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Tag Archives: digital dualism

This post originally appeared on Cyborgology – read and comment on the post here.

The semantics of Silicon Valley Capitalism are precise, measured, and designed to undermine preexisting definitions of the things such capitalists seek to exploit. It is no coincidence that digital connections are often called “friends,” even though the terms “friend” and “Facebook friend” have very different meanings. And then there is “social,” a Silicon Valley shorthand term for “sharing digital information” that bears little resemblance to the word “social” as we’ve traditionally used it. From “Living Social” to “making music social,” “social media” companies use friendly old words to spin new modes of interaction into concepts more comfortable and familiar. It is easier to swallow massive changes to interpersonal norms, expectations, and behaviors when such shifts are repackaged and presented as the delightful idea of being “social” with “friends.”

But is this “social” so social? Yes and no and not quite. To elaborate, we propose a distinction: “Social” versus “social,” in which the capital-S “Social” refers not to the conventional notion of social but specifically to Silicon-Valley-Social. The point is, simply, that when Silicon Valley entrepreneurs say “social,” they mean only a specific slice of human sociality. Read More »

This post originally appeared on Cyborgology – read and comment on the post here.

When I first began as a graduate student encountering social media research and blogging my own thoughts, it struck me that most of the conceptual disagreements I had with various arguments stemmed from something more fundamental: the tendency to discuss “the digital” or “the internet” as a new, “virtual”, reality separate from the “physical”, “material”, “real” world. I needed a term to challenge these dualistic suppositions that (I argue) do not align with empirical realities and lived experience. Since coining “digital dualism” on this blog more than a year ago, the phrase has taken on a life of its own. I’m happy that many seem to agree, and am even more excited to continue making the case to those who do not.

The strongest counter-argument has been that a full theory of dualistic versus synthetic models, and which is more correct, has yet to emerge. The success of the critique has so far outpaced its theoretical development, which exists in blog posts and short papers. Point taken. Blogtime runs fast, and rigorous theoretical academic papers happen slow; especially when one is working on a dissertation not about digital dualism. That said, papers are in progress, including ones with exciting co-authors, so the reason I am writing today is to give a first-pass on a framework that, I think, gets at much of the debate about digital dualism. It adds a little detail to “digital dualism versus augmented reality” by proposing “strong” and “mild” versions of each. Read More »

This post originally appeared on Cyborgology – read and comment on the post here.

The video above is a “funny” take on the role of Twitter in our everyday lives from this past summer (I think). I know, who cares about celebrities and nothing is less funny than explaining why something is funny. But because the video isn’t really that funny to begin with, we’ve nothing to lose by quickly hitting on some of the points it makes. Humor is a decent barometer for shared cultural understanding for just about everything, indeed, often a better measure than the op-eds and blog posts we usually discuss in the quasi-academic-blogosphere. Those who made this video themselves are trying to tap into mainstream frustrations with smartphones and social media and their increasingly central role in many of our lives. So let’s look at the three main themes being poked at here, and I’m going to do my best to keep this short by linking out to where I’ve made these arguments before.

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This post originally appeared on Cyborgology – read and comment on the post here.

Discussing the relative strengths and weaknesses of education as it occurs on and offline, in and outside of a classroom, is important. Best pedagogical practices have not yet emerged for courses primarily taught online. What opportunities and pitfalls await both on and offline learning environments? Under ideal circumstances, how might we best integrate face-to-face as well as online tools? In non-ideal teaching situations, how can we make the best of the on/offline arrangement handed to us? All of us teaching, and taking, college courses welcome this discussion. What isn’t helpful is condemning a medium of learning, be it face-to-face or via digital technologies, as less real. Some have begun this conversation by disqualifying interaction mediated by digitality (all interaction is, by the way) as less human, less true and less worthy, obscuring the path forward for the vast majority of future students.

This is exactly the problem with the op-ed in yesterday’s New York Times titled, “The Trouble With Online Education.Read More »

This was originally posted at Cyborgology – click here to view the original post and to read/write comments.

What Facebook knows about you, via the Spectacular Optical tumblr (click for more images)

Rob Horning has been working on the topic of the “Data Self.” His project has a close parallel to my own work and after reading his latest post, I’d like to jump in and offer a conceptual distinction for thinking about the intersection of the online/data/Profile and the offline/Person.

The problem is that our online presence is too often seen as only the byproduct of our offline selves. Sometimes we talk about the way online profiles are passive reflections of who we are and what we do and other times we acknowledge our profiles are also partly performative adjustments to the “reality” of the person. However, in all the discussion of individuals creating this content what is often neglected is how the individual, in all of their offline experience, behavior and existence, is simultaneously being created by this very online data. We cannot describe how a person creates their Profile without always acknowledging how the Profile creates the person.

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This was originally posted at my blog Cyborgology – click here to view the original post and to read/write comments.


In the 36 hours since the Occupy Wall Street raid removed protest infrastructure from Zuccotti Park, much of the conflict strikes me as the tension between the informational (the symbolic; media; ideas) and the material (physical; geographic). It runs through how New York City carried its actions out (at night, blocking journalists), the ensuing legal fight (does occupying physical space count as speech?) as well as the new strategic challenges facing an Occupy movement where camping is decreasingly an option.

Anyone who reads this blog knows that much of my work lies at the intersection of (1) information, media, technology, the online and (2) materiality, bodies and offline physical space. At this intersection, our reality is an “augmented” one. Part of the success of Occupy (and other recent protest movements) has been the awareness of just this point: by uniting media and information with the importance of flesh-and-blood bodies existing in physical space, our global atmosphere of dissent is increasingly one of an augmented revolution. Indeed, these are not protests centered online, as Jeff Jarvis tweeted this morning, or Zuccotti park, but in the augmented reality where the two intersect.

And this intersection of the power of the image and the power of the material dramatically came to a head about 36 hours ago as I write. In the early morning of November 15th, the two-month long occupation of Zuccotti Park was eliminated by the City of New York. Read More »

This was originally posted at my blog Cyborgology – click here to view the original post and to read/write comments.

I spoke at the wonderful “Digital Ethnography Weekend” conference last month in Italy. There, I furthered my argument about what I call “digital dualism,” the fallacy that views the on and offline as separate spheres as opposed to my support of an “augmented reality” paradigm that views these spheres as always enmeshed and dialectically co-determining.

Because this was a “digital ethnography” conference, I applied the augmented reality framework to this methodology and argued that, instead, we should be doing “augmented ethnography”, an ethnography that takes as its unit of analysis a reality comprised of atoms as well as bits, always dialectically co-determining. Colleague Alessandro Caliandro and I debated these ideas in the question-and-answer portion of my talk (with much-appreciated thoughts from Adam Arvidsson, as well). Caliandro has posted his summary of my talk as well as his criticism here. I welcome this criticism and want to respond to it below.

First, Caliandro’s development of my argument is charitable. I also very much appreciate the thoughtfulness of the critique. However, I do need to make a correction to the way he summarized augmented reality, and this correction will be important for my response to the criticism. I do not think that the differences between the physical and digital are “irrelevant”; indeed, they are quite important and I’ve written about them before (e.g., here and here). Atoms and bits have very different properties (for instance, atoms tend to be scarce and bits more abundant). It is my contention that these very different spheres come together to form our augmented reality. In fact, as I argue here, it is only under the assumption of augmented reality that we can fully explicate the relevant differences between the physical and digital. With this correction in mind, let’s move forward. Read More »

This was originally posted at my blog Cyborgology – click here to view the original post and to read/write comments.

This brief essay attempts to link two conceptualizations of the important relationship of the on and offline. I will connect (1) my argument that we should abandon the digital dualist assumption that the on and offline are separate in favor of the view that they enmesh into an augmented reality and (2) the problematic view that the Internet transcends social structures to produce something “objective” (or “flat” to use Thomas Friedman’s term).

Instead, recognizing that code has always been embedded in social structures allows persistent inequalities enacted in the name of computational objectivity to be identified (e.g., the hidden hierarchies of Wikipedia, the hidden profit-motive behind open-source, the hidden gendered standpoint of computer code, and so on). I will argue that the fallacy of web objectivity is driven fundamentally by digital dualism, providing further evidence that this dualism is at once conceptually false, and, most importantly, morally problematic. Simply, this specific form of digital dualism perpetuates structural inequalities by masking their very existence. Read More »

This Toyota commercial is narrated by a young woman who gets her parents on Facebook because they supposedly are not social enough. While she scoffs at how relatively few “friends” her parents have, the parents are shown to be out living by mountain-biking some decidedly offline trails. The daughter remains confidently transfixed and anchored to the digital world of her laptop screen.

I spend lots of time on this blog pointing out what I call “digital dualism,” the fallacy of viewing the physical and digital as seperate worlds (think The Matrix). Instead, the position myself and others on this blog favor is what we call “augmented reality,” the realization that our world is one where atoms and bits come together. Read more about this idea if you want.

Enter Toyota. They are playing off the pesky social media misnomer that people are using Facebook instead of doing things offline. Research consistently disproves this zero-sum/one-or-the-other fallacy by demonstrating Read More »

Today, Google announced a new service called “Google+” that explicitly attempts to replicate offline social norms onto an online platform. Besides the conceptual consistency between this goal and the concept of “augmented reality” that I write about so often, I also find the timing of the announcement interesting.

When Eric Schmidt was CEO of Google, I critiqued his statement that having multiple identities online shows “a lack of integrity.” Schmidt stepped down in April of this year and less than two months later Google announces Google+ (which is an umbrella term for a whole host of services centered on better replicating physical world social norms in a digital social media environment).

The service is brand new and invite-only so we can only speculate at this point what it will actually provide. However, the announcement of Google+ on the company’s official blog provides some interesting statements about privacy. The post is an implicit retraction of Schmidt’s insensitive statements and perhaps a lesson-learned from Google’s Buzz debacle that angered and even endangered many of its users. Further, much of the post is also a direct attack on the Facebook platform and its inability to reflect offline social norms that long-since predate the Web (e.g., the platform’s often incorrect usage of the term “friend”). Some quotes from the Google blog: Read More »