Saturday, August 22, 2009

Gnomedex 9.0 - In the Room

I was on deck for Girls in Tech for most of the time I was at Gnomedex, so a lot of the experience has been a blur of networking. However, I did actually make it into the conference room for two of the presenters I really wanted to see, Mark Horvath and Amber Case. They appeal to the two very different sides of my fascination with technology: Mark covered online networking for social justice and Amber covered humans as tool-users and tool-users as cyborgs.

Mark Horvath is a former ad exec who was once homeless, is now unemployed, and is using his "time off" to scream and shout on the internet about homelessness. He has a great website, a following on Twitter, and is now equipped with a cool camera phone. But that's all he has. And with just that, he's gotten onto the front pages of newspapers spreading awareness about homelessness. The moral of the story is, you don't need money to have influence.

Amber Case is...well, let's just say she's awesome. And she knows a lot about the interface between humans and their technology. Her talk on prosthetic culture and cyborg anthropology was a really funny take on humans as tool users, tools as prostheses, and the explosion of the use of these prostheses in recent years.

When she started saying tools and prosthetic, I was thinking hammers and artificial limbs. But those terms also apply to cell phones (ear tools/prostheses), hard drives and the internet (brain t/p's), keyboards (finger t/p's) and so on. And since the definition of a cyborg is a "being to which exogenous elements have been added to aid an organism in adapting to new environments" (approx. quote!), the moral of the story is that we're all cyborgs. Neat. Well, neat until all our prosthetic bits are in the shop :(.

(Photo of Mark courtesy of and photo of Amber courtesy of Amber's Twitter profile.)

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