#50cyborgs postmortem

Paul Raven @ 13-10-2010

I hope you’ll indulge me as I link to this postmortem interview with Tim Maly about his #50cyborgs project; yes, both Maly and interviewer Matthew Battles say nice things about my own contribution to it, but it’s also an interesting discussion for anyone curious about the future of “positioning for niche intelligentsia eyeballs in the modern post-blogosphere”, as Bruce Sterling puts it… or, to put it another way, content creation targeting select narrow verticals of the geek market.

MB: A striking aspect of the reaction to 50 Cyborgs was its seriousness. I mean, often when mainstream media outlets cover Internet culture, they talk about how wacky or geeky it is. And yet here was a project wholly of the Internet, which could be treated in venues like the Atlantic or on Nora Young’s CBC show as a serious project full-stop.

TM: It’s interesting that you find this striking. It never occurred to me that it was anything other than a good idea that they should cover it. The Atlantic comes out of me knowing Alexis through Twitter. When I first started talking about the 50th anniversary, he was at Wired and we’d talked about how it might be structured. When he moved over to The Atlantic, the idea moved with him.

As for CBC, I just sent them an email. Spark has always been very open to and about taking the Internet seriously. Right there on the homepage, it says, “Spark is a blog, radio show, podcast and an ongoing conversation about technology and culture. Spark is an online collaboration. Leave your thoughts, stories, and ideas here, and together we’ll make a radio show.” How could I not get in touch?

There is a power in boldness, it seems… though connections sure are helpful, too. But #50cyborgs spread as wide as it did in a fairly organic way:

MB: Beyond the handcrafted mediasphere of rss and podcast, though, an Internet culture project that isn’t about privacy, piracy, or kittens can be hard to find on the mainstream radar screen. How did you court the attention of the wider media?

TM: I didn’t. I reached out to sites that I thought would be interested in the project. The thing about mainstream media is that a lot of it moves too slowly. The gap between me being some weirdo with a Tumblr account and a good idea and the successful completion of the project is shorter than the lead time of most magazines.

I thought about approaching the New York Times about it as they are the first mention of the word (cyborg), as far as I can tell. I ended up not finding the time. The coverage in the Guardian came off of the author, Caspar Llewellyn Smith, hearing the Spark podcast.

I was more interested in hitting the big aggregators. I didn’t have as much success there as I’d hoped, though hitting Slashdot, Reddit and io9 felt pretty good. io9 was especially thrilling because I was in the midst of trying to work out how best to pitch to them and Annalee contacted me asking if there was room for one more contributor. And then she pitched “cyborgs in love”, which was on my unclaimed coverage wishlist. I hadn’t yet sent anything in and here’s the editor in chief getting in touch with me!

Lots of food for thought in there… and, for me, memories of a proud moment and a fun project. 🙂


Looking back on Cyborg Month

Paul Raven @ 01-10-2010

When Tim Maly invited me to contribute to the 50 Posts About Cyborgs project, I had a nagging suspicion that I’d have a run-in with impostor syndrome… and I was right. The nearly complete run of posts (49 of them linked from the Tumblr above as I type this) contains some of the smartest and most brain-expanding material I’ve read in a long, long time, from some incredibly erudite writers and thinkers. If you have any interest whatsoever in the post-modern human condition in a technology-saturated world, in where we came from as a species and where we’re going, or in what being (post?)human actually means, then there’ll be something there for you to enjoy – so go read.

And many thanks Tim for inviting me to take part; I’m one proud impostor. 🙂


One hundred years of cyborg solitude

Paul Raven @ 21-09-2010

21st September 2060; New Southsea, Disunited Kingdom

September is the old man’s favourite time of year. This morning New Southsea basks in the upper twenties as the summer sear fades out, and the high tides leave less silt in the streets. “Shorts weather, young lady,” he mumbles around his post-breakfast smoke, smiling in the sunlight as the post-grad girl clears away the crocks, boots up the base-unit for his ancient spex and helps him over to his scarred thriftwood desk. “Great day for an etymological celebration, I reckon.”

She can’t help but agree; he’s a grumpy old bastard a lot of the time, but his enthusiasm’s infectious when it takes him. Someone somewhere in New Southsea celebrates some marginal anniversary or festival every day of the year, but as obscure temporal landmarks go, today might take some sort of award. She’s surprised by how much she’s been looking forward to it… though again, she figures she’s just tuning into the old man’s vibes somehow. The reason seems inexplicably unimportant. Continue reading “One hundred years of cyborg solitude”