Cool—The Mutual Co-Construction of Online and Onground in Cyborganic

The Mutual Co-Construction of Online and Onground in Cyborganic: Making an Ethnography of Networked Social Media Speak to Challenges of the Posthuman

by Jennifer Cool

[Cool, Jennifer. 2012. “The Mutual Co-Construction of Online and Onground in Cyborganic.” In Human No More: Digital Subjectivities, Unhuman Subjects, and the End of Anthropology, edited by Neil L. Whitehead and Michael Wesch, 11–32. Boulder: University Press of Colorado.]

Points

  • based on 10 years of participant observation with Cyborganic, a “group of San Francisco web geeks who combined online and face-to-face interaction in a conscious project to build community “on both sides of the screen”’ (11).
  • Finds that Cyborganic’s activities both online and onground (offline) are mutually co-constructed—
    • builds on the idea of colocation—several entities concurrently in the same place
    • using programs that reference a user’s emplacement onground users “display [their] presence across media” (20). She calls this “presence casting.
    • in that way, the users’ online and onground presences co-construct in a symbiotic relationship
  • Includes a detailed discussion of Katherine Hayles and the posthuman.

Great definition of media from Lisa Gitelman—”socially realized structures of communication, where structures include both technological forms and their associated protocols, and where communication is a cultural practice, a ritualized colocation of different people on the same mental map, sharing or engaged with popular ontologies of representation” (Always Already New, 2006, pg 7)

Cyborganic Onground

Cyborganic Online

Annotation Sumary – Page 11 (22), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “For approximately ten years I was a participant-observer of Cyborganic, a group of San Francisco web geeks who combined online and face-to-face interaction in a conscious project to build community “on both sides of the screen.””

Page 11 (22), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “The new imaginaries and practices of networked, social media that Cyborganics integrated in their daily lives during this period are recognizable today in Facebook,1 Twitter, 2 and a variety of other forms of many-to-many online media centered on self- publishing, user-generated content, and social networks.”

Page 12 (23), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Although online life challenges traditional assumptions of place-based ethnography and the anthropological subject, my Cyborganic study shows how practices of networked social media can reconfigure experiences and imaginaries of place, identity, and embodiment without dematerializing these as sites of subjectivity or rendering them obsolete as sources of anthropological insight.”

Page 12 (23), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Indeed, the interdependence or mutuality of Cyborganic’s online and onground (face-to-face) aspects has been a key finding of my study.”

Page 12 (23), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Online is the conventional term for computer-mediated communication, and I came up with onground because I needed a convenientway to refer to aspects of Cyborganic that were not, or not only, online (e.g., working and living together, interacting face-to-face).”

Page 12 (23), Highlight (Yellow): Content: “Online”

Page 12 (23), Highlight (Yellow): Content: “onground”

Page 12 (23), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “it is vital to make clear that the distinction between onground and online is not that the former is material and the latterimmaterial. However tempting and common sense that assumption, online communications clearly have material bases in physical hardware (machines and wires) and material forces of production and consumption.”

Page 12 (23), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Soja argues that, just as the physical world can be divided in to space, time, and matter, the abstract dimensions of spatiality, temporality, and social being “together comprise all facets of human existence” (Soja 1989, 25). He calls this triad the “ontological3 nexus of space-time-being.””

Page 13 (24), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “the relation between the physical triad (space, time, matter) and existential triad (spatiality, temporality, and social being) is already mediated through language and socialization. Computer-mediated communication blurs and shifts relations of spatiality, temporality, and social being—Soja’s basic facets of human existence—and thus calls into question traditional conceptions of the anthropological subject. ”

Page 13 (24), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “ParT 1 Online/Onground Mutuality in Cyborganic”

Page 13 (24), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Cyborganic’s central project was to create a “home on both sides of the screen””

Page 18 (29), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “In the 1990s, anthropologists (Appadurai 1990, 1991; Gupta and Ferguson 1997a, 1997b, 1997c) challenged the assumed “isomorphism between space,place, and culture” (Gupta and Ferguson 1997a, 34) and theorized “techno-logical infrastructures as sites for the production of locality” without a neces-sarily geographic referent (Ito 1999, 2). ”

Page 18 (29), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “my emphasis on place builds on a concept of colocation—the colocation of people, jobs, and social activities together in particular placesand channels of communication—that applies equally online and onground. This understanding of colocation is informed by ”

Page 18 (29), Highlight (Yellow): Content: “colocation”

Page 18 (29), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Lisa Gitelman’s definition of media “as socially realized structures of communication, where structures include both technological forms and their associated protocols, and where communication is a cultural practice, a ritualized colocation of different peo- ple on the same mental map, sharing or engaged with popular ontologies of representation” (Gitelman 2006, 7, emphasis added).”

Page 18 (29), Underline (Magenta): Content: “Lisa Gitelman’s definition of media “as socially realized structures of communication, where structures include both technological forms and their associated protocols, and where communication is a cultural practice, a ritualized colocation of different peo- ple on the same mental map, sharing or engaged with popular ontologies of representation” (Gitelman 2006, 7, emphasis added).”

Page 20 (31), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Besides hanging out, gossiping, and bantering in the chat, Cyborganics used space bar as a hailing frequency. Cyborganic’s web team created a “porthole” on the Web (Figure 1.4), a webpage people could visit to see who was online in the chat without having to telnet to space bar and log-in.”

Page 20 (31), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “In the context of the porthole and cadet detector, people began using the space bar’s nickname feature to append short status messages of different kinds (e.g., mood, location, role) to their log-ins. Displaying your presence acrossmedia—that is, from the space bar chat, which was not on the web, to a page on Cyborganic’s website or a member’s homepage—was what I call “presence casting.” ”

Page 20 (31), Highlight (Yellow): Content: ““presence casting.””

Page 20 (31), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “In this, and other practices, space bar served an essentially phatic function of maintaining social connection rather than communicating messages.”

Page 23 (34), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “The imaginaries and practices of colocation, presence casting, and phatic communion described in space bar reflect a form of just-in-time, configurable sociality that has proliferated with the media forms and practices collectively known as “Web 2.0,” for example, in Facebook status messages or micro- blogging on Twitter.”

Page 24 (35), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Each of the social imaginaries and practices described and analyzed in this chapter—colocation, presence cast- ing, and configurable sociality—demonstrates ways in which the unlinking of social and physical proximity (of online from onground) opens new possibili- ties for their recombination and reconfiguration.”

Page 24 (35), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “None suggests the demate- rialization of place or erasure of embodiment as a consequence of the prolif- eration of computer-mediated interaction. Rather, in the case of Cyborganic, mediated and face-to-face communication worked together synergistically to reconfigure the experience and social relations of presence and place.”

Page 24 (35), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “ParT 2”

Page 24 (35), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Challenges of the Posthuman”

Page 25 (36), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Ideas of the posthuman are varied and contradictory and extend from science fiction, cyberpunk, robotics, and artificial intelligence (Foster 2005;Moravec 1988, 1998; Minsky 1987; Warwick 2001, 2004) to critical social theory (Haraway 1991; Hayles 1999). ”

Page 25 (36), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “focuses on challenging the liberal humanist subject, that is, the conception of the human that emerged in the West during the Enlightenment. In this conception, human subjectiv- ity is understood as stable, unitary, and autonomous and reason is seen as the defining characteristic of human being (as in Descartes famous phrase “I think, therefore I am”). It is this particular view of the human that critical social theorists seek to put in the past with the “post” of posthuman and to replace with alternate conceptions of human subjectivity, such as the image of the cyborg Donna Haraway has proposed.”

Page 25 (36), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “The second set”

Page 26 (37), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Hayles applies posthuman to two very different conceptions of human subjectivity: a transhumanist vision that “configures human being so that it can be seamlessly articulated with intelligent machines” (1999, 3) and a post- humanist one that sees “the deconstruction of the liberal humanist subject as an opportunity to put back into the picture the flesh that continues to be erased in contemporary discussions about cybernetic subjects” (1999, 5).”

Page 26 (37), Highlight (Yellow): Content: “posthuman”

Page 27 (38), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Conceived to “put back into the picture the flesh that continues to be erased in contemporary discussions about cybernetic subjects,” Hayles’s ver- sion of the posthuman challenges “metanarratives about the transformation of the human into a disembodied posthuman” (Hayles 1999, 5).”

Page 27 (38), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “In similar manner, I have worked in my ethnographic account of Cyborganic to read and write the flesh back into the genealogy of contemporary forms of techno- sociality.”

Page 27 (38), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “I have spoken of various sites of subjectiv-ity—place, presence, and colocation—as mutually co-constructed online andonground. ”

Page 27 (38), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “This is how I perceive the anthropological subject in the cyber- netic circuits of contemporary society. Although material-information flows decouple and reconfigure, the circuit always comes to ground in situated sub- jects, embodied and emplaced in the nexus of space, time, and social being.”

Page 27 (38), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “In recognizing that subjectivity is constructed through mediation of material and symbolic realms, we are”

Page 28 (39), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “well positioned to contest, with Hayles, the “teleology of disembodiment” that reinserts the liberal humanist subject into conceptions of technologically mediated subjectivity and sociality. By attending to the mutual co-construc- tion of online and onground social forms, practices, and imaginaries, we can make ethnography speak to the challenges of the posthuman.”

Page 28 (39), Underline (Red): Content: “Boellstorff, Tom. 2008. Coming of Age in Second Life. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Uni- versity Press.”

Page 28 (39), Underline (Red): Content: “Castells, Manuel. 2001. The Internet Galaxy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.”

Page 29 (40), Underline (Red): Content: “Castells, Manuel, and Peter Hall. 1994. Technopoles of the World: The Making of 21st Century Industrial Complexes. London: Routledge.”

Page 29 (40), Underline (Red): Content: “Clifford, James. 1988. The Predicament of Culture. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univer-sity Press. Clifford, James, and George Marcus, eds. 1986. Writing Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography. Berkeley: University of California Press. ”

Page 29 (40), Underline (Red): Content: “Geertz, Clifford. 1988. Works and Lives. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.”

Page 30 (41), Underline (Red): Content: “Haraway, Donna. 1991. Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. Lon- don: Free Association Books.”

Page 30 (41), Underline (Red): Content: “Hayles, N. Katherine. 1999. How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.”

Page 30 (41), Underline (Red): Content: “Jakobson, Roman. 1981. Selected Writings, vol. 3: Poetry of Grammar and Grammar of Poetry, ed. Stephen Rudy. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.”

Page 30 (41), Underline (Red): Content: “Latour, Bruno. 1993. We Have Never Been Modern. Trans. Catherine Porter. Cam- bridge, MA: Harvard University Press.”

Page 30 (41), Underline (Red): Content: “Malinowski, Bronislaw. 1989 [1923]. “The Problem of Meaning in Primitive Lan-guages.” In The Meaning of Meaning, ed. C. K. Ogden and I. A. Richards, 296–336. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. ”

Page 30 (41), Underline (Red): Content: “Rheingold, Howard. 1993. The Virtual Community: Homesteading on the Electronic Frontier. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.”

Page 31 (42), Underline (Red): Content: “Soja, Ed. 1989. Postmodern Geographies. London: Verso.”

Page 31 (42), Underline (Red): Content: “Turkle, S. 1984. The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit. New York: Simonand Schuster. Turkle, S. 1995. Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet. New York: Simon and Schuster. “

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