#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. 🙂


September 2010 is Cyborg Month

Paul Raven @ 01-09-2010

Remember me mentioning the 50th anniversary of the word “cyborg” the other day? Well, here’s how I knew that: it’s thanks to Tim “Quiet Babylon” Maly*, who has decided that this particular neologism needs celebrating. And so, September 2010 is Cyborg Month, which will see fifty posts (mostly essays, but possibly all sorts of other webby content) from a wide selection of clever and interesting people (including, presumably in the name of making up the numbers a little bit, yours truly) about cyborgs, to be collected on a just-for-purpose Tumblr blog.

If you’re thinking “posts about cyborgs” is a little vague, I am assured that the vagueness is quite deliberate: “cyborg” is a fuzzy and much-misused term, and I think Tim’s basically trying to capture its multiple meanings and manifestations (and, indeed, manifestos) as they stand at this point in its chequered yet meteoric history. I’m very flattered to be taking part: I’ve seen who some of the other contributors are, and I think I’m very safe in saying that if you enjoy the various articles and waffle-topics I post about here at Futurismic, you’re definitely going to want to bookmark or subscribe to that Tumblr feed. Serious brainfood coming down the pipe, yes sir.

[ * Yes, yes, I know. Tim Maly will, I very much hope, be contributing (as promised by myself long ago) here at Futurismic in some capacity, at some point in the near future when he’s a little less busy**. And y’all can blame that contributory absence on me for being too quick to announce the contribution, rather than on Tim for not contributing, OK? OK. ]

[ ** I always sympathise with busy people. I sometimes like to think I’m a busy person, but then I look at how much stuff really busy people get done, and realise that I’m actually just a disorganised person with aspirations to busyness. Which is better than nothing, I guess. ]


The Free Freeways

Tim Maly @ 20-01-2010

Excerpts from “Asphalt Veins – The Freeway States” Published in NEWStream and syndicated to all ReutAssoc membersites (retrieved December 21 2012 @ 13:34).

Ysterplaat Airshow 2008
Creative Commons License photo credit: mallix

It was no great surprise when the highways seceded. Continue reading “The Free Freeways”


Excavating Worlds

Tim Maly @ 27-11-2009

Can you keep a secret? Despite being a total nerd, I somehow managed to grow up without playing a single full D&D adventure. It wasn’t because I was too cool for it or anything, I just didn’t have the right friends. But I wanted to, let me tell you. Desperately.

So I bought sourcebooks. Continue reading “Excavating Worlds”