtual currencies and blockchain, the disaggregation and unbundling of the financial services value chain, and automated credit. But what’s the next big disruptive force?

We believe the new buzzword is the interconnectedness of everything at scale and speed. In this Internet of Everything, every thing talks to every thing and end-points make their own decisions, powered by sensor-driven data collection, machine learning and automated decision making.

It is not the sharing economy as we know it, but a data sharing economy where driverless cars make toll road payments per minute, washing machines decide the right energy vendor at what time and price, where products are created ad-hoc and in situ by 3D printers (with IP royalties paid in real time), where investment decisions are made by a new breed of robo-advisors in real time.

Everything happens at scale and speed. This real-time economy will require a fundamental new infrastructure with more dramatic intermediation than what we see today in payments and securities, with frictionless micro-commerce and micro-payment transactions enabling real transparency of money and value in general.

We will need to rethink the notion of ownership and the definition and management of intellectual property, financial assets, digital assets, rights management and royalties in fully distributed peer-to-peer world. And how do we regulate a world where all the rules have changed?

We move from enabling transactions to enabling commerce, from transaction networks to new articulations of value- and trust-webs.

This session will bring together some of the sharpest thought leaders on this radical transformation of our industry, and will focus on the inter-connectedness of everything.

Two moderators will guide the audience through this exercise and ensure a deep interaction with the speakers in an exciting interactive format.

Since Sibos Toronto in 2011, the Innotribe “Future of Money” is standing room only. For the first year, the session moved to the plenary room as a big issue debate, so make sure you’re there early!

Speakers

  • Udayan Goyal, Co-Founder & Managing Partner, Apis Partners and Anthemis Group
  • Jon Stein, CEO & Founder, Betterment
  • Carlos J. Menendez, President, Enterprise Partnerships, Mastercard
  • Amber Case, Fellow, Harvard Berkman Klein Center

Digital Ethics Overview

Billions of dollars are spent every year to track our actions, intentions, and sentiments online and via the sensors embedded in the world that surrounds us. Machine-learning algorithms may soon get to know us better than we know ourselves. While robots gaining consciousness is a growing concern, the future of human happiness is dependent on teaching machines what we value the most today.

As AI features in different products, wearable devices, and self-driving cars, we need to think in a critical way about where this will bring us – on an individual and societal level. Will it help us forward? Will it create more time for ourselves? Or will it make our world more complex and less efficient?

Coexisting safely and ethically with intelligent machines is one of the central challenges of the 21st Century. It demonstrates and strengthen the need to establish ethical standards for Artificial Intelligence to help us preserve the values we cherish the most.

This session is an integral part of the future show live. See the session description for detailed information.

Speakers

  • Gerd Leonhard, Futurist, Keynote Speaker, Author and CEO of The Futures Agency, The Futures Agency
  • John Havens, Executive Director, The Global Initiative for Ethical Considerations in the Design of Autonomous Systems
  • Amber Case, Fellow, Harvard Berkman Klein Center
  • Aurélie Pols, Data Governance & Privacy Advocate, Krux Digital / Ethics Data Group EDPS (European Data Protection Supervisor)
    Ericsson

What is Sibos?

Sibos is the world’s premier financial services event.

Sibos is the annual conference, exhibition and networking event organised by SWIFT for the financial industry.

What started out as a banking operations seminar in 1978, has grown into the premier business forum for the global financial community to debate and collaborate in the areas of payments, securities, cash management and trade. More at sibos.com.

O’Reilly Webcast on Cyborg Anthropology

On August 5, 2010 I gave an hour-long webcast called Cyborg Anthropology: A Short Introduction. The event was free and had roughly 500 signups. It was a really fun way to quickly share a lot of the concepts I’ve been thinking about for the past few years. A lot of it was condensing down a lot of what I’ve begun to explore on CyborgAnthropology.com. I’ll be giving a 20 minute version of this speech at a TED conference in December. You can also watch the webcast at O’Reilly.com. The webcast is 60 minutes long. Start 5 minutes in for best results (the first part is an audio check).

Webcast Summary

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 presentation will cover aspects of time and space compression, communication in the mobile era, evaporating interfaces and how to approach a rapidly changing information spaces.

A Short History of Cyborg Anthropology

Haraway proposed what she termed a “cyborg anthropology” to study the relation between the machine and the human, and she adds that it should proceed by “provocatively” reconceiving “the border relations among specific humans, other organisms, and machines”

Based on this essay, and many other instances of needing a methodology to understand and describe rapidly changing sociocultural systems affected by technology, the idea of a “Cyborg Anthropology” was proposed at the Annual Meetings of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) in 1993.

What is a Cyborg Anthropologist?

A cyborg anthropologist looks at how humans and non human objects interact with each other, and how that changes culture. So, for instance, we have these objects in our pockets that cry, and we have to pick them up and soothe them back to sleep, and then we have to feed them every night by plugging them into the wall. At no other time in history have we had these really strange non human devices that we take care of as if they are real, and we’re very dependent upon them. That’s one of the aspects that I’m studying; the idea of mobile technology and its effect on one’s relationships. Another aspect of cyborg anthropology is the idea of individuals extending themselves into a second self in the online space, through a Facebook page, avatar or profile. Studying how people interact with each other through these little technosocial interactions, versus just the analog interactions, is another aspect of cyborg anthropology.

Cyborg Anthropology vs. Traditional Anthropology

What happens in traditional, analog anthropology is this: You go to another culture, and you look at all the people.  You see how they interact with each other, how knowledge is created and so on. You see kinship, you see rituals, you see all these different pastimes and hobbies. You see what people eat. And often the anthropologist goes over to another country and says, “Oh, look how fascinating these people are. They’re so strange. Look at all their weird customs. Look at how different they are from us!” There is this definite aspect of the other, of going out and studying something else. But the problem is that many people are not studying world that they live in right now, their own culture. There are a few anthropologists who have begun to really study the effects of technology on everyday life. It is the study of this everyday life that offers the most insight.

Call phones have become so ubiquitous that they no cause one to think about them. One does not think about having a cell phone or not having one – one’s time is spent choosing which external prosthetic device they are going to be using next.  Facebook has become very normal. Twitter has become quite normal. Cell phones have become very normal. So my job as an anthropologist is of someone that comes in and says, “Oh my God, how fascinating. Look at all these strange things people do. They’re posting on each other’s Walls. They’re editing each other’s external online selves. Their identity is increasingly made up of text and points and technosocial interactions.” What I do as a Cyborg Anthropologist is take the traditional anthropological toolset and apply those tools and methodologies to the digital space. I’m always trying to take both the embodied and thousand foot view, because it allows me to ask questions such as “What is really going on?”, “What’s next in technological development?”, and “Has anything actually changed with the onset of technology, or are people just bringing offline behaviors to the online space?

More on Cyborgs and Anthropology

Cyborg Anthropology Wiki
If you liked this webcast and want to learn more about cyborgs and Cyborg Anthropology, you might want to look at CyborgAnthropology.com, a site still very much in development as I stitch my research together from the past 7 years of study.

CyborgCamp Portland


If you happen to live in Portland (or need an excuse to visit) and like cyborgs, you should come to CyborgCamp Portland on Oct. 2nd, 2010. It’s a hybrid unconference on the future of humans and machines. We’ll be talking about cyborgs, interface design, government, transportation, science, anthropology and humanity from 9Am-6Pm. Tickets are exceedingly cheap ($10) and you can get one now if you’d like.

50th Anniversary of the term “Cyborg”

Also, September 2010 is the 50th Anniversary of the coining of the term ‘cyborg’. Over the next month, the site 50 Cyborgs, Curated by Tim Maly of Quiet Babylon (another site on Cyborgs that’s worth a good long look), will update 50 times with links to material celebrating 50 years of one of the 20th Century’s more enduring concepts. Then it’ll go dark. I highly suggest reading it before it disappears. But if you miss it, you can always check it out on Archive.org.

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About

Amber Case is a Cyborg Anthropologist and UX Designer from Portland, Oregon. You can read more about her here, and you can follow her on Twitter @caseorganic.

Non-Visual Augmented Reality | Geonotes, Proximal Notification Systems, and Automatic Check-ins with GPS and SMS

If you don’t know Aaron Parecki (@aaronpk) yet, you should. You have an excuse if you don’t yet. He moved to Portland in October 2009.

The reason you should know him is because he created a system for automatic location check-in two years ago. He’s been taking GPS data every day for those past two years, and he’s got major data visualization skills. And Aaron innovates. The system he built keeps getting built.

I first met Aaron at Beer and Blog when he had just moved to Portland from Eugene. I forgot who introduced him to me, but I was very excited. I’d been talking about so many of the systems that Aaron was actually building. I promptly told him to present at the second Portland data visualization group, which he did.

Since then, we’ve been working on micro projects together. I started carrying around a GPS with me starting on 12/28/2009. With the exception of Japan, I’ve been logging pretty much everywhere I’ve been.

Having two GPS devices in play makes for some interesting opportunities, which is the subject of this post. This will all make sense in a minute.

mobile-sms-gps-location-check-in-pkbot

Automatic Location Check-ins

A while ago, Aaron set up an automated check in system based on GPS coordinates. The system allows one to check into locations without having to load an interface. This was about 2 years before any of the geosocial systems were readily available. Parecki was not living in Portland, and his audience was small.

Now, social sharing platforms are hot, but they still require user action. This means that one still has to pause social flow to look down at a device, poke a few buttons, and check in. This is normal when one is around a tech-focused crowd, but should one still do this on a date? Or in the presence of a non-geek?

Checking in and Social Punctuation

Checking in can punctuate social flow. I ate lunch one afternoon with and experienced this. A group of five was sitting at the table next to me. One of the guys in the group got excited when he sat down. “Oh! I have to check in on Foursquare!” he said. His tablemates looked at him with blank faces as he tapped away at his mobile device. When he realized this, he started trying to describe Foursquare in order to explain why he had stopped to check in on his mobile device. It didn’t work. There is a way to avoid this.

Quadrant-Based SMS Alerts

Early on, Parecki’s system was able to SMS messages depending on quadrants of Portland, or pre-defined locations. Every time I go home, I get a text message on my phone telling me that I’ve arrived at home. Instead of actively checking in, I can simply dismiss the message. This reduces the time and space it takes to check in because I don’t have to load an app, wait for the location, and then check in. When I leave SE Portland and enter Downtown Portland, I get a SMS message telling me that I’ve changed locations.

Co-Location Negotiation proximity-notification-aaron-parecki

But there’s a lot more to the social equation than just automatically checking in. GPS is useful for a number of things. For instance, co-location negotiation, or “meeting up”, is one of the most text heavy social protocols currently in existence. It gets worse when one party hops from place to place, because one can’t constantly text their location or forward motion. Two people who haven’t met before must also negotiate by multiple texts. One might sit in a coffeeshop and wait for quite a bit of time without knowing when the other person should arrive. New visitors to buildings need specific directions in order to enter the location.

Instead of receiving a text message like “I’m late!” or “stuck in traffic”, I’ve been able to simply look at Aaron’s GPS. The picture is worth a thousand text messages. I can see if he’s left the office or if he’s crossing the Burnside bridge. If the GPS lines are squiggly and slow, I know he’s having trouble finding a parking spot.

In this situation, there is no need for text messages. Looking at a GPS map still takes user effort and load time. This punctuates task completion and social flow if one must always be checking and refreshing a GPS map 15 minutes before someone arrives.

In an effort to reduce the need to look at the GPS map, Parecki set up what has proven to be my favorite part of the entire system: proximity notification.

Proximity Notification

Instead of having to look at Parecki’s GPS map, the system detects when Aaron and I are in a certain distance of one another. I know when Parecki is near when I get a text message that says “you are 0.4 miles from aaronpk”.When I get a message that says “you are 0.1 miles from aaronpk”, I know that he’s arrived.

proximity-messaging-aaronpk-caseorganic-gps

I can wrap up client work or finish what I am doing right up until the moment he gets there. I don’t have to waste time waiting. I get a warning “0.4 miles!” and then a confirmation “0.1 miles!”. It’s the equivalent of “on my way” and “here”, the two most common co-location ‘drags’. I call them drags because they are redundant and repetitive communication protocols. They’re actions that can be costly, especially when struggling to split concentration between driving and texting, or the sheer inability to text while on bike.

pkbot-burnside-bridge-checkin-caseorganic-gps

Bridge Notifications

A few nights ago, Aaron created bridges as locations, so that one could be checked into them as well. I got the text message you see here on my iPhone when I crossed the Burnside bridge.

Aaron wants to take the two years of GPS data he’s gathered and use it to visualize how many times he’s crossed the many bridges in Portland. It’s kind of amusing to get an SMS when crossing a bridge.

Why is any of this stuff important?

I’ll tell you why it’s important. Computers are evaporating. Interfaces are dissolving. Innovation in technology comes from reducing the time and space it takes to preform an action, or compressing redundant actions in order to free up time. Computers used to be the size of gymnasiums. Now we have computers in our pockets, begging for attention. We’re constantly planning for our future selves. We look at Yelp! reviews to prepare our next culinary adventure. We want to guarantee that our future selves will have a good experience. We’re connecting to tons of people to do this, connecting to the collective wisdom of a data set that consists of many samples. The more samples, the more accurate the data set. Why ask one person when you can ask many?

Tablet GPS

Xerox PARC had little tablets in the 80’s that allowed everyone to see where everyone was. There were little local GPS maps in the offices, so people could co-locate more easily. One of the guys working there was very excited about the tablets. “This is the future,” he said, “in maybe 20 or 30 years, everyone will have one of these. What works within these walls will work everywhere on Earth”.

Good interfaces disappear. Good work is invisible. Good technology dissolves. A book is a good piece of technology. If the writing in it is good enough, one’s consciousness dissolves into the pages and one has a consensual hallucination of an alternate reality.

All that is Solid Melts Into Air

The mouse is melting. The button is evaporating. Why check in physically when you can do so automatically? “Buttons are losing their shape,” says Interaction Designer Bill DeRouchey in a recent speech on the History of the Button at SXSW, (Bill’s slides on SlideShare) “Before [the computer monitor], buttons always had a sort of tangible border around them, whether physical or visual”. Automatically checking into a location means that the button does not even have a center. It is just a state that one physically walks into, or something that occurs after a certain amount of time has passed. An environmental button.

This is very similar to a video game, in which pieces of the environment closer to the avatar are loaded more fully than far away variables. Our lives are turning into video games, with plus one follower, and plus one friend. Our phones are our friends, giving us statistics about who we are and what we can do. They are our remote controls for reality.

Button Evolution

“Steve jobs hates buttons”, DeRouchey continues, “He sort of has this mandate to not have buttons. This is evidence if you consider how long they resisted having a two button mouse. It’s a all about hiding the buttons, hiding the barrier between us and technology”. Good design is reducing buttons.

A vehicle is a physical transportation device. There are limits to how small it can be made. But a computer is a mental transportation device. It need not be limited by tangibility.

Geonotes – Attaching Notes to Place

Location sharing platform Gowalla has items that one can collect when they check in, but they have to physically check in on the interface in order to retrieve the item.

This Sunday, Parecki developed the ability for users to send geonotes. That is, an outsider can open up a Google map and drag a circle over an area.

You can leave a Geonote for @aaronpk. Just drag your cursor, choose a geo size, and leave your message!

send-aaron-parecki-a-geonote

If you leave your E-mail address, you’ll get an E-mail when @aaronpk gets your note. Also, the bar will let you know @aaronpk’s likelihood of receiving your message, based on 30 days of GPS history. You can also leave a Geonote for me as well.

thanks-send-aaron-parecki-a-geonote

Geolocal Autosubscribing RSS Feeds and Augmented Reality

When one takes automatic check-ins further, one can add streaming data, allowing one’s device to collect SMS messages for hyperlocal areas without the need for QR codes or any visuals. This could be called non-visual augmented reality.

At WhereCamp 2008 in Portland, I wrote about the possibilities and opportunity of Geolocal Autosubscribing RSS Feeds.

I began the session by drawing a big grid of Portland’s on the white board. I drew 5 circles representing Portland’s 5 quadrants on the white board, and labeled them NW, NE, SW, SE and N. The circles represented ranges of ‘hearing’ that a mobile device might have to RSS feeds. I pointed out that as one progresses from street to street, quadrant to quadrant, one’s phone should understand this and automatically subscribe the user to the geolocal RSS feed for that area. That way, data could be very relevant and contextual to the area.

Aaron Parecki has developed a framework that does just this. Locations are defined by circles on a map, and SMS messages are triggered to send when one enters into the area defined by that circle. One can set neighborhoods, areas, and blocks.

Privacy, GPS, SMS and Check-in Exhaustion

Privacy is an enormous issue with systems like this. One does not always want SMS updates, open GPS map data, or text notifications of another’s proximity. In our case, it works well because we work together frequently. If, on the other hand, we were to get proximity notification texts all the time because our commutes were similar, the data fuzz would be annoying and unvaluable. We’re the only two people using the system right now. Anyone with more than 10 active friends on Foursquare or Gowalla and has probably experienced a Push Notification nightmare of endless texts.

Relative Location Value

Here’s a definition: One’s location is valuable to another if and only if that location or person is socially relevant during that time period. The basic case here is the meeting. Person A and Person B need to meet each other, but GPS data is only shared between them when they have a scheduled meeting. When the meeting ends, the data wall closes off, giving them back their privacy, kind of like a wormhole of temporary transparency between two people. This solves the problem of extreme bouts of “checkin-ism”., as well as the issue of remaining privy to one’s whereabouts all the time.

If more people were on the network, this sort of action would have to be taken. Negotiations of privacy and messages would have to be structured so as to prevent push and SMS notification exhaustion. When done correctly, the system is a valuable time saver that decreases anxiety, showing that technology is not inherently good or bad. It is design that is important.

Want to Learn More?

There’s a lot more. Hours and hours worth. But if you’d like 45 minutes of it, come to our talk at Open Source Bridge session: Non-visual location-based augmented reality using GPS data.

non-visual-location-based-augmented-reality-using-gps-data-open-source-bridge

The presentation will cover the topics discussed above. It will also highlight the advantages and disadvantages of visual and non-visual augmented reality. We’ll cover alternate types of augmented reality techniques and how they have been saving us time in the past few months.

We’ll demonstrate how we’ve been merging available technologies with custom programming to create location-aware social networks with custom proximity notification. Finally, we’ll describe other uses for location sharing, such as automatically turning off house lights when leaving for work, and wayfinding with piezoelectric buzzers. Privacy and data transparency will also be discussed.

How is the GPS data taken?

Aaron Parecki uses trackr.eu. They have windows mobile, java, and blackberry versions of their software. Parecki says that, “when the GPS device has a lock it is very accurate, you can tell what side of the street I am on”. The program logs data about every 6 seconds, so it ends up being a very smooth line when drawn on a map.

iPhone Software

iPhone users can use a program called InstaMapper. However since it’s an iPhone you will be limited to running the application in the foreground, which means you’ll stop tracking if you get a phone call or want to check twitter or something. But as long as the program is open you’ll be tracking. IIRC it doesn’t end up with as high resolution data as the program on my phone.

boost-mobile-phone-gpsSince I have an iPhone, I can’t run a GPS apps continuously unless the device is jailbroken, so Aaron set me up with with a pre-paid Boost Mobile phone, which the InstaMapper program runs on as well.

One downside is that I have to carry and charge another device. This isn’t bad at all, because I can carry 8 hours of GPS tracking, and it feels kind of awesome to have a physical GPS tracker instead of some claustrophobic invisible mobile app within a device. Not to say that the Boost Mobile interface isn’t archaic. In a way, it’s the age of the interface that makes it nice. Switching between the two makes one constantly appreciate and consider the extremely fast evolution of interface design.

Boost Mobile Phone as GPS Device

You can pick up a Boost Moble phone for $50 at Target, and get a $10 prepaid card. You wouldn’t be using any voice minutes on it, but the credits expire after some time. It would only cost $10/month to run it all the time. Over the summer I loaned a friend my Boost phone and she took it on a bike ride from NY to LA logging most of the way.

Instamapper has an API which provides a CSV file of the last 100 points logged. Aaron then imports them into a MySQL database.

aaron-parecki-gps

More about Aaron Parecki

You can follow @aaronpk on Twitter, or you can go to aaronparecki.com or visit aaron.pk, the mobile version.
Leave Aaron a Geonote if you’d like. If that’s not your thing, enjoy some Data Visualization that Aaron’s done with his GPS data.

And if you liked what you read, I suppose you can follow me on Twitter as well, or see if I’m in town.