Hello Buffalo News readers, the Social Cyborg welcomes you…

Buffalo News: Living Under the Lens (12.29.08)
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Scott Johnson's "Kevin the Lifecaster"

Welcome Buffalo News readers!

You probably dropped by after reading Steve Watson’s article entitled “Video technology creates a few very-public lives“, which offers a great dialogue into the ambiguity of identity in our increasingly networked lives. As I’ve mentioned at the end…

“We are rethinking the things that we’ve taken for granted,” Lim said. “Whether it’s privacy, identity, or so on. What’s happening is we are re-evaluating these things. Because the status quo just isn’t enough.”

As someone transforming into a “social cyborg”, I’ve been experiencing what it would be like to be hyper-connected as a human being. My project continues to push the boundaries of digitizing and sharing rich experiences, by combining streaming video, GPS data and possibly bio + emotional impulses as accurately as possible. While experimenting with ways of establishing a richer sense of presence and feedback in a non-directional everyday setting, this project dabbles on concepts relating to:

1. Continuous Partial Presence: Be it text updates or video feeds, loved ones feel as if I am actually close by when I am actually half the globe away.

2. On-Demand Crowdsourcing: Decisions can be augmented by the minds of many. As I engage in everyday affairs, my peers are polled to suggest what I should do (e.g. purchasing decisions, useful lifehacks).

3. Public Therapy (?): The idea that I’d be mindful of habits since my life is visible to all, and particularly magnified for my internal review.

4. Redefinition of Identity / Privacy: Privacy is a broad term, so here I am trying to find boundaries. Technology augments behavior, for instance, private phone conversations become public after cellphones were introduced.

5. Memory Prosthetic: I can opt to record moments of my life on video, and render the media deep searchable by date, time, subject matter, etc.

If you’re interested to learn more about me, check out my About page. If you wish to learn more about lifecasting, check out the following key articles below:

"Kevin // Social Cyborg" on theITsociety quarterly (01/08)
How (and WHY) you might want to build your own lifecasting kit

As featured on Zaobao Weekly
Zaobao Weekly newspaper features the Social Cyborg

How about you try it?
If you’d like to try something like this, but can’t afford the equipment, all you might need is your camera phone. Using Qik, you can easily broadcast video live from your cellphone, and even get viewers to chat with you right while you’re shooting! Here’s our Prime Minister demonstrating Qik at his National Day Rally speech and here’s my Qik profile if you’d like to add me as a friend.

So… what’s next?
My friends have made interesting suggestions on how I could further this project, but I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you’d like to see this take flight. I also encourage you to try this on your own, so feel free to ask if you have any questions.

Finally, do watch out for Alex Halavais’ upcoming “wear-tech” blog (TBA). As a tech enthusiast and assistant professor of communications at Quinnipiac University, he’s been my key mentor and sense-maker in our age of complexity.

7 thoughts on “Hello Buffalo News readers, the Social Cyborg welcomes you…

  1. Kevin,

    At Thanksgiving this year, a relative of mine was a bit taken back by the fact that I report daily events in Twitter. “Why? What for? And why do you do this?” She couldn’t understand the value of transmitting my status throughout the day to co-workers and a few loved ones.

    Strapping on gear, whoa, that’s likely to freak some out. I can appreciate the fact you have some academic (or scholarly) interests in these experiences. I wouldn’t have a problem wearing a GPS chip to broadcast my position to my S.O. But… you must have personal interests aside from the issues you mention, for doing this?

    What separates your experience as the social cyborg from Justin.tv? And where do you see folks having the time to digest all of this content that people would be creating wearing broadcasting tech?

    Lastly – what segment of the population do you envision following your lead, let’s say, in 5–10 years when the technology is more ubiquitous and convenient?

    I have to say, my opinion of some colleagues has changed since using Twitter… I am not sure why they are always reading and going to bed… but that’s what they’re tweeting. Is the next step a live video feed of this otherwise mundane activity?

    John Hendrons last blog post..Yellow for 2009

  2. John,
    As you’ve learned through twitter, we don’t exactly know how this activity benefits us, but we certainly learn more about ourselves in the process. I find that such status services give rise to serendipity or opportunities for more interesting things to happen. We only know it when we feel it; it is hard to explain.

    However, for these valid questions, with a diverse range of pragmatic answers, some trivial yet natural, some run against a cultural imbalance we’ve dangerously become so used to.

    I’ll try to answer briefly as I’ve done lengthy interviews explaining the philosophy behind this 🙂

    First, privacy is ambiguous, the status quo needs to be challenged. From a sousveillance perspective, why do we have no right to survey authorities, while the authorities have the right to survey us? Sadly, we’ve long conceded our privacy. This is studied in the field of equiveillance.

    Second, personal memory prosthetics. We blog, twitter, flickr, Youtube and so on to realize our existence. If we can do so in a more automated fashion, it need not be as haphazard as it is now. The most important audience, is oneself. Useful bits could be searched or tagged for public consumption. Inspired by Vannevar Bush’s hypothetical Memex computer system, Microsoft’s Gordon Bell has been working on his MyLifeBits project, which extends this concept.

    Third, eventual ubiquity. The camera phone is becoming a proxy for all this activity, from Qik.com to Glogger.mobi, memory prosthetics is becoming a reality gradually.

    Finally, the biggest question dawns upon us: Does technology change us, or vice versa. In actuality, I am taking control to establish the viability of one possible route.

    I hope this somewhat makes sense. In the next series of blog posts, I will have a video explanation as well as video interviews lined up with Steve Mann (an authority on cyborg living) as well as Bhaskar Roy, founder of Qik, to elicit the topic further.

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