Updated on July 1, 2016
Who to Follow: Amber Case
I was introduced to Amber Case’s idea of Templated Self by Jim Groom recently, and that kind of domino-ed into reading about/becoming interested in Cyborg Anthropology. I was really taken by the idea.
When I read about Cyber Anthropology, juxtaposed in my mind against the topics we’ve been studying in Digital Citizenship, I had an of course moment.
Of course we should be studying the topic from that framework, why hadn’t I heard of this before? Case didn’t coin the term but I think she has really brought it back into the light, so to speak. Cyber Anthropology was presented as a topic at the 1992 Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association (login with your UAF account to read for free).
For instance we’ve discussed online presence, and controlling what that means, but Case takes it a step farther to “Second Selves,” which is not just our choices and presence but how that presence becomes an extension of self–including psychological impacts. Another topic I found of interest was Hyperlinked Memories, using an external device as an intermediary for accessing memories. Case touches on this a bit in her TED Talks video, in the way we feel adrift when we lose information on our hard drives, phones, etc.
Case’s current work is focused on Calm Technology. Which was coined in the 90s by Xerox PARC researchers Mark Weiser and John Seely Brown “as an antidote to the far more common experience of tech rage brought on by poor user experiences and data overload” (Calm Tech, Then and Now – re:form).
I quite like the idea of unobtrusive technology. While I love the connectablility that comes with modern tech–books at my fingertips, ease of communication over vast spaces, etc.–I don’t like how obsessive we’ve become with it. And, I could really do without the constant pull for attention. Like when a program pops up an alert to tell me it’s doing its job. I don’t need to be told it’s working, I just need it to work.
I think the work Amber Case is doing is very interesting, and wholly relevant–not just to the ED 654 class but to our lives, in and out of digital space. A lot of her work seems to start with ideas that have been lost in the shuffle, and that she has applied–or reapplied–to the modern world. It will be interesting to see where she takes her research from here.