LiveBlog: CyborgCamp

9:43am: Currently in the Forum at Cubespace, waiting for opening remarks on CyborgCamp, Amber Case (@caseorganic appears to be MC’ing.

9:50am: there are several extras for following what’s happening with CyborgCamp (#cyborgcamp): CyborgCamp, CyborgCamp LiveStream, Twitter Tracking.

Should definitely check out the sponsors at

10:00am: Still going through sponsors, each is getting a chance to get up and sort of give their spiel as to what they do. I’ve yet to see any that aren’t worth checking out.

Explanation of an unconference — a mixture of established presentations, and blocks of time where you can create breakout sessions — if you have something you want to discuss or present, just put it on a card, put it on the grid. The point is to make these conferences to work for you. There is no commitment as an attendee — go where you’re finding value; if something isn’t what you wanted, go somewhere else.

10:12am: Okay, starting to organize the unconferences and meeting back here in 30.

10:45am: First Keynote, Bill DeRouchey, discussing “Is Machine Language Influencing Human Language?” Discussing how many years ago, he’d been in a coffee shop, and this woman had a tape she wanted to play, and asked him how to do so. “Well, press the play button.” “Which is the play button?” Drives home the point that we’re acclimated to symbology meaning something, it’s a learned language. Now it’s so accepted that we use it for any time we need to use “start”. Washing machines with a play/pause symbol for the start button.

Discussing how the glyphs of our language, our alphabet, have evolved over time, moving from pictographs to scripted letters to printed letters. Classic example of the script-to-print shift is the old “s” which looks more like an f.

Like the typewriter before it, ASCII froze the alphabet — it’s no longer changing, is locked in… for now.

Expressing emotion is created through punctuation, emoticons. Evolution through combination. “:)” “omfg” “^_^” “@”

@ evolved originally as a commerce symbol originally, but in the early 1970s, as the internet was being developed, the developers needed a symbol to explain where one message was coming from to another — it gained the meaning of location. It evolved again as @ started to be used in twitter, originally ad-hoc and then implemented, came to mean identity.

#, number, pound, hash, generally meant a quantity. It gained further meaning as it was added to the telephone. Again, further evolved as a method to add context to conversation. # now means context, a keyword or group or topic, a method to explain what you’re talking about in a quick, shorthand method.

The mouse pointer has also taken other context, it drives home the reference to the computer and/or internet. It has become a symbol to reference the internet. Intentionally pixelated pointer to drive home that it’s a computer reference.

Slightly rounded corners on a rectangle immediately draws the symbology of “button”. Yet now there are further visual clues that occur, including color — blue underlines are automatically inferred to be a link. You start to understand that some things are interactive simply by the context of where they are on a page.

How are things going to continue to evolve? Can we apply context to a ~? Math and science use it for asymptoticly, or “kind of”, “approximated”. Discussion that ~ is starting to be used in dialog to describe that things preceded it that you don’t need to worry about (unix reference to specify “home” without listing the full path), or to say “sort of”. “Sort of dating” could be ~dating.

! has meanings, the ^ symbol also has room for further symbolic reference. Some use it for connecting disparate concepts “digi^carrot” for a digital carrot. What about the ?. Other symbols that are in the ASCII could be applied to create further communication.

Question/comment from a stream viewer at UCLA regarding the finger pointer as meaning “this is the action you must take, you should click this.” Also, the I beam showing “type here”. [I love the fact that there are streamers watching this at UCLA and elsewhere!]

There is a snowman icon in the ASCII set, believe it or not (it’s a snowman with a fez… I’m sure it has other meaning, but that’s what it looks like). Tyler just googled Snowman with a Fez, and there are literally millions of hits. What could it mean? Oxymoron? Sarcasm?

Horse head symbol, like a knight’s head in chess. Maybe “It’s a threat”?

Music symbol, already has a lot of context related to music, but can also imply frivolity, something upbeat.

Hand with two fingers, a peace symbol, or victory… wrap comments in this symbol to show a quotation? There are already quotation marks, but language evolves.,, excellent presentation, really good dialogue (check out the video coverage, not going to try to keep up with the questions, but suffice to say, it’s worth the time).

11:50am: How Being a Cyborg Keeps Me Alive — Lia Hollander. Lia is talking about how she is connected to an insulin pump 24/7, how that happened, and how it’s affected her life. As a teen, she went to camp over the summer, drank lots of koolaid and similar, came back super skinny, major weight loss — Type 1 Diabetes. They still don’t know entirely how it happens, but the pancreas basically stops creating insulin entirely. Without insulin, no food is absorbed.

Daily life is affected, they claimed “oh, there’ll be a cure in 5 years” and it’s “As normal as brushing your teeth.” Neither was true. Medical machinery is a prime example of cyborgian influence — like glucose meters, which let you on the fly measure your glucose levels to determine how much insulin you might need. Around when she was 15, she first heard about insulin pumps, but had this image of a huge bellows of a pump wrapped around the waist… FAR from the truth. In reality, it’s about the size of a cellphone, and is mounted to her hip/back. (Mounting is basically just a sticky, like an eeg sensor, no residue.)

An insulin pump is a mechanical pancreas — replicates the way a normal pancreas works. A base level of insulin is delivered, and when the owner eats, it releases a spike.

Full automation achieved? NOPE! Machines can still fail, so backups are required, there’s software issues occasionally, and the basal (where the tubing enters the body) has to be moved every few days, or the body grows around it and rejects it. There are still issues to be dealt with, and room for improvement.

“Do I consider it part of me?” YES! Easy to forget you’re wearing it, only weighs 3 ounces, and because you grow attached to it, you literally rely on it. You get protective about it — she doesn’t let ANYONE touch her pump, not even close family.

“But what about sex?” — you can disconnect it for a while if needed, you can clip it to a garter or similar. Blood sugar control leaves you ending up more receptive anyway. “If they’re turned off by your pump, then that’s not someone you’d want to sleep with anyway.”

“Will I keep it?” Absolutely – love it! The next step is a closed loop (internal) system. They’re working on it, but there are still some issues to be worked out. question: “Do you have a wishlist for this technology?” A new way to calculate blood-sugar to allow real time reading. They’re starting to work out wireless communication between meters and pumps. A no-tubing system might be neat. Otherwise, pretty happy with it.

1:30pm: Ward Cunningham: Seeing: learning to recognize patterns. Coming from a photographic background, learning to visualize and anticipate the image. Thought about becoming a professional photographer, found out how much they make, became a computer programmer instead. Specializes in software that senses the world.

Took a cell out of a light meter and attached it to a computer, learned how to read what light and dark is… kind out of date, since nearly every webcam at this point does this sort of metering. Started creating shell scripts taking collective data from webcams and splicing them together, creating photomosaics. What’s interesting is that once you know how light hits the earth and when, you can determine rough latitude and longitude through the splice.

Family geekery: he mentioned that he was collecting solar radiance data, and his older brother says “Oh, I’ve been collecting that data for the past six years.” We’re talking about solar photography with essentially six month exposures. He’s got six years of that (attendee comments, should be able to see the trees growing).

Started experimenting with ocean waves, what’s interesting about them is that energy is propagated through the water, so you can get direct influence of storms across the ocean. Discovered that California is already recording data, so he was able to use that data to again splice it together… compressing a month’s data into a minute, which brings the pattern into a human comprehensible form. You can hear storms cycle through, almost like waves. It’s a direct audio sample — the buoy reads at 5 cycles per second… the audio card pics at maybe 44000 cycles per second… so the audio is a sample for sample conversion.

Designed a computer sensor that looks for balance — most of these devices is modeled after biology in some form. Working out a circuit that works like a cell — multiple inputs, similar mechanism.

Ward is the inventor of Wiki’s. Calls Wikipedia a tool to measure culture. It, again, has a biological influence. The seed of wiki grew out of reading, and what influenced him was a book on Museum design. The author posited that our tastes are changed by the audience response to music, and that should be applied to museum design… Ward took the idea towards authorship.

Also, wabi sabi [a personal favorite topic], the art of impermanence, that art desires a sort of natural transience. This influenced wiki design in that “maybe I didn’t need to protect the page and the data as much as I think.” The occasional wreck that happens is part of the process. He prefers the method of not allowing single word hyperlinks, as it allows greater granularity, greater searching capability. Creates further queries and connections via keywords within a topic. Multiple keywords allow for effectively a “tour” through pages you might not have otherwise found. Another essential concept was the ability to hyperlink to a page that does not yet exist.

Interesting observing wiki activity across time and location in aggregate, and tracking trends (and anomalies).

2:48pm: visualizing social media – Amber Case. Looking at some graphs, visualizations of tweets across time and volume of discussion. Twitter StreamGraphs, very slick visualization app, allows you to view cycles in words and related words, over time. Also, comparing keyword trends: Tweet Volume. Moving away from Twitter, other social visualization includes the apps at Digg Labs. There are a ton of visualization tools out there for various money. Aggregators that change size according to the weight of news (how often it’s reported). Looking at We Feel Fine, which looks for “I Feel…” in blogs and tracks mood. Also looking at some functional data: google maps api to track bike crashes and where, to help individuals know where potential “danger spots” might be.

3:30pm: Klint Finley talking about the singularity and the developing world. It’s not just what we can show/give the developing world, but also what third world cities can teach us. Simplicity of technology and going with simpler routes. Example, minefield detection, companies spent millions creating a plant that grows red instead of green if it’s over a mine. Too much money, not safe enough, fell through. Instead, rats can actually be trained to detect mines, and are light enough to not set off mines. How cell phones are influencing the third world — but how do you power it, in places with no grid? Why isn’t there more independent energy development?

Other examples, using temperature differental (thermal energy) to generate electricity, the pipes sweat fresh water which can be used for irrigation. Also, open source schematics for building tractors. These are lo-fi tools that are sustainable in one degree or another, and can be utilized by the third AND first world — and need to be.

Next, 3:48pm: low-tech cyborg anthropology. Bicycles are an example of a low tech interaction that absolutely qualifies as a symbiotic connection between humanity and technology. Low-tech is more accessible, and can give individuals a sense of personal agency. We use lots of tools and technology to better our lives, and is an essential foundation to the more advanced, flashy stuff.

3:54pm: move on into gender and technology, sort of the revelation that transgender, by nature, is cyborgian. Ethnicity and gender are both blurred these days, and if a cyborg is a fusion, a biological fusion is just as valid as a mechanical one.

4:30pm: Yahoo! Pipes, presented by Dawn Foster:
“Why Should I care?”
– Find conversations proactively
– Respond quickly and effeciently
– Get insights into a topic

The technology:
– Combines RSS feeds
– Filter in or out for increase relevance
– Modify RSS feeds.

– Not a programming language
– Single point of failure
– Can be slightly flaky
– Don’t use in production/critical environments
– Don’t feed directly into important web sites

The documentation isn’t stellar (too new, perhaps?), so it’s handy to sort of explore on your own and look into demos. The magic is the filters… let’s say you pull an RSS feed into Yahoo Pipes. You can then set a filter to either permit or block specific keywords or data. It generally is a good idea to add a Sort function to keep your feed organized — usually won’t be a problem, but it doesn’t hurt, and can potentially save some headaches. Can save it and export it in a variety of formats for various readers… generally RSS is plenty. Her website has a ton of extra information for Yahoo Pipes.

Other useful functions to include are filters by unique link, particularly if you’re drawing from a number of sources at once. The debugger has good output as it relates to what you’ve set up in your Pipe — get comfortable with it, as it can save a lot of headaches if you’re making large pipes.