Social Computing UCSB Social Computing Group Web Site Wed, 10 Mar 2010 09:59:13 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Announcement: Announcing the Winners of the “Social Computing in 2020” Competition Wed, 06 May 2009 03:20:28 +0000

The Transliteracies Project and the UCSB Social Computing Group are pleased to announce the winners of the Bluesky Innovation Competition on “Social Computing in 2020.”

The worldwide contest was designed to engage undergraduate and graduate students in the newly emerging, interdisciplinary field of “social computing.” Participants were encouraged to imagine how society and technology will interact 10 to 20 years from now – far enough in the future to stretch our imagination of technology, yet near enough to be plausible.

Contest entries consisted of a description of the envisioned technology as well as an imaginative realization, embodiment, or illustration of the idea. The entries were judged on the basis of creativity, understanding of technology and society, explanatory clarity and organization of the description, and the quality of the imaginative realization, embodiment, or illustration. (See the original contest announcement.)

The Winners:

First Prize ($3,000): “SENSe” by Karen Tanenbaum and Joshua Tanenbaum
, graduate students, School of Interactive Arts and Technology, Simon Fraser University

Second Prize ($1,000): “Experiential Skin Diving” by Daniel Luis Kamakura, undergraduate, English major, Duke University

Third Prize ($500): “Anatomical Analytics” by Chris Castiglione, graduate student, New Media Programme, University of Amsterdam

Honorable Mentions:

The contest committee would like to also recognize these outstanding Honorable Mentions:

Please see the full Winners Announcement for more information.

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Announcement: Sun, 09 Nov 2008 00:09:44 +0000

Update 5/1/09: We are pleased to announce that the winners of The Bluesky Innovation Competition on “Social Computing in 2020” have been determined.  Please stay tuned – an announcement with the winners and project details will be posted soon.

The University of California Transliteracies Project and UC Santa Barbara Social Computing Group announce the “Social Computing in 2020” Bluesky Innovation Competition. What will social computing technologies and practices be like in the year 2020?

  • Eligible: Undergraduate or graduate students anywhere in the world.
  • Awards: 1st prize, $3000 USD; 2nd prize, $1000, 3rd prize, $500.
  • Submission Format: Description of an idea + Imaginative realization, embodiment, or illustration of the idea in a variety of possible formats (e.g., an essay, story, script, application sketch, fictional business plan, etc.).
  • Deadline: January 30, 2009.
  • Full Competition Announcement: Guidelines & Submission Details

Students from any discipline–humanities, arts, social sciences, computer science, engineering, etc.–are encouraged to apply. The competition emphasizes visionary, thoughtful, or critical concepts rather than technical knowledge as such.

For more information, see the full competition announcement.
Inquiries may be directed by email to socialcomputing(at)

Proposed Social Computing IGERT Curriculum Wed, 10 Mar 2010 09:33:08 +0000

Social Computing IGERT Curriculum

[Also see sample syllabus and bibliography for SC 2.a – Social Computing Advanced Research Core Course]

Tech & Society PH.D Emphasis Social Computing IGERT Courses
(on top of Tech & Society Ph.D. Emphasis Curriculum)
Year 1
1.a – Gateway Seminar for UCSB Technology & Society Ph.D. Emphasis.

Rationale: This course introduces students to a broad range of methods and topics in the study of information technology and society.  It also links up students with wide selection of faculty and other students and teaches them how to collaborate across disciplines.

SC 1.a – Social Computing Research Skills and Methods Course

Rationale: This course provides hands-on introductions and training in the research and technological skills needed to collaborate across disciplines on topics related to social computing.  The course ensures that students are cross-trained in other disciplines at a level adequate to facilitate later collaboration.  Major units of the course will include: introduction to social-science research methods and social-networking theory and tools; introduction to networking technology, database theory, datamining, and visualization [I need some help here!]; introduction to cultural and ethnical analysis, including contemporary approaches to human identity.

1.b – Two of the four courses required for the Tech & Society Ph.D. Emphasis (1 in T&S Area 1: Culture and History; 1 in T&S Area 2: Society and Behavior)

Rationale: These courses expose students to the breadth of the topic of technology and society.

Example courses from approved T&S list:

Area 1: “Historicizing New Media,” “Digital Media Theory & Practices,” “Race & Gender in Cyberculture,” “Technology in U.S. History,” “Network Protocols in a Social Context”

Area 2: “Mass Communication and the Individual,” “Global Organizational Communication,” “Technology & Organization,” “Literacy in the Information Age,” “Geographic Information Systems,” “Internet & Social Movements,” “Information Technology & Politics”

SC 1.b

At least one additional core course in a student’s home department relevant to, or preparatory for, work on social computing.

Rationale: These courses anchor the new student in their home program and ensure a sound basis for future work integrating their dissertation research with their social computing IGERT research.

Example courses:

Sociology: Soc 224: “Social Movements”; Soc 294: “The Internet and Social Movements”; Soc 294: “Methods of Internet Research”

Communication: Comm 594: “Social Media and Communication”

Media Arts & Technology/Humanities: “Technology and the New Sociology of Culture”

Computer Science: [We need something here]

Year 2

The last two of four courses required for the Tech & Society Ph.D. Emphasis (1 in T&S Area 1: Culture and History; 1 in T&S Area 2: Society and Behavior)

Rationale & Example Courses: (See under 1.b above)

SC 2.a – Social Computing Advanced Research Core Course

Rationale: this course includes advanced readings and discussions of with units on the application of social computing (including collective action); information, communication, and media studies (including information credibility); and the development and measurement of social-computing technology.  [Detailed syllabus and bibliography]

SC 2.b – Project Design Course

Rationale: This is a team-based project-design course in which students design and prototype a project for the purpose of exploring next-generation social, cultural, and technological issues in social computing.  Students will be supervised by a faculty member experienced in project-design and -management (who will also mentor students in such professionalization topics as grant-writing, project-administration, project-budgeting, and human-studies ethics rules); and each student will also consult with an individual advisor in his or her home department to ensure that there is synergy between IGERT research and dissertation research.

Year 3

[Outside the IGERT, students in this year focus on their dissertation prospectuses and final qualifying exams in their home departments]

SC 3.a – Social Collaboratory Project Course

Rationale: This course brings the results of our IGERT students’ training to bear on one of the great user-bases of social computing: K-12 and undergraduates.  The purpose is to help educate younger students in the nature, potential, and risks of social media and also to encourage them to pursue educational tracks that will help produce tomorrow’s social-computing designers, engineers, content-managers, scholars, critics, and others.   IGERT students in this collaboratory are required to build a team-based project that interacts with K-12 and/or undergraduate students.  The project will be evaluated on the basis of two criteria: ability to make society aware of the broad social, cultural, and technological implications of social media; and ability to make younger students aware of the specific training they would need to have a career in social computing in the future (i.e., a sense of the professional “fields” involved, the programs they may want to find out about, etc.).

Ongoing Professionalization Training
Besides the mentoring specified under 2.b above, students will be required to undergo a structured series of activities intended to provide them with professionalization training.  Due to space limitations, these are omitted from this preproposal, but will be included in a full proposal.  These activities include: attendance at a lecture series, an annual research review, a formal mentoring arrangement, an ethics and human-subjects workshop, a public research talk, and a management/entrepreneurship workshop.  The IGERT, of course, also includes the requirement that students undergo a critique of their Ph.D. prospectus and a dissertation defense (in conjunction with the requirements of a student’s disciplinary department ).

Social Computing Advanced Research Core Course Wed, 10 Mar 2010 09:21:18 +0000 SC 2.a – Syllabus
The following is an example syllabus for the second-year core course in a social computing IGERT. The references suggest example readings.

Week 1 & 2: Introduction
Social computing is the study of large-scale socially aware information systems. Current technologies span social networking sites (e.g., Facebook), media sharing sites (e.g., YouTube, Flickr), collaborative knowledge production (e.g., Wikipedia) and mapping sites (e.g., mashups).  Developing a disciplined understanding of social computing, however, is an inherently interdisciplinary task requiring research and training across a spectrum of fields – including engineering, sociology, education, the humanities, communication, design, the arts, and media studies (Liu et al., 2008). Have these technologies changed our social attitudes and behaviors? How has social computing altered problems of collective action and information credibility? What research methods are effective in studying these phenomena? We start by defining social computing (Wang et al., 2007) and discussing Web 2.0 visions (O’Reilly, 2005; Rheingold, 2000; Brown and Duguid, 2002). We discuss how open-source software and collaborative knowledge production might be described as a new mode of economic production – described as non-market social production by Benkler (2006) or more generally as digital commons (Greco and Floridi, 2004). What are the theoretical ideas behind technology diffusion into society? We discuss utopian and dystopian visions, and technological determinism and social shaping of technology (Bimber, 1994; Mackay and Gillespie, 1992; Kling, 1996).

Week 3 & 4: Technology
We start by discussing the nature of theWeb and its behavioral and structural complexities (Adamic and Huberman, 2001; Albert et al., 1999; Fielding and Taylor, 2002). We review several key technologies and discuss their architecture and design:

  • Blogging (Kumar et al., 2004);
  • Collaborative filtering (Kautz et al., 1997) and tagging (Sen et al., 2006;  Golder and Huberman, 2006; Halpin et al., 2007);
  • Internet search (Barroso et al., 2003);
  • Social media and networking sites (Boyd and Ellison, 2007); and
  • Wikipedia and wikis (Priedhorsky et al., 2007; Almeida et al., 2007).

Week 5 & 6: Behavior

  • Free-riding problems (Adar and Huberman, 2000; Beenen et al., 2004).
  • Motivations and social psychology (Nardi et al., 2004).
  • Online credibility (Metzger et al., 2003; Metzger, 2007; Rieh and Danielson, 2007).
  • Social impacts (Katz and Rice, 2002; Kavanaugh et al., 2005).
  • Social roles in online environments (Golder and Donath, 2004; Suler, 2004).

Week 7 & 8: Culture

  • Authoring (Pfeil et al., 2006; Emigh and Herring, 2005).
  • Globalization (Axford, 2004).
  • Historical perspectives.
  • Social presence (Schroeder, 2002).
  • Virtual communities (Bakardjieva, 2003).

Week 9 & 10: Policy

  • Intellectual property (Mitchell, 2005).
  • Privacy (Gross et al., 2005).


  • Adamic, L. A. and B. A. Huberman (2001). The web’s hidden order. Communications of the ACM 44(9), 55–60.
  • Adar, E. and B. A. Huberman (2000). Free riding on gnutella. First Monday 5(10)
  • Albert, R., H. Jeong, and A.-L. Barab´asi (1999). Internet: Diameter of the world-wide web. Nature 401(6749), 130–131.
  • Almeida, R., B. Mozafari, and J. Cho (2007). On the evolution of Wikipedia. In 1st International Conference on Weblogs and Social Media, Boulder, CO.
  • Axford, B. (2004). Global civil society or ‘networked globality’: beyond the territorialist and societalist paradigm. Globalizations 1(2), 249–264.
  • Bakardjieva, M. (2003). Virtual Togetherness: An Everyday-life Perspective. Media, Culture & Society 25(3), 291.
  • Barroso, L. A., J. Dean, and U. Holzle (2003). Web search for a planet: The Google cluster architecture. IEEE Micro 23(2), 22–28.
  • Beenen, G., K. Ling, X. Wang, K. Chang, D. Frankowski, P. Resnick, and R. E. Kraut (2004). Using social psychology to motivate contributions to online communities. In ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work, Chicago, Illinois, USA.
  • Benkler, Y. (2006). The wealth of networks: How social production transforms markets and freedom. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
  • Bimber, B. A. (1994). The three faces of technological determinism. In M. R. Smith and L. Marx (Eds.), Does technology drive history? The dilemma of technological determinism. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Boyd, D. M. and N. Ellison (2007). Social Network Sites: Definition, History, and Scholarship. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 13(1).
  • Brown, J. S. and P. Duguid (2002). The Social Life of Information. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business School Press.
  • Emigh, W. and S. C. Herring (2005). Collaborative authoring on the web: A genre analysis of online encyclopedias. In 38th Annual Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS ’05), Waikoloa, Hawaii.
  • Fielding, R. T. and R. N. Taylor (2002). Principled design of the modern Web architecture. ACM Transactions on Internet Technology 2(2), 115–150.
  • Golder, S. and J. Donath (2004, 19-22 September). Social roles in electronic communities. In Association of Internet Researchers Conference: Internet Research 5.0, Brighton, England.
  • Golder, S. A. and B. A. Huberman (2006). Usage patterns of collaborative tagging systems. Journal of Information Science 32(2), 198–208.
  • Greco, G. M. and L. Floridi (2004). The tragedy of the digital commons. Ethics and Information Technology 6(2), 73–81. doi:10.1007/s10676-004-2895-2.
  • Gross, R., A. Acquisti, and H. J. Heinz, III (2005). Information revelation and privacy in online social networks. In ACM Workshop on Privacy in the Electronic Society, Alexandria, VA, pp. 71–80.
  • Halpin, H., V. Robu, and H. Shepherd (2007). The complex dynamics of collaborative tagging. In 16th International Conference on World Wide Web, Banff, Alberta, Canada.
  • Katz, J. E. and R. E. Rice (2002). Social consequences of Internet use: Access, involvement, and interaction. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
  • Kautz, H., B. Selman, and M. Shah (1997). Referral Web: Combining social networks and collaborative filtering. Communications of the ACM 40(3), 63–65.
  • Kavanaugh, A. L., D. D. Reese, J. M. Carroll, and M. B. Rosson (2005). Weak ties in networked communities. The Information Society 21(2), 119–131.
  • Kling, R. (1996). Hopes and horrors: Technological utopianism and anti-utopianism in narratives of computerization. In R. Kling (Ed.), Computerization and controversy: Value conflicts and social choices (2nd ed.)., pp. 40–58. San Francisco: Morgan Kaufmann.
  • Kumar, R., J. Novak, P. Raghavan, and A. Tomkins (2004). Structure and evolution of blogspace. Communications of the ACM 47(12), 35–39.
  • Liu, A. et al. (2008). Social computing group. UCSB.
  • Mackay, H. and G. Gillespie (1992). Extending the social shaping of technology approach: Ideology and appropriation. Social Studies of Science 22(4),  685–716.
  • Metzger, M. J. (2007). Making sense of credibility on the web: Models for evaluating online information and recommendations for future research. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology 58(13), 2078–2091. doi:10.1002/asi.20672.
  • Metzger, M. J., A. J. Flanagin, K. Eyal, D. R. Lemus, and R. M. McCann (2003). Credibility for the 21st century: Integrating perspectives on source, message, and media credibility in the contemporary media environment.  Communication Yearbook 27(1), 293–335.
  • Mitchell, H. C. (2005). The intellectual commons: Toward an ecology of intellectual property. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.
  • Nardi, B. A., D. J. Schiano, M. Gumbrecht, and L. Swartz (2004). Why we blog. Communications of the ACM 47(12), 41–46.
  • O’Reilly, T. (2005, 30 September). What is web 2.0: Design patterns and business models for the next generation of software. Online article.
  • Pfeil, U., P. Zaphiris, and C. S. Ang (2006). Cultural differences in collaborative authoring of Wikipedia. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 12(1).
  • Priedhorsky, R., J. Chen, S. T. K. Lam, K. Panciera, L. Terveen, and J. Riedl (2007). Creating, destroying, and restoring value in Wikipedia. In 6th International Conference on Supporting Group Work (GROUP’07), Sanibel Island, FL. ACM.
  • Rheingold, H. (2000). The virtual community: Homesteading on the electronic frontier (2nd ed.). Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
  • Rieh, S. Y. and D. Danielson (2007). Credibility: A multidisciplinary framework. Annual Review of Information Science and Technology 41, 307–364.
  • Schroeder, R. (2002). The Social Life of Avatars: Presence and Interaction in Shared Virtual Environments. New York: Springer.
  • Sen, S., S. K. Lam, A. M. Rashid, D. Cosley, D. Frankowski, J. Osterhouse, F. M. Harper, and J. Riedl (2006). tagging, communities, vocabulary, evolution. In 20th Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work, Banff, Alberta, Canada, pp. 181–190.
  • Suler, J. (2004). The online disinhibition effect. CyberPsychology andBehavior 7(3), 321–326.
  • Wang, F.-Y., K. M. Carley, D. Zeng, andW. Mao (2007). Social computing: From social informatics to social intelligence. IEEE Intelligent Systems 22(2), 79–83.
Syllabus originally prepared for the UCSB Social Computing Group’s IGERT proposal by Darren Hardy, member of the group’s “Bluesky” subgroup
Social Computing in 2020 Honorable Mention: “Mexican Laser Light Extravaganza” by Justin Andrew Gutierrez Fri, 15 May 2009 00:26:54 +0000 About the Author:
Justin Andrew Gutierrez is an undergraduate in the Interdisciplinary Computing in the Arts / Music program at UC San Diego. Gutierrez expects to receive his degree in 2009.

For more information about all of the contest winners, please see the full contest winners announcement.

Participants in the competition warrant that their ideas are their own. Where ideas include component-ideas or materials by others, applicants warrant that any intellectual property owned by others and used in their submissions is approved for use and appropriately attributed.

The copyright or patent for any material submitted for the competition remains with the original owner.

Description of the Idea:

A Spherical Revolution

We have all heard the phrase, “the pen is mightier than the sword.” Because of the advancement of technology, the quick spreading of words has inevitably altered the outlook of social communities throughout history: the Gutenburg Bible, Thomas Paine’s Common Sense. In the 21st century, the spreading of messages is happening even faster and more conveniently than paper leaflets and books, with the emergence of methods such as text messaging, mass emailing, and small, net-based computers (“netbooks”). In general, two trends are occurring: the messages are traveling faster, and the methods are becoming smaller.

The final form of these messages are also becoming more unfiltered in terms of the events they represent. Because of the recent advancement of net-based technology, such as the growing versatility of cellular phones and more reliable internet streaming, messages are traveling through wire and air to compact devices in other forms besides text: audio and video. The messages in these media are richer than text, because of the included human elements of voice, facial expressions and gestures. What this means is that people are able to receive messages and events in their actuality—straight from the horse’s mouth and eyes. At any particular moment, a person with a contemporary cellular phone can search videos on the Web, and bring them to view into their very palm. This has become quite a revolutionary way to find, or rather experience, information.

Because of the accessibility of video streams, and the non-existent cost of displaying personal video on the Web, individuals and groups have began to project personalities, original documentaries and entertaining material, with a generally indirect goal of projecting themselves onto the world. With social networking sites as a platform for distributing video, some individuals have gained acknowledgement worldwide for video recordings that have added unique qualities to the Internet. Internet video sites, such as youTube, have allowed for individuals or groups to be judged by the global community, which in turn projects what they have to potentially offer to the world.

I believe that a future advancement in social computing is the projection of ideas into physical space from a network of people. An online group called Graffiti Research Lab is already using computing to project text into physical space; this group uses LASERs to display graffiti onto walls of buildings, bridges etc. This type of graffiti tests the definition of vandalism, because although it defaces property, it is not permanent. Such a technology could be absolutely powerful for online organizations that wish to get a message across in a potent way without damaging their own reputations. The only connection that online groups now have with this, however, is to watch it happen in videos. What if internet users could vote on a political message they would like to be displayed on say, the U.S.-Mexico border? This message could then be taken outside of cyberspace, and placed into the real world. This allows for collective contribution to a powerful statement.

It also seems that since media transfer is becoming more reliable and faster, and the methods more compact, the message could be carried around with people, and displayed at a myriad of locations. Imagine this: A networked, small, spherical device with a viewing screen, LASER projector, and a keyboard (See illustration). A group could collaborate online, meet in different parts of the country with these devices, and display the collective message onto a building, crowd, concert, etc.

In a social context, this is a revolution, because a forced audience may not have to agree or listen, but a displayed message, whether LASER text or video, will be implanted onto memory—just as corporations attempt to do with TV commercials between shows. Best of all, the message does not have to be hung, shouted, or acted out. It’s just there, and could be displayed from hundreds, if not more, feet away. What’s more, is that it can be taken away, with no trace of it even being there. The implications are incredible, and this technology could lead to an empowerment of many online-based movements.

Imaginative Realization, Embodiment, or Illustration of the Idea:

The Mexican Laser Light Extravaganza

January 21, 2021—5:00 p.m.

The clean, white, rental van crept into the large parking lot. People here are unloading their baggage and slamming car doors shut. The lot is crowded, and is lit like a baseball stadium. Children sneak around cars, looking for passengers to sell candy to while parents pedal knock-off iPhones and plastic books that a person can use to download magazines.

When people are done unloading, they will head toward a narrow corridor on the far side of the lot—a square passageway that burrows deep­, deep into a 10-story wall of concrete. After about 300 feet, this passageway will turn into a narrow tunnel, just wide enough for two people to stand side-by-side. The tunnel will then transition into a tube encased in white light, and the ground will begin to slide them deeper within. The tube will swallow and guide them into the main terminal of the San Diego-Tijuana International Airport. Here, they will scatter and file into rocket jet planes, and to be shot away from the giant wall, and towards their final destinations.

The cities are amid a hot, sticky summer, and are boiling in their own brown stink. It is said that tensions increase in this kind of heat—people will get loony; they sometimes snap. Don’t any of you remember the Son of Sam murders? That’s exactly how it was in New York—hot and stuffy. No one wanted to be there, in this place where you must suffocate and dwell at the same time.

The white van parks; its engine rumbles higher as it idles. It turns off, and the passenger door opens. One man and two women emerge from the dark interior in olive green attire and jet-black service boots.


Jan looks around for a few seconds. She relaxes her shoulders and pulls back her silky, brown hair into a ponytail.

“Okay, Torres. Open the bag,” she says, flashing her brown eyes toward the van’s empty shell.

He reaches waist-deep into the interior. His brown arms and back look defined and thick in the bright light. He returns swiftly with a small, black duffle bag, and carefully lowers it to the asphalt, which still radiates warm heat from the miserable day.

Juan Torres grew up in Playas de Rosarito, but had come to the States eight years ago on a workers permit with his older brother, Jorge, to work at a citrus farm in National City. Three days before they would have to return to their grimy beach town, a massive war between a cartel from Mexico City and some Tijuana drug lords began with the mowing down of 200 families at a mall complex. Their mother was there. Juan never returned.

“Should we take them out now? Here?” Angela asked. Her blue eyes dart from the bag to Jan. Her blonde hair is tied back so tight, that her face looks unnaturally younger, like the results of a fresh Botox injection.

“Yes, just as we planned,” Jan says sternly. Her eyes are steady. “Take an 8Ball, and hide it until you hear the word.

They give Jan a short nod. Juan squats and unzips the bag.

Inside the duffle bag are three metallic, dark-blue spheres, slightly larger than grapefruits. They have eight, slender depressions, each with three buttons. Between these slots is a protruding device that looks like a camera lens. The other sides have two more indents, filled with numerous buttons as well. Above the indents are an unlit screen and a speaker. Each person briskly removes a sphere and drops them into olive-green knapsacks.


People in the States sometimes act strangely in the heat—they decide to go for jogs in layers of sweat clothes, only to be found baked to death on the side of the road. They blast the air conditioning in their homes at 60º Fahrenheit, until the power grid collapses and the houses again become hot. In the southwest corner of the United States, however, other things get strange; people bend in different ways. The river of drugs seems to run more like a rapid than its usual, steady stream. More Mexicans get stuck on the border wall, falling to a dusty death. That, or they may get long-distance tazed by Border Patrol officers to the point of a fried brain, extra crispy. All these accidents, more desperate attempts to cross, more border vigilantism. this miserable, goddamned heat, this miserable life.


Jan, Juan and Angela grab official, olive-green U.S. Department of Homeland Security Border Patrol hats and slap them on their heads. No one notices them, or at least no one makes eye contact. You must always avoid eye contact. In this expanse of asphalt, no one is free from questioning: you could be an illegal, a drug dealer, a terrorist, anything that threatens the safety that blankets America’s suburban havens, its empty green parks and giant entertainment centers.

They walk steadily now. First they start as a line, a horizontal wall that traverses down a lane in the parking lot. They branch off between cars, slowly dispersing into a wider line across the lot. Some of the kids selling candy spot them, and disappear under the shadows of big, American cars. They know there is no taking chances here—they could be Border Patrol agents, or sometimes the even more dreaded “Federales,” the ones who use the revised 2015 NAFTA’s loopholes to jump the border and hunt down drug dealers, or even a lowly Mexican peasant trying to get by on the tourist traffic. It could be hours of incarceration, interrogation, torture—whatever makes their quota. You never take a chance; you never look them in the eyes.

Now they have disappeared from the big lot. There is yelling and screaming near the entrance to the corridor—people want to squeeze ten at a time into the two-person walkway. The news crews are setting up their tall satellite dishes, pointing bright lights and the passageway and at handsome news reporters. They’re flailing signs with messages to both countries: “HOW MANY NEXT TIME, PIGS?!”, “TEN STORIES TOO MANY!” Armed NAFTA agents hold back the crowd with precision-aim tasers, tear gas, and high-frequency aural paralyzers.

Three nights ago, an army of Mexican police raided a drug factory in north Tijuana. More than fifty men dashed out of the building into a busy crowd of civilians, waiting patiently to cross the border. In their panic, they pushed and shoved the crowd until a stampede ensued from fear and chaos. Frustrated and agitated policemen tried to break through the crowd, but to no avail. They attempted to shoot down the suspects among the crowd, some who ran for higher ground: the NAFTA border wall lookout. Ten suspects, and twenty-five civilians, ran up ten stories, desperately trying to avoid the metal rain. They plummeted to their death on the American side.

Tragedy on the northern front.


Now spread over a quarter mile apart, they make their way to the wall. Large floodlights are installed on top, pointing south toward Tijuana. On the American side, motion sensor lights kick on if anything moves closer than 300 yards. In between the wall and the lights is a no man’s land of shadows—where the dust is only moved by the scared feet of runners, and the heavy wheels of Border Patrol vehicles.

Juan Torres runs in the trench below the border wall, a blue tooth earpiece flashing on his right. He comes to a halt, and waits. A U.S. Border Patrol cruiser crunches gravel under its tires as it passes above. The earpiece comes to life.

“Take the 8Balls out and connect to the server.”

Juan grabs the ball out of his bag and shakes it a few times. The blank screen flickers on, and begins searching for WiMax2 signal. Juan’s eyes are fixed on the screen, waiting for the loading pinwheel to stop spinning. This can’t be good, it’s taking to long. He hears a soft crunch above the trench, and he hides the bright screen from view.

A spotlight. The perimeter is being searched.

“Shit,” Juan says under his breath through the earpiece. “I got nothing yet. Are you guys online?”

“Yes, Juan. We are waiting for you,” Angela grumbles. “We don’t have too much time here, we have to hurry.”

“Just give it time, Angela. I’m sure it will pick up a signal shortly,” Jan says.

Above, there is a soft, rolling crackle. A metallic door clanks shut. Juan hears English spoken loudly.

“La Migra is nearby, but they don’t know I’m here,” Juan says softly.

In Juan’s knapsack, the ball announces itself with a chirpy arpeggio. The searchlight swings in his direction, toward the big wall.

“Forget I said anything. You two need to start now, and get them away from me!”


January 19, 2021—North County San Diego

“It’s like this,” Jan said to the others. “We get on the server, process the messages like old RSS feeds, and project them onto the border wall.”

She set the 8Ball into her hands. A button is pressed, and a stream of neon-green light comes out of the camera lens like a strand of luminescent silk. It shot outward onto her bedroom wall, ending in brightly lit text that read: “JUAN, ANGELA, JAN.”

Juan’s eyebrows furrowed as he rub his chin. Angela was lying on her stomach, her head resting in her hands.

“That’s really –omthing, Jan,” Juan says over her crackling computer speakers. He shifts left to right, his movements scrambled and ridgid on Jan’s computer monitor.

“I don’t know what to say,” Angela crackles. Jan’s screen momentarily freezes, and then Angela is live again. “Is this considered vandalism?”

“It’s been done before—used as a way for graffiti artists to tag on buildings without the effects being permanent,” Jan says. “People have got themselves into trouble, usually because they were too slow to move, or the technology was too bulky.”

“And the Liberation Front already knows about this?” Angela asks.

Jan let out a slight smile, and then quickly opened a new window on the Internet browser.

“No, but that’s only a text message away,” she said. “I’ll send out a group message, and we should have plenty of interesting messages to display on a giant wall by tomorrow.”


Footsteps crunched louder and louder. Juan could see a splash of green light on the wall in the distance, and the steps suddenly stopped. From this angle, he could not see what it displayed. He could hear that the people above him had become quiet, and within a minute they sped off in their cruisers.

Damn, he thought. This could be his last night on this side of the fence, and he was spending it in this stinky ditch. He started counting: ten, nine, eight…five, four, three, two…

Juan hits a button near his thumb. Green light sprays out in a pyramidal fashion, and rests on the big concrete wall.


Five seconds later, the message flashes off and then on again:


Juan leans his back against the trench’s incline, holding the ball steady. After thirty seconds, Juan turns off the ball, and begins to run east.


Angela turns the ball off. She runs at a steady sprint towards Juan’s position in the trench. “Every thirty seconds,” she whispers, her voice shaking as she runs. After a minute, she stops, and looks back. Three beams of flashlights scan the vicinity where she had been standing. Angela attempts to salivate to moisten her mouth as she waits for the flashlights to turn off.

“They’re on to me,” she says nervously over a Bluetooth earpiece. “I’m going to have to wait it out.

“I’ll get them off your back,” Jan says softly into Angela’s earpiece. Just be ready to have your ball on in thirty seconds.


Jan stands steadily, and shakes the ball back to life. The device sits idle for a few seconds as it connects to the server. She presses a thumb button, and a beam of green light streams and disperses toward the wall two hundred feet in front of her.



Five seconds later, the message changes:


“Damn it!” Jan mumbles. She pushes a button and the next message flashes on. The message on the wall shakes with her hands, though her feet are planted firm.


Angela hears the tires of the border cars rolling fast towards the east, away from Jan and herself. She shakes the ball back to life, and shoots the green ray of light onto the big border wall.


Juan is face down in the nasty mud of the trench, breathing hard. Dirt and plant matter go flying every time he exhales. A boot presses against the middle of his shoulder blades, while a pair of hands secure his hands behind his back with a white zip tie.

“No!” he screams. “Pinche pendejos! No!”

He sees a pair of legs make their way toward him. They have on olive-green pants and black service boots. From three feet away, they accelerate and Juan is kicked in the stomach like it’s the starting kickoff for the high school football game. Juan grimaces and vomits water and chunks of food.

“Carne asada, señor?” a voice said sternly above the legs.

Juan lay gasping for air, cursing the officer under his breath.

“You think this is all I can do?” The voice said in raspy, Norteño-accented English. “It has not even started yet, señor. Ya no lo empieza.”


Jan and Angela sprint up the trench’s incline, their steps sliding as they slam their feet onto loose gravel. They hold their spheres in their bosom, cradling them like infants. The top is reached, and the two women get to the ground. If they run any farther north, and they risk being blinded by the massive motion-activated spotlights.

They spot a peliculiar sight on the freeway. Behind the giant lights, a quarter mile away, the cars on it have stopped. People are honking, whistling, shouting in the direction of the wall.

“The people saw us, Jan,” Angela whispers in a shaky voice. “It worked.”

“They have Juan,” Jan says back coldly, with no attempt to whisper.

Juan is on the ground of the trench, one hundred yards from the girls. Flashlight beams are concentrated on the floor of the trench, and the troops are pointing their weapons. The lightning sparks of taser-guns flash into the women’s eyes, and Juan is screaming.

“We have to do something, Jan!” Angela cries.

Jan wastes no time. She stands firm and grasps the ball. She clicks the buttons on the sides of the ball for a few seconds, and then launches the laser onto the giant border wall.



Within minutes, freeway onlookers jump the short freeway divider between asphalt and the desert floor. They are running across the chaparral with bats, flashlights, and digital cameras.

“Jan! People are coming!” Angela cries gleefully from the ground.

“Juan will be okay, let’s go,” Jan says.

The girls sprint north, while the crowd flows south. It breaks and jumps over a barbwire fence, passing the giant, sleeping lights. The lights blast on, and it lets loose a violent yell. It runs toward the trench, fast and hard, until it disappears below the trench.

The white van slips away into the night.


Social Computing in 2020 Honorable Mention: “Continuous Media Mobilities” by Jordan Kraemer Fri, 15 May 2009 00:23:05 +0000 About the Author:
Jordan Kraemer is pursuing a PhD in Cultural Anthropology at the University of California, Irvine. Her dissertation project deals with new media and spatial scalemaking in Berlin. Prior to graduate study, Kraemer worked as a graphic designer and web producer.

For more information about all of the contest winners, please see the full contest winners announcement.

Participants in the competition warrant that their ideas are their own. Where ideas include component-ideas or materials by others, applicants warrant that any intellectual property owned by others and used in their submissions is approved for use and appropriately attributed.

The copyright or patent for any material submitted for the competition remains with the original owner.

Description of the Idea:

Continuous Media Mobilities and Global Cities

In the next decade, trends will continue in digital media and social computing that offer opportunities for collaboration and creativity. These include increasing interactivity, improved wireless networks, ubiquitous computing in everyday objects, and sensor-equipped devices. As the history of technology suggests, however, the development of new media remains subject to power imbalances, and will be directed according to the interests of dominant groups, reinforcing their value systems. While challenging to imagine the logics that will govern technology in the near future, the language of mobility and youthfulness shape technology practices today, emphasizing global interconnectivity. Undoubtably, new kinds of digital media will support collaborative work in learning, research, business, and entertainment, offering novel sites for the articulation of different kinds of community. We must attend, however, to the structural inequalities overlooked by the language of technological progress, from questions of access to competences like language ability. While dominant visions of new media will influence design and implementation, there remains the possibility for users to appropriate technology in creative and unanticipated ways, altering our conceptions of new media.

I envision two separate, interrelated trends that will shape future media practices, with consequences for social organization and forms of sociality. Mobility and leisure consumption will continue to drive the development of new technologies, targeting a youthful, tech-savvy, and mobile demographic which can afford expensive devices and service plans. This will include expanding network services coupled with sensor-enabled devices which collect data about the physical and social environment of their users, and process that data quickly in numerous ways. Sensors will allow sensitivity to the physical context in which the device is used (a quiet library, a dark theatre, a noisy mall), will provide instantaneous information about objects in the environment (consumer pricing, history, geographic locations), and will permit interacting with other devices, along the lines of microblogging and social networking.

At the same time, scholars of urban infrastructure have drawn attention to the increasing privatization of public works (Graham and Marvin 2001), from roads and electricity to mobile telephony and media services. In the next decade, this is likely to continue in the US and worldwide, with elite subscribers paying for premium bundled services, from toll roads to high-speed data, while support for public infrastructure may weaken. Yet current research already indicates the creative ways lower income users adopt new technology, from text messaging (SMS) and sharing mobile phones, to using phones innovatively for micro-finance (Horst and Miller 2006, Ito et al. 2005). Cutting-edge technologies may be developed primarily for high-end markets, but subaltern users will not be excluded entirely from new media. Current theoretical models must be revised to better describe and explain the “digital divide,” a division reflecting entrenched interests and the persistence of uneven technological infrastructure, while perpetuated by social norms and practices. While new media such as the Internet sometimes permit greater democratization of public voices, new media use is constrained by cultural norms, reinforcing existing forms of exclusion.

In this light, I envision a networked social media service that will allow users to interact with each other and their environment over standardized open protocal, “MMP” (Micro Media Protocol). Combining a social network with an array of sensors, MMP-enabled devices will interconnect users as they move throughout their day, sharing information in various modes of media across a high-bandwidth wireless network, using distributed processing to deliver information quickly. In addition, the MMP network will access collaborative, user-generated online databases, which pool information about everything from traffic conditions to reviews of products and media. Building on the model of wikis, these databases will employ adaptive algorithms to organize data according to patterns of use, learning, for instance, what kinds of ideas have more authority.

MMP-enabled devices will come in numerous forms, and perform other functions, from media sharing and creation, to voice and video communication, to more general forms of digital productivity. The shared protocol will permit continuous, streaming data between users, obviating the distinction between online and offline, in favor of active or inactive. The most current and controversial application of this protocol will be a nano-device directly implanted into a user’s forearm, ear, and retina. In this way, users will have constant access to the MMP service, which permits only small messages and media files, but continually and from anywhere. Furthermore, the service logs user interactions for others to track, including when they send messages and what kind of sensor data they collect. Like current social networking services, users will create a personal list of contacts, and will have some control over privacy settings. This will make it possible for users to be continually in touch with select groups of friends, communities, or corporate networks, to participate in multiple social circuits simultaneously.

This service will therefore render visible all kinds of daily activities and interactions, which will have immediate social consequences. MMP will enable interactive forms of media and entertainment, from live performances by artists, musicians, and DJs immediately responsive to audience reactions, to interactive movies and other media. MMP will facilitate new kinds of collaborative performances, combining media elements and remixing them into multimedia, networked installations. Public social interactions, however, will also be followed more closely by networks of contacts, making visible how users engage with their environments. Some activities will therefore garner greater credibility or caché than others, and new kinds of competences will gain social significance.

While the service will generate opportunities for creative collaboration, media remixing, and community formation, it will be shaped by trends in the development of infrastructure, reflecting certain interests over others. In addition, MMP will further undermine the distinction between “public” and “private,” as users will be able to participate in “public” events from private spaces, while many networked publics will represent elite, exclusive social groups. Instead of public versus private, distinctions will become more salient in terms of network access, despite widespread use of computers and digital media. A generation of young people will come of age after the advent of the Internet, whose parents will be more familiar with computers, mobile phones, and other digital technologies than previously, minimizing the gap between older and younger users.

As data services and technological infrastructure improve, however, they will be marketed to elites who can afford them, particularly knowledgeable consumers who use new media for work and leisure (a division itself called into question). Globally, this will encourage the flourishing of well-connected, high traffic urban areas, and New York, Berlin, and Tokyo will have more in common with global postcolonial cities like Rio de Janeiro and Mumbai. Elites in these cities will be able to travel quickly and efficiently, with high-speed train services, renovated airports, and well-maintained public transit within circumscribed bounds (primarily financial and tourist centers). Affluent media users will also enjoy greater electronic mobility, using high bandwidth channels and wireless data services. Well-served urban areas will also see the greatest development of ubiqitous and embedded computing, from interactive tours of popular areas, to computerized public lavatories, to updated information on traffic conditions.

All of these cities, however, will be marked by the uneven development accompanying late capitalism, with areas that do not benefit from space-time compression. While affluent urbanites cocoon themselves in well-connected enclaves and reclaim downtown spaces, low-income and migrant populations will be relegated to suburban and ex-urban neighborhoods, or overlooked sections of large cities. These will see improvements in urban infrastructure last, from roadways to data networks, and will be insulated to some degree from the pace of media consumption in globally interconnected areas. This will foster greater division between elite areas of global cities and underserved neighborhoods, geographically nearby but socially distant. The spread of consumer capitalism will generate growing middle-classes in China, India, and elsewhere, but polarization will increase between elites and the dispossessed. Within underserved areas, however, digital media will be taken up, but may not be used in ways anticipated by their designers. The MMP service will be available, but with slower data speeds, and will not be used as often to access global corporate or educational circuits.

Still, MMP will encourage creative applications, such as political mobilization to resist deteriorating public works and overpriced private services. MMP will facilitate greater electronic mobility, allowing families, to stay connected despite travel and migration necessary for work, and connecting durable networks of friends with similar interests and in similar conditions across locales. Finally, MMP will offer some permeability in the boundaries separating elite from low-income users. Unsurprisingly, however, boundary-crossings will generate public anxiety around security and morality, with media-induced moral panics. Residents of elite urban enclaves will fear non-elite media users hacking MMP to access databases and social networks, while their children may romanticize the creative cultural productions of non-elites as more “authentic.” These sentiments will mask complicated hierarchies of race, class, and gender obscured by the language of technological progress. In the next decade, new media will be shaped by dominant logics of mobility, interactivity, and progress, while creative uses of media will blur entrenched social divisions, generating emergent possibilities for use and design.


  • Cresswell, Tim. On the Move: Mobility in the Modern Western World. CRC Press: 2006
  • Graham, Stephen, and Marvin, Simon. Splintering Urbanism: Networked Infrastructures, Technological Mobilities and the Urban Condition. New York: Routledge, 2001.
  • Horst, Heather A, and Daniel Miller. The Cell Phone: An Anthropology of Communication. New York, NY: Berg, 2006.
  • Ito, Mizuko, Daisuke Okabe, and Misa Matsuda, eds. Personal, Portable, Pedestrian: Mobile Phones in Japanese Life. Cambridge MA: The MIT Press, 2005.

Imaginative Realization, Embodiment, or Illustration of the Idea:

Continuous Media Mobilities and Global Cities: Micro Media Practices among Urban Users in Global Contexts

On March 3rd, 2018, three students from an ex-urban Philadelphia charter school were arrested trying to crack the digital firewall protecting Liberty Towers, an exclusive enclave of apartment towers near Rittenhouse Square, in Philadelphia’s Center City. The students were using a controversial new technology to de-encrypt the distributed network, using a system of wireless relays to fool the security sentinel bot. More controversial still, at least to the Northeast Times Online (formerly, the joint print newspapers the New York Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and the Boston Globe), the three male students had convinced a young female resident of Liberty Towers to share her electronic identification, otherwise nearly impossible to obtain. Although the students’ ultimate intentions were never made clear, the news media seized on this incident to fan anxieties around new forms of technology, particularly the peer-to-peer networks that allow young people to share information through Micro Media Protocol (MMP), through which users can transmit small media files instantaneously, and which are difficult to detect by standard security protocols.

This incident illustrates a number of factors which have converged in recent years, in which media users across distant urban centers share media and sensor data, stirring up popular concerns over the propriety of certain styles of music and video mashups. Moreover, many parents and officials have expressed concern over the possible social relationships cultivated by MMP users, a service allowing continuous streaming micro media connections. Primarily, of course, MMP users are reproducing existing social relationships, such as friendships formed at overseas private schools and universities, or through transnational professional networks. From New York and Tokyo to Rio de Janeiro and Mumbai, increasingly interactive, distributed forms of new media are facilitating transglobal interconnections, as digital devices become further micronized and permit greater geographic and digital mobility. At the same time, critical scholars of post-urban studies have attended to the key role of infrastructure in polarizing technology use in urban settings, as the proliferation of high-security, wealthy enclaves have overshadowed the continued deterioration of public services in low-income neighborhoods. The global cities of the world pride themselves on their high-speed networks, their distributed computing power, wireless connectivity, and ubiquitous, embedded media systems, while overlooking populations whose access to such technology remains constrained by failures in infrastructure and education. These core issues require emerging techno-ethnographic methods to investigate more fully the social implications of advances in interactive, sensor-based mobile media and the polarization of contemporary infrastructure. I am therefore proposing a yearlong study of micro- and distributed media users in both globalized urban enclaves (aka Global Cities), and in low-income urban and ex-urban areas of the same supranational entities (such as the American Union, the South American Free Trade Area, and Greater China). Using a combination of digital and ethnographic methods, this research will identify two groups of media users from three different Greater Urban Areas, using interviews, participant observation, and automated micro-software (aka bots) to collect data about the role of new technology in social life.

Background and Literature

In the past decade, since the advent of social media in the mid-2000s, digital and mobile media have proliferated, according to dominant ideologies of youth, mobility, and “community” (Kraemer 2012). The emphasis on sharing media for community building has frequently driven the development of new social technologies, while digital devices have become more compact. The development of new kinds of microchips and nanotechnologies, furthermore, has enabled implantable devices that permit continuous mobile computing and social networking. Finally, technology developers have continued to emphasize the interactivity of new media, embedding environmental sensors that permit greater inter-reactivity between digital media, users and their physical (and social) environments. These devices include MMP microchips (Micro Media Protocol) which enable users to communicate with one another via small implanted devices, usually in the forearm, ear, and retina.

Scholars of new media have endeavored to pursue and analyze trends in digital and mobile devices, in order to assess the social implications of new media practices (Gajaweera 2017, boyd 2015). The fields of ubiquitous and social computing emerged in response to trends in technology use, while media anthropology and ethnography have been employed to study such practices qualitatively. At the same time, studies in cultural geography have pioneered new approaches to questions of mobility and infrastructure, attending to the ways in which certain kinds of mobilities are valued above others (Cresswell 2006), while deregulation of public infrastructure has contributed to the increasing polarization of urban space, from roads to data networks. Finally, scholars from these different fields have been generating new perspectives and methodological approaches for addressing contemporary issues in technology and society, from post-urban studies (Williams 2011, Shklovski 2014) to collaborative models for ethnographic research (Grant 2013).

Media users themselves, of course, have been participating in the generation of new knowledge around digital media practices, through open-collaboration iJournals, self-organizing Wikis, and other novel models for digital cooperation. Digital media have been central to the emergence of interconnected, translocal and transglobal communities, often termed communities of interest or practice, in reference to their shared tastes and semiotic practices (originally a reference to linguistic speech communities). While new technologies and devices have largely been targeted towards affluent, mobile, tech-savvy media consumers, low-income users continue to appropriate digital and interactive media in unanticipated ways (Rea 2017, Romine 2016). Though development-oriented design projects have not often been successful, ongoing research continues to investigate the creative ways media users engage with new technology across social and technological divides. This project, in particular, considers how media users in increasingly isolated urban and ex-urban “nettoes” continue to challenge dominant norms circumscribing technology practice, often rerouting bundled services and networks intended for paying consumers in high-security enclaves. As the story from the Northeast Times indicates, new communications technologies and infrastructure participate in reproducing broadening social divisions, particular along lines of class and race, while offering users ways of challenging those boundaries.

Research Design and Methodology

This study will examine a range of media practices, focusing on micro and mobile media, and sensor-based inter-reactive technologies, especially MMP, as well as iJournaling and distributed, embedded media systems. In order to conduct this research, I will identify six groups of participants, two from each of three Greater Urban Areas, including the Northeast Urban Area in the American Union, metro Bucharest, and Hong Kong. Each of these cities are comprised of densely interconnected enclaves, with regular digital and physical traffic along corporate and educational circuits, whose elites members can afford premium services such as high-powered wireless networks and cloud computing, inter-reactive environmental sensor services, and high-speed digital media. At the same time, these cities have not eradicated the persistent poverty in underserved neighborhoods, where residents make do with inadequate public data networks, or predatory private services. Yet recent research has indicated the creative ways in which low-income media users resist their social status, using new technology to reinforce social networks and mobilize politically.

I will therefore recruit participants through advertising on distributed social media networks, and through snowball sampling. Although each sample may not be representative, I will stratify each group by age, gender, income, occupation, and network competence. I will rely primarily on three different methods to collect data on my participants’ media practices, namely structured interviews, participant-observation, and automated data sifting. I will conduct 60 interviews in all, and will focus on asking participants which new technologies they use, how often, and what kinds of activities they engage in. For example, inter-reactive entertainment has become popular in Bucharest, where young people attend public mixed-media events which permit the “audience” to interact with the installations, collaboratively shaping their form and narratives. In the American Northeast, electronic music performances have cultivated a form of status seeking in which music listeners can send MMP requests to the performers, while their network contacts are immediately notified of a successful request. This allows music enthusiasts to perform their knowledge and competence to their peers in public spaces through networked micromedia. Of course, the live performances themselves are often already digital mashups and collaborative projects, but some distinction remains between performers and audience.

Participant-observation remains a crucial ethnographic method for investigating media use in networked publics, as well as in more intimate settings such as homes. Although the division between private and public remains an object of scholarly inquiry, and represents a problematic binary, some kinds of events and social interactions are more accessible to a researcher, while other spaces remain difficult to access. I will therefore begin conducting participant-observation in accessible sites such as coffeeshops, open co-working spaces, and performance sites, while making research contacts to pursue further ethnographic inquiry. As an academic researcher, I will have greater access into those elite enclaves with strong connections to private global universities, while it may be more challenging to enter into corporate social networks, or semi-underground working-class political meetings.

Finally, in order to address the limitations of both self-reporting in interviewing, and access in participant-observation, I will employ automated data collection software, aka “bots,” to gather information about how my informants use new media. This will entail coding MMP bots to identify when users are active, and with whom they are communicating, whether they are producing, or sharing media, updating shared iJournals, uploading and receiving environmental sensor data, and so forth. In order to protect my informants’ confidentiality, I will provide information sheets and obtain verbal consent, and the bots themselves will ask permission and request user input when they are operating. Furthermore, the bots will include synthetic learning capabilities, and will adapt to users’ preferences and habits. I will limit the scope of this phase of research to one month, so as not to impose on my informants excessively.

Significance and Contributions

Given rapid changes in communications in the past decade, further research is necessary to assess the social implications of new media, and to consider how assumptions around media practices shape technology development. This approach resists a deterministic account in which new media are developed in a linear fashion and shape social interactions unidirectionally, from inter-reactive embedded sensor systems and distributed computing, to collaborative and mobile services. Speaking to trends in digital anthropology, techno-ethnography, and post-urban studies, this research contributes a theoretical understanding of how social norms influence new media practices. In particular, this study will address how new services and devices are developed for affluent market segments, conceived of as youthful, globally interconnected, and mobile, contrasting wealthy media users in urban enclaves to lower income users often excluded from global networks and services, yet who adapt new technologies to challenge social inequities.

This research will furnish empirical data on emerging forms of new media practices in an increasingly polarized world, which is characterized by highly interconnected global cities and dispersed underserved areas, despite the language of democratization and economic development. By integrating qualitative research methods with technical ones, this project will build on cross-disciplinary approaches to the study of digital media, particularly recent innovative “techno-ethnography.” Finally, if my research expectations are supported by the results, this work will offer a number of contributions to technology and educational policy, as well as trends in post-urban studies. Most importantly, this research will illuminate the consequences of unbundling public infrastructure services, and how certain populations have been disadvantaged by deregulation, despite the language of progress. At the same time, the barriers between communities remain permeable, and this study highlights the ways they are challenged by both elite and low-income media users, to suggest how we might develop new policies to address persistent social inequalities in a globalized, densely interconnected world.

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Social Computing in 2020 Honorable Mention: “Virtual Health Centers” by Mariano Mora-McGinity Fri, 15 May 2009 00:17:44 +0000 About the Author:
Mariano Mora McGinity was born in Newcastle‐upon‐Tyne (UK) and raised in the UK and Spain. McGinity holds degrees in Composition (Musikhochschule Düsseldorf), Guitar (Real Conservatorio Superior de Madrid), Philosophy (UNED University Madrid) and Journalism (Universidad Complutense, Madrid). McGinity is currently studying a PhD in the Media Arts and Technology department at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

For more information about all of the contest winners, please see the full contest winners announcement.

Participants in the competition warrant that their ideas are their own. Where ideas include component-ideas or materials by others, applicants warrant that any intellectual property owned by others and used in their submissions is approved for use and appropriately attributed.

The copyright or patent for any material submitted for the competition remains with the original owner.

Description of the Idea:

One of the greatest tragedies of the technological revolution brought about by computers is that, even to a greater degree than the industrial and oil revolutions, it hasn’t improved the living conditions of a vast majority of the world’s population.

In this paper we propose a simple idea that intends to do just that: contribute to improve the living conditions of people who have no easy access to technology. We introduce the main idea, explain why we think the idea is a good and perhapsa necessary thing, suggest a number of ways which might help to realize the project, and finally discuss what are the social benefits of carrying it out.


The project consists of three main elements:

  • A vehicle equipped with a satellite dish and medical equipment and medicines: for all practical purposes, a mobile consulting room.
  • A medical networking website, where doctors can log in voluntarily and offer their expertise and effectively carry out examinations of patients through the Internet.
  • A database containing the medical histories of all the patients who visit the health care vehicle. These histories would be made accessible, prior consent from the patient, to the doctor who is carrying out the examination, thus enabling her to make a more accurate diagnosis.

The basic idea is to create a tool that would make health‐care available to people who haven’t access to a health institution. The health‐care vehicle would effectively carry out the task that country doctors used to, and in many parts of the world, still do. It would travel throughout the region, visiting different villages or isolated houses at regular intervals. The vehicle is equipped with a satellite dish and digital cameras, thus making it possible to establish an online meeting between the patient and a doctor. The staff required for each vehicle is minimal: a driver and/or technical consultant, who could be able to connect to the website, and a person with the knowledge to manipulate the medical equipment (if need be following the instructions from the doctor) and help as a
translator to ease communication between doctor and patient. Naturally, only one person could fulfill both these roles.

They are assigned a password after they have accredited that they really are doctors, they are distributed according to their specialty, and, as doctors the world over who have ever worked ER, they wait for the patients to log on to the website. Once communication with a patient has been established and the patient has consented to show the doctor her medical history, the doctor
receives a copy of it on her screen. A normal examination proceeds via a digital camera and with the help of the vehicle’s staff, who can manipulate the required equipment. The results of various tests can be obtained within the time allotted to each patient. The doctor can then make a diagnosis if she feels confident enough, or consult other doctors who are logged in at the time, or ultimately
refer to another specialist. If a more serious intervention is required the vehicle can transport the patient to the closest hospital, however far that may be.

The database of medical histories can help to improve massively our knowledge of non‐western diseases. Cross reference of symptoms according to different social groups, origin or tribe of the patient, areas of extension of the disease, etc, could greatly benefit scientists researching to prevent and eradicate these diseases.


We will not provide all the data in this short presentation that show how far we still are from the Millennium Development Goals proposed by the UN in 2001 and which are supposed to be reached by 2015, but rather leave it for our slide presentation. This project follows in the spirit of the goals in that it tries to provide universal health care for all people in the world. The main goals of
stopping the spread of epidemics such as AIDS and completely eradicating cholera and other poverty‐bound diseases can only be reached through a program that incorporates prevention and primary health care. In most countries, these are provided only through hospitals and medical centres, located many times many miles away from people’s houses. For a vast majority of the world’s population, a visit to the doctor is simply not part of their yearly routine, be it because of the distance they have to travel, their inability to pay for the visit (as well, of course, as the medicines), or simply because there aren’t any doctors in the region. Great efforts carried out by local medical staff as well as other organisations such as Doctors Without Borders has helped great deal in mitigating this need, especially considering that their work is mostly or completely) without retribution. But it is still not enough if we are to meet the goals of universal health care and eradication of epidemic diseases. Of course, the matters of health care and poverty are intimately bound, poverty brings with it diseases, but also, disease brings with it poverty, as we will discuss in out
presentation slides. Helping to eradicate one will also help to mitigate the other.


Some of the technological issues involved in this project rely directly in a much awaited improvement in land connections in developing countries. An example of recent development in this area is the East African Submarine Fibre Optic Cable System, supposed to be operational in the second half of 2010. EASSy should compliment other submarine communication systems such as SAT‐2 and ‐3, and finally link the east coast of Africa to the Middle East and the rest of the world. This will mean a huge improvement in the Internet access in the continent, softening the need to rely almost exclusively on geostationary satellite
communication. Internet access is expected to grow exponentially within the next five years in Africa due to the realization of the system. Internet access nowadays, however, is another measure of the huge disparity between richer and developing countries. The image shows a 2005 estimate of the density of Internet use worldwide.

We will discuss this issue more extensively in our presentation slides.

Worldwide density of Internet usage (note the huge gap of China)


As we mentioned above, improving health services in developing countries cannot be distinctively set apart from helping to eradicate poverty. There are however many other social aspects that our project can contribute to, perhaps not as apparent, but also perhaps no less important.

Information exchange in many developing countries differs from what we have come to know as information exchange. In many countries, the information to which people could gain access through our system might prove to be vital for their survival.

  • Where to find drinking water. This is especially important during draughts. It is also one of the Millennium Development Goals.
  • Where to find other resources, such as cattle, favoured hunting areas, whether and where food is being distributed in all‐too‐frequent times of famine…
  • One (or even better, a fleet of) mobile health‐care centre could prove to be extremely useful in countries prone to suffer from natural disasters. Their help in attending to the victims, transporting goods and becoming an on‐site information exchange centre, for the victims as well as for the outside world who might be making great efforts to organize aid, would prove invaluable.
  • War is raging in many developing countries. Through exchange of information people can find out where the different factions are located and thus be able to avoid being caught in a battle zone, whether there is a risk of a raid, to search for family members who may have gone missing or been taking away by fighters…
  • In almost all forms of cultures doctors (whatever that culture considers to be a doctor, a healer) have served a role of social cohesiveness, they glue members of that society together. A visit to the doctor fulfils a social need as well as a private one. Our project, the vehicle that goes from village to village, could prove to be a substitute in societies which have become fragmented through war, poverty, famine, natural catastrophes or the consequences of poverty: it would provide an opportunity for families to
    talk to and see relatives who have to had to emigrate to another country or move to the city looking for the chance of a better future.

We believe that this project would be beneficial for developing countries. It would tie together efforts carried out by different NGOs trying to provide for health services and technology in countries that are lacking both. By bringing these two concepts together, the project could fulfill a role that, however humble, is not being carried out at the moment, and which might prove to do much good.

Imaginative Realization, Embodiment, or Illustration of the Idea:

by Mariano Maro-McGinity

Social Computing in 2020 Third Prize Winner: “Anatomical Analytics by Chris Castiglione Fri, 15 May 2009 00:13:07 +0000 About the Author: Chris Castiglione is a New Media student in the graduate program at the University of Amsterdam. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Media Arts and Design from James Madison University. Over the past few years he has lived in Amsterdam, Washington DC, New York City, Osaka and London, studying and working in the field of New Media. Since 2000 he has been involved in various music projects including his latest work, Dance At The Postoffice, and the ‘free music’ blog musicNeutral. Recently, he has been writing and researching issues concerning the influence of non-commercial content and piracy on the creative industries.

For more information about all of the contest winners, please see the full contest winners announcement.

Participants in the competition warrant that their ideas are their own. Where ideas include component-ideas or materials by others, applicants warrant that any intellectual property owned by others and used in their submissions is approved for use and appropriately attributed.

The copyright or patent for any material submitted for the competition remains with the original owner.

Description of the Idea:

Ubiquitous computing is a model of human-computer interaction in which
small, inexpensive chips are embedded into everyday objects {1}. In contrast to
popular futuristic visions of cyberspace where we immerse our bodies inside
a virtual reality system, ubiquitous computing extends technology beyond
the borders of our screen and works like reverse virtual reality. Radiofrequency identification (RFID) tags are commonly used in ubiquitous computing applications. RFID tags are already all around us: they are woven into our passports where they store bits of data about our identity, they
connect products on the shelf to a database which instantly aggregates an
inventory status, and they are used in certain libraries to map a book’s exact
location within the library. My idea for a technology in the year 2020 is to
embed RFID chips inside our body in order to monitor health. Connecting
these chips across a global network will allow us to manage health trends
and lead to new developments in what I will refer to as Anatomical Analytics.

The first step in this technology would be attaching microscopic RFID tags
near a few vital organs. Perhaps this is best achieved by placing small RFID
chips at locations closest to the organ and just beneath the skin; or the RFID
could be administered as an annual pill that over time would organically
disintegrate inside the body and be re-administered each year. The chips
don’t store data, they communicate data. Each tag is a listener that
transmits the current condition of the respective body organ to which it
monitors. The data is then collected by a server and illustrated graphically
by an online software application. The software interface would resemble
something like Google Analytics, but for your body. A few examples of how
this type analysis would be extremely helpful in the prevention and the
detection of illness include:

  • The analytics would display signs of high blood pressure putting a
    strain on the kidney and therefore warn of kidney damage.
  • If you are consuming inordinate amounts alcohol the analytics could
    map out a projection to see if you are in jeopardy of developing liver
  • In the case of someone suddenly falling unconscious, before the
    patient arrives at the hospital the doctors could receive a Twitteresque
    status alert and preparing for “A man in his late 50’s suffering
    from heart failure.”

On a macro-sociological level the data is aggregated by Anatomical Analytics
Trends in order to predict local, national and global health trends. Once the
RFID chips are in place it would be fairly easy to monitor an individual’s
location by using RFID readers that could be installed in schools, the
workplace and stores. Combining locative data we could potentially link an
outbreak of E.Coli to a particular fast-food chain; visually segment the
population based on nutritional intake data; or detect and track influenza
activity in The United States.

Of course there are many ethical issues surrounding anatomical analytics,
but I don’t think it is too difficult to imagine developments into this type of
technology over the next 10 or 20 years. Consider other examples of placing
technology in our body:

  • It has been over 50 years ago that the first pacemaker was implanted
    into a human.
  • Recently it has become popular to place RFID technology under the
    skin of pets.
  • Filmmaker Rob Spence has begun plans to install a camera into his
    eye socket. {2}

Furthermore, issues of privacy and Orwellian surveillance would be of
concern to many. Yet again any intrusion of privacy made by Anatomical
Analytics is not all that far off from many present-day scenarios. A notable
example of a surveillance tool commonly used in our cars is the electronic
toll RFID tags that, in addition to charging our credit card, transmit locative
data each time we use a toll. The other – perhaps less obvious but more
pervasive – example of a locative surveillance tool is the Internet. As
Lawrence Lessig has shown through his research of “code as law” the
Internet is actually one of the most controlling mediums that has ever
existed. And despite the fact that we never know who or when someone
might be looking at the data we leave on the Internet, we sacrifice privacy
for efficiency in our lives.

Kevin Kelly in speaking about the future of ubiquitous computing has
remarked, “Ten years ago the notion that all doors in a building should
contain a computer chip seemed ludicrous, but now there is hardly a hotel
door in the U.S. without a blinking, beeping chip in its lock. These
microscopic chips will be so cheap we’ll throw them away” {3}. My theory is
that in the future, the idea of monitoring human vital organs with RFID chips
won’t seem so ludicrous. The definition of ubiquitous computing will
eventually have to be expanded beyond ‘a network that connects everything
as it will truly be ‘a network that connects everything inside everyone’.


  • {1} Wikipedia, “Ubiquitous Computing” (accessed January 27, 2009).
  • {2} (accessed January 25, 2009).
  • {3} Kevin Kelly, New Rules for the New Economy (San Diego: Viking, 1998), pg. 10.

Imaginative Realization, Embodiment, or Illustration of the Idea:

Below I’ve included two screenshots that represent hypothetical illustrations
of Anatomical Analytics (higher resolution versions of these images have
also been submitted). The following is a description of the Anatomical
Analytics and Anatomical Analytics Trends:

I. The Anatomical Analytics interface is a personal report detailing up-todate
information about an individual’s body condition. Anatomical Analytics
offers a wide-range of services that help prevent illness and diagnose

II. The Anatomical Analytics Trends interface is an aggregator of the data
collected from the personal edition of Anatomical Analytics shown above.
The interface below details potential influenza outbreaks in the United States.

Social Computing in 2020 Second Prize Winner: Experiential Skin Diving by Daniel Luis Kamakura Fri, 15 May 2009 00:07:17 +0000 About the Author: Daniel Kamakura is a rising undergraduate senior at Duke University, with aspirations of going to medical school and becoming a published science fiction writer. Having been an amateur writer since 5th grade, the Bluesky “Social Computing in 2020” Competition is his first submission to a mainstream creative competition. He is currently studying for his MCATs in August, working on the manuscript of his first, full-length science fiction novel, as well as searching for an artist to assist in a possible graphic novel tie-in. He hopes to complete both projects—including matriculation to medical school—some time before the year 2020, and eagerly looks forward to his first “Skin Diving” experience.

For more information about all of the contest winners, please see the full contest winners announcement.

Participants in the competition warrant that their ideas are their own. Where ideas include component-ideas or materials by others, applicants warrant that any intellectual property owned by others and used in their submissions is approved for use and appropriately attributed.

The copyright or patent for any material submitted for the competition remains with the original owner.

Description of the Idea:

It is part of human nature to desire to be or do things that are not always easy or even physically possible, to be or do. Very few human beings, for example, will ever experience the sensation of walking on the Moon, or hitting a home run in Wrigley field, or swimming with sharks in the Great Barrier Reef. Very few human beings, for example, will ever be anyone but the person they are at any given moment; this knowledge is ingrained and consciously known as fact, but nevertheless, people still dream of being Neil Armstrong, or Mark McGuire, or Jacques Cousteau, and of doing the things that these men could do.

In the year 2020, however, the ability to be something or someone else, to do something that may or may not be likely, or even physically possible, will become reality: virtual reality. With new advances in intelligent nanofibers and materials, fiber optics, super- and semi-conducting substances, and data storage, collection, and transfer technologies, reality can be accurately simulated in a virtual setting. And by using unique programs and garments made of specialized materials, virtual sensations can for the first time be experienced safely, realistically, and above all accessibly by the average consumer, allowing a quantum leap in social networking and the next logical progression from life- and experience-sharing softwares and technologies.

In this new age of experiential simulation, social “networkers” wear special ultra-thin “recording suits” that digitally record every sensation that they experience. The “experience” is then downloaded to a computer and uploaded to the Internet, where “skin divers” download and relive the experience by hooking up their own full-body “sensation suits” which mimic the experience in minute detail.

Skin divers are thus able to attain the next logical progression of networking sites, status updates and personal blogs, and engage in a quantum leap in social interaction and engagement. Through sensation suits (alternately referred to as “skin suits”), users are able to share and express their feelings and experiences in ways that words and video could never do. Utilizing skin suits, divers can literally “get under the skin” of their friends and (for the right price) any celebrities or pop culture personalities willing to participate. The potential for professional “sensation” actors has untold implications for the entertainment industry, most obviously for adult entertainment, but also in more “family friendly” sectors.

For a relatively nominal one-time fee (covering the cost of a sensation and recording suit, and any ancillary hardware necessary to transmit/record sensations) friends can share and swap their favorite “experiences” with one another, either their own or those that they have purchased from “experiential vendors.” Those with truly intense, pleasurable, or otherwise popular experiences may also opt to sell these experiences to others for a profit. Entire niche industries may crop up catering to unique experiences and tastes. Experiential “circles” or experience groups may crop up on the Net or in real life, as people who might’ve shared vacation photos or home videos will instead compare and share real-time, real life experiences.

The potential also exists for people to gain more insight than ever into the lives of others, by literally “experiencing” their lives personally, rather than having to rely on information conveyed verbally or visually; in using full-body sensation suits, one can not only “walk a mile in another man’s shoes,” but walk in those shoes feeling, hearing, seeing, smelling, and tasting every step of the way. In this way, interpersonal relationships will not only become more intimate and more close, but also more rewarding. An individual who is, for example, unsatisfied with the behavior of their friend, associate, acquaintance, or romantic partner (be they public, social or even erotic behaviors), but is unable to articulate or convey their concerns through traditional means, can share with their partner the experience from another person’s perspective, or even their own. These “out-of-body” or third-party perspectives not only provide the opportunity for meaningful and in-depth self-reflection and introspection, but also allow for incredible levels of understanding between individuals and groups. Routine sharing of experiences will also lead to ever greater intimacy, interpersonal and social satisfaction, and also new heights and depths of empathy, mutual trust and social connection.

Likewise, political or socio-economic initiatives would receive a tremendous boost in building awareness and sympathy for their respective causes, especially when advocating for the plight of specific groups or individuals. In a real-to-life “prince and pauper” phenomenon, persons who might never understand, for example, the experience of being a minority in a predominantly colorless environment, or life within a traditionally disadvantaged or discriminated against social group, would be able to experience the sensation firsthand and in real-time. This has far-reaching implications for not just for social awareness programming but also educational initiatives and sensitivity training, as it provides a relatively safe and easy-to-replicate means by which another person can “live a different life,” from that which they normally inhabit.

The implications for artistic expression are also impressive, as “experiential artists” can experiment with developing and combining various experiences into new and wholly different overall experiences. Skilled artists may attempt to create new and wholly original experiences (similar to original, entirely unique works of art), or take existing or commonplace experiences and recombine them in new and imaginative ways (experiential montages or “experience collages” if you will). The potential also exists for artists to create new and completely artificial experiences that may or may not actually be possible in real life, either to express a political or social ideology, or simply to explore “alternative” sensory inputs and/or pairings. With full-body sensation suits, the potentials for creative invention and sensory recombination are infinite, including (but not limited to):

  • Unnaturally intense (or artificially muted) simulations of common sensations
  • Erotic or noxious pairings with mundane sensations or activities
  • Mismatched stimuli or experiences with disjointed stimuli (i.e. the visual, tactile act of eating a pizza paired with the olfactory, gustatory stimuli of eating pancakes; the act of bathing and drying off, but with the tactile sensations inverted in temporal order)
  • “Synaesthetic” pairing of actions or experiences with nonsensical or non-sensory stimuli (i.e. “tasting” the act of listening to classical music, or “hearing” the act of eating pasta).
  • Combining enjoyable and noxious stimuli in imaginative or unrealistic ways
  • Creating “layered” sensations (neither pleasant nor distasteful), that are developed and/or combined in ways not physically possible, widely common, or easily reproducible in real life
  • .

In the realm of sports, both training and recreational enjoyment would be profoundly changed by the practice of athletes adopting and wearing skin suits as part of their normal training and competitive routine. Aspiring athletes can see quite literally “through the eyes” of their favorite all-stars, not only enjoying the thrills and excitement of watching and experiencing every minute of the game, but also gaining valuable skills, insight and motivation for future athletic performances. Such dying sports as golf, baseball, or equestrianism could be revitalized in the form of experiential entertainments; whereas passively “watching” golf or equestrian sports may not be appealing, experiencing the sport through the eyes of a professional could breath new life into the entire sporting community.

Aside from the popular culture and social sectors, other applications may include the field of medicine. “Manual therapy,” and various derivations thereof, has been widely used both in traditional and alternative medicine to treat a wide variety of physical and psychological disorders and symptoms. Benefits of manual therapy (and more broadly, massage in general), include acute and chronic pain relief, reduced anxiety and depression, temporarily reduced blood pressure, heart rate, and increased attention and relaxation.

However, manual therapy relies primarily on highly trained specialists, and treatments are only possible provided there are specialists available for each individual patient; mechanical massage devices are already available of course, however these devices cannot replicate the intricacies and therapeutic benefits gained from a trained specialist. Furthermore, the costs associated with purchasing the services of such specialists may be prohibitive to some, and the services themselves may or may not be available in large geographic areas (such as isolated or rural areas) where established practices are not common.

In utilizing a full-body sensation suit, however, the entire experience of a single massage session (down to the sights, sounds, and even smells) can be replicated in exacting detail, and would for all intents and purposes be identical to the experience itself. In this way, an experienced, skilled, and fully licensed therapist may apply a standard or routine procedure to one individual and replicate the experience in a number of clients and patients, sparing their time for more intricate or personalized sessions for cases requiring special attention or care. Likewise, patients receiving frequent or recurrent treatments (even ones requiring personalized details) may experience the session only once at the hands of a specialist, and “relive” the experience in subsequent sessions, either at home or in an out-patient setup with only an attendant on hand to guarantee safety.

Imaginative Realization, Embodiment, or Illustration of the Idea:

“Skin Diving” and It’s Impact on Society:
Hearing before the Joint Committee on Virtual Reality and Technology

CHAIRMAN: This investigative hearing of the Joint Committee on Virtual Reality and Technology, presided over by Chairman Joseph Brenner, is now in session. The purposes of this hearing are to determine if, in fact, the continued practice of experiential simulation and the use of so-called “skin suits” poses a risk to the American public, and if so, to what extent does the practice warrant legislation and regulation. I just want to remind my colleagues and the witnesses and parties providing evidence that this is not a hearing to determine the legality or constitutionality of “skin diving” as a practice, but to determine what risks may be faced by Americans who undergo skin diving sessions. To that end, the chair recognizes Mr. Martin Blanchard, representing the Concerned Parents Association of Wilmington. Mr. Blanchard, I believe you have a prepared statement for us?

BLANCHARD: Yes Mr. Chairman, and thank you to the members of the committee for having us here today. As you all know, skin diving has become a popular recreational activity among many Americans, both young people and adults, and has become something of a national/international pop culture phenomenon. While we respect the Supreme Court’s decision that so-called “experiential artists” who record and share their experiences with the public are exercising their First Amendment rights, as parents we worry that the practice of skin diving and experience-sharing may be progressing too far.

In 2020 alone, more than a dozen cases of individuals attempting to commit suicide, through various means, have attempted to “share” or record the experience of death for others’ enjoyment. The most recent case, involving Mr. Stanley Bidell’s attempt on his own life, was actively advertized for weeks on Mr. Bidell’s personal blog as an “artistic simulation of the experience of death, so you don’t have to” prior to his attempt. Thankfully, Mr. Bidell’s attempt was thwarted by local law enforcement before the act was carried out, however the case was dragged out for months as Mr. Bidell’s attorney’s attempted to argue it was a First Amendment protected act of artistic representation.

More disturbing still, is the macabre fixation that hard-core skin divers seem to have had with these experiences, and the shocking lengths to which they have gone in their attempts to obtain them. Thankfully, local police and internet watchdog groups have been able to track and suppress so-called “death dives” and keep these experiences off the Net and out of the public domain, however despite these measures, the practice continues.

The Concerned Parents Association of Wilmington, North Carolina are also concerned over the use of experiential sharing sites to propagate other materials that are inappropriate for children and other minors; not just the aforementioned “death dives” but also the extremely violent “blood dives,” and sexually explicit “ero-dives.” While we respect (and respectfully disagree with) the Supreme Court’s stance on the issue of experiential pornography, the fact remains that such material is wholly inappropriate for consumption by minors, and leaves the door open for the potential exploitation of children by online experiential predators. To say nothing of the invasion of privacy associated with sharing or experiencing the sensations of another person, or having total strangers experience your own sensations without your knowledge, as concerned parents—and more importantly, as concerned voters—we would like to know what safeguards and assurances the government can provide to insure that inappropriate experiences do not fall into the hands of our children, and how the government plans to deal with individuals who continue to endanger not just themselves but others in the pursuit of ever more “exotic” and increasingly intense experiences, simply for the sake of profit and experiential entertainment.

CHAIRMAN: Thank you Mr. Blanchard. The committee would now like to hear from Dr. James Caldwell from the National Institute of Health, who has examined the full-body sensation suits and researched them at length. Dr. Caldwell? You have the floor.

CALDWELL: Thank you Mr. Chairman. As you yourself just mentioned, the NIH has been keenly interested in examining the full-body sensation suit, also known as the “skin suit,” not just for research purposes but also to determine whether or not the suit itself might pose a danger to the public welfare. The somewhat intentional injuries sustained by BDSMS [bondage-sado-masochism-simulation] enthusiasts notwithstanding, we at the NIH can find nothing in the suit’s construction that may be inherently dangerous or detrimental to the user’s well-being, so long as the instructions and guidelines regarding safe usage, cleanliness and maintenance included with the suits are carefully followed. Likewise, we can find no indication that the “experience” of experiential simulation is in any way more or less dangerous or detrimental to one’s physical or mental health than experiencing the simulated sensations, first-hand.

That being said, I would like to point out that if users do not follow the care and cleanliness instruction outlined by the skin suit manufacturers, they do so at their own risk. The sharing of skin suits, particularly in the public and dubiously maintained “sensation suites” that cater to sensations of an erotic or sexual nature, have the potential to spread sexually transmitted and other communicable diseases if not properly sanitized both before and after use. Other primary health concerns related to so-called skin diving generally result from the use of black-market or imitation suits of inferior quality and dubious safety, as well as the experiencing of incredibly intense and potentially dangerous experiences by individuals who might not otherwise be allowed to experience the situation in real life.

For the latter case, I would like to refer the committee to a case in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina where an elderly gentleman, whose clinical background and history of chronic heart disease would have disqualified him from participating in a sky-diving excursion, opted instead to experience the sensation of sky-diving via skin suit simulation. While the gentleman in question was warned of the risks and required to fill out a waiver form before the session, the skin diving agency allowed the man to participate, and at no time made inquiries about his prior medical history or physical fitness in any way.

The unfortunate result was that just a few minutes after successful immersion into the dive, the gentleman in question suffered a massive heart attack and went into cardiac arrest. Thankfully, the attendant on hand had the presence of mind to dial 911 and administer emergency CPR; however had it not been for this, the gentlemen in question most likely would not have survived the “experience,” if you will forgive the pun.

Thus, I would like to go back and emphasize our findings that the experiential simulation imitated by the skin suits are no more—but also, no less—dangerous than the experiences they are intended to simulate, and it is the opinion of myself and of the NIH that these skin-suits experiences be treated and regulated as such. Experiences that would not be appropriate for individuals in real life—such as sexual or highly violent experiences for minors or highly active and thrilling experiences for persons with prohibitive medical conditions—should be regulated so that, as Mr. Blanchard stated earlier, the wrong experiences do not fall into the wrong hands.

CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Dr. Caldwell. The chair would now like to hear from a representative of the sensation simulation industry, and recognizes Mr. Arthur Ellis, representing the Sensations Unlimited Corporation, to speak on their behalf. Mr. Ellis?

ELLIS: Thank you Mr. Chairman, and thank you to the committee for inviting myself and my staff here this afternoon. Gentlemen, I would like to start off by echoing the concerns raised by both Mr. Blanchard and Dr. Caldwell, by saying that no one in the mainstream sensation industry, would ever think of doing anything that might endanger this nation’s youth or our valued adult clients. This is why with every sensation suit we sell, the unit comes with very clear and very explicit instruction on appropriate care and management of the suits, as well as owner’s manuals that outline in minute detail the risks and potential hazards that come along with using our products. Not a single Sensations Unlimited product, if used correctly and maintained in accordance with the End-User License Agreement, poses a danger to its users, not does it pose a hazard to the general welfare of this great nation. However, no product, if used incorrectly or for purposes not originally designed or intended, can guarantee the safety of its users at all times.

As personal entertainment devices, full-body sensation suits are to be used at the user’s own risk, and at their sole discretion. It is the sole purview of the user which experiences and sensations they wish to engage in, and it is up to the user to make sure that these actions are appropriate for their current condition and situation. A sensation suit, much like a video disc or computer program, will only give the user that which he has expressly desired to receive. A user who does not wish to experience an erotic, thrilling, or otherwise pleasant or unpleasant situation, should not do so, and simply needs to be sure that the experience they are about to play out is in fact the scenario or set of sensations they wish to experience.

For this reason—that is, making sure the experience one is about to engage in is in fact what the user desires—we strongly encourage our users to only use and download experience from trusted individuals or sites, and refrain from downloading extremely hazardous experiences from unsanctioned third-party sites. We also strongly encourage our users to make use of the realism and safety protocols included in each skin suit unit, and to never engage in skin diving sessions alone.

Furthermore, I would like to point out that while skin suits made by Sensations Unlimited, as well as other corporations in the industry, do allow for sharing and, with proper hardware, recording of one’s own experiences, as part of the EULA agreement any recorded or shared experiences are done solely at the discretion of the user, and it is on the user’s prerogative that these experiences are recorded or shared. Any “invasion of privacy,” alluded to by Mr. Blanchard in his opening statements, would have to be purely voluntary in nature, somewhat torpedoing the idea of invasion in the first place.

But, humor aside, my clients fully realize that the potential exists with skin suits for inappropriate experiences to be replicated and disseminated to the public, if the individuals in question wish to replicate and disseminate them. However, I would like to point out that the phenomenon outlined by the incident with Mr. Bidell would’ve been no different if Mr. Bidell had simply video taped or audio recorded the act of taking his own life, and posthumously attempted to disseminate this media via regular mail or the world wide web. Likewise, erotic or otherwise “pornographic” experiences as Mr. Blanchard called them, can only be downloaded and experienced by minors if the minors in question download and actively attempt to experience them. Like any adult content or otherwise controlled media, it is up to the user themselves—or in the case of a minor, the user’s legal guardian—to decide what media is and is not appropriate for their consumption and act accordingly. The elderly gentleman mentioned by Dr. Caldwell was not “conned” into experiencing an intense situation; he was not “tricked” into simulating a sky-diving experience when he did not wish it. In fact, if Dr. Caldwell is referring to the case that I think he is, the gentleman in question opted to use a sensation suit after being turned away from an actual sky-diving excursion because of his medical background. Now, it may have been the fault of the individual sensation suite for not properly screening for medical conditions before agreeing to such an intense experience; we’ll leave that for the courts and lawyers to decide. However, the gentleman mentioned consciously chose which experiences he wanted to try, and unless there is outstanding court order judging him to be unable to make that decision, it was his choice to experience it, and no one else’s right to deny him that choice.

Of course, we recognize that there is the potential for abuse of our products and systems by individuals wishing to make an illicit profit, or to work the system for selfish and immoral ends. However, when the Internet first went up, and mankind was first exposed to the potential for mass communication, somehow the morality of human race survived. When Facebook and Myspace and personal blogs began appearing, people were also worried that their children would be ogled and preyed upon by the immoral and the depraved—and tragically, some were. But, with proper monitoring and care, with careful operations, parental supervision, and really just plain, common sense, the use and sharing of experiences and the operation of skin suits and simulated experiences are, as Dr. Caldwell points out, no more or less dangerous than the experiences themselves. And I everyone in the sensation suit industry would agree with his assessment that the experiential simulations should be treated as such: simulations, which are incredibly vivid and reality to the point that they are indistinguishable from the real thing.

In closing, I would like to point out, if I may, that incidents of abuse or misuse of full-body sensation suits are in fact very rare and uncharacteristic of the average skin diver today. The Vast majority of our customers are fine, upstanding citizens much like yourself, Mr. Chairman, who respect the law and are both responsible and cautious about what experiences they wish to simulate. To ban or over-regulate a popular pastime, all for the sake of a few miscreants and isolated incidents, would be to unfairly punish this large majority of cautious and conscientious citizens over needless scare-mongering. After all, here we are in the year 2020, and the Internet is still up and running; sky-diving is still an acceptable past time, erotic media still exists, and American civilization is still largely intact. So I ask you, what’s the harm in sharing the experience of life with others who are interested in doing the same?

CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Mr. Ellis. We will now take a short recess for lunch and reconvene to hear more testimony from others in the sensation suit industry, parents groups, and other concerned parties.

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Social Computing in 2020 First Prize Winner: “SENSe” by Karen Tanenbaum & Joshua Tanenbaum Fri, 15 May 2009 00:00:28 +0000 About the Authors:Karen & Joshua Tanenbaum are both PhD students at Simon Fraser University’s School of Interactive Arts & Technology. Joshua is currently investigating interactive storytelling and games in the SFU SIAT EMIIE Lab under the supervision of Magy Seif El-Nasr and Jim Bizzocchi. His primary research is an investigation of narrative meaning in games and interactive media, however he also writes on embodiment in game interfaces, virtual worlds, and agency and performance in games. Karen is exploring user modeling and ambient intelligence for ubiquitous computing spaces under the supervision of Marek Hatala in the Laboratory for Ontological Research. Her research projects include work on sustainable design, tangible and tabletop computing systems, and expert recommender systems. They are currently collaborating on a research project called TUNE: Tangible Ubiquitous Narrative Environment, a physical storytelling space that responds to the actions and preferences of the reader.

For more information about all of the contest winners, please see the full contest winners announcement.

Participants in the competition warrant that their ideas are their own. Where ideas include component-ideas or materials by others, applicants warrant that any intellectual property owned by others and used in their submissions is approved for use and appropriately attributed.

The copyright or patent for any material submitted for the competition remains with the original owner.

Description of the Idea:

The imagined social technology of SENSe (Socialization, Exploration, Negotiation, and Security) is a natural extension of two current trends in social networking: social presence and privacy concerns. It is evident that the growth in popularity of services like Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and Google Talk and the parallel increase in mobile device usage are symptomatic of larger changes in the nature of social spaces, private spaces, and human interconnectedness. Already, we have seen how social networking supports the emergence of a form of ambient social presence. People now think nothing of signaling their receptiveness to phone calls by toggling a status indicator in Skype, while Twitter and Facebook allow users to periodically broadcast short status updates to their entire social circle. These updates and status indicators foster an “always‐on” sense of one’s social geography: what people are doing right now, minor incidents that occurred throughout their day, how they are feeling and what they are planning. Our new networked world supports the dramatic and the mundane in seamless concert. When disasters occur, these services support efficient real‐time coordination of rescue and relief efforts; when history is made, people around the world receive it in a thousand tiny haiku. If you see that a colleague is having lunch down the block you might join them for a bite to eat; if you see a friend is sad or angry about something you might call to offer comfort. The combination of distributed social broadcasting and pervasive mobile devices is a potent one that has already changed how we communicate in dramatic ways.

However, this is not a trend without consequences. As mobile devices become more pervasive and distributed, the line between what is public information and what is private information becomes much more difficult to negotiate. People are posting more and more information about themselves in public arenas, often without full awareness of the size of the potential audience for viewing this information, or how long it will persist. Small (but significant) indiscretions such as posting photos of last weekend’s party to a social network where they may be accessed by coworkers and supervisors have already resulted in lost jobs. Larger slips, such as accidentally making medical records viewable or failing to secure shared drives with personal documents such as passport or birth certificate information, can result in vulnerability to identity theft and fraud.

Equally troubling is the way new location‐aware technology allows for one’s daily routines to be scrutinized in subtle and often unanticipated ways. When geotagged Flickr photos, Twitter tweets and GPS enabled mobile phones allow easy Google map plotting of your home, workplace, children’s schools, and frequent dining locales, the potential for privacy invasions in the physical as well as digital world increases. As we adopt and embrace this technology we are often not made fully aware of how much of this kind of data is accessible online and how quickly tools can be developed to aggregate and synthesize it into detailed information about our personal lives. Seldom do we even pause to contemplate the potential harmful repercussions of this technology, or to consider how we might mitigate these risks without sacrificing all of the benefits derived from this new connectedness. SENSe provides a technological infrastructure to assist in the ever complexifying process of negotiating these public and private spheres.

In 2020 we expect to see a greater unification of the public and the private. The core affordance of these social technologies is an unprecedented level of access to each‐others’ private worlds, but it comes with an exaggeration of all of the risks spelled out above. As with any shift in the technology of socialization, a parallel shift must occur in how we negotiate and navigate the new social world. When humans first began living in cities, the social norms from an agrarian society were no longer sufficient to govern interpersonal behavior. In 2020, we anticipate a need for a new mechanism for negotiating our identities, our personal information, and our public and private spaces – spaces that will be closer than at any other point in our history.

Social norms and etiquette already govern how we interact with each‐other, although they do so mostly beneath the surface of our daily life. We do not expect this to change or to be replaced with some prescriptive digital system that tells us how to interact with each other. Instead, we envision SENSe as a natural evolution of our growing need for a set of social tools that are shared across the physical and digital landscape. In other words, our social needs will drive the development of technology like SENSe, which will support and simplify the otherwise too complex task of trying to micromanage all of the avenues of communication that are converging on our lives. At its most simple, the SENSe system is a wearable or desktop device that allows its user to switch seamlessly from public to private with a single interaction, by selecting from different modes of privacy and openness. SENSe helps people manage a number of different aspects of technology, including the setting of status messages in communication programs, ringers on mobile phones, the filtering of email and text messages, choosing when to automatically post location information, and so forth. Obviously a system like SENSe also requires some additional infrastructure and architecture, including the ability for a number of different programs and devices to communicate with each other, but this increased interoperability is another trend already observable in 2009.

Perhaps more importantly than controlling software and hardware, SENSe is a tool for navigating the murky waters of a world where anything is a potential point of data to be gathered: from a simple trip to a grocery store, to a business meeting, to a visit to the chiropractor. In a world where we leave glowing digital footprints wherever we go, SENSe allows us to choose when and where to leave that trail, and when to cover our tracks. If you are going out for a night on the town, for instance, it knows to not include your boss in the list of people with access rights to the photos taken in “social mode”. In this way, SENSe supports the process of negotiating different levels of privacy for different audiences. It tells you where your information is going, who is looking at it, and for how long: it asserts your rights over your digital identity, and gives you control over how you construct that identity for a given audience.

Finally, SENSe extends the discovery functions of social networks into the physical world. Putting SENSe into different “social discovery” modes invites connections between people who might otherwise never meet. A lonely office worker might meet a girl who shares his love of old horror movies on a train ride home, or a musician looking for an audience might find a group of teens browsing his songs while sitting in the food court of a mall. SENSe will tell you if any of your old college friends are sitting in the same movie theater with you (assuming they are signaling social openness, of course), and allow you to schedule and coordinate a meet‐up for drinks later. SENSor devices can come in all shapes and sizes, with aesthetics designed to appeal to a wide range of tastes. One thing they all share is the ability to visually signify social receptiveness to the casual observer. A glance at your SENSor device allows an observer to easily determine whether or not it is okay to strike up a conversation with you about the weather.

In 2020, people do not join social networks: they are social networks. It is a natural part of the ongoing movement from unmediated socialization through fully mediated socialization into an equilibrium that combines the advantages of both. The SENSe system or something similar will become another tool for navigating the digital and physical communities. Part D of this submission is a mockup of a brochure advertising the SENSe system and illustrating a couple usage scenarios.

Imaginative Realization, Embodiment, or Illustration of the Idea:

Outside of a Hypothetical Product Brochure:

Inside of a Hypothetical Product Brochure: