Friday, January 20, 2006

Communication Studies: Digital Media: Cyborgs

Communication Studies: Digital Media: Cyborgs

Nothing too new here, but it's a good set of bookmarks.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Boing Boing: Deaf hacker rewrites implant-firmware so he can enjoy music again

Boing Boing: Deaf hacker rewrites implant-firmware so he can enjoy music again: Cory Doctorow writes: "The story is gripping, fascinating and informative -- a template for a tale that I believe will become more and more prevalent in times to come: a person who relies on computerized prosthetics not being satisfied with the features that were included with it out of the box, taking it upon herself to improve it, to extend it, using her own body and perceptions as a labratory for experiments on human perception and performance."

Cyborgs don't have to suffer from Dry Age Related Macular Degeneration

Neurotech Initiates a Phase II Clinical Trial of NT-501 for the Treatment of Dry Age Related Macular Degeneration: "NT-501 is an intraocular, polymer implant containing human retinal epithelial cells genetically modified to secrete Ciliary Neurotrophic Factor (CNTF). The implant is designed to continuously release CNTF directly in the eye to the diseased retinal tissue for sustained periods of time. The Phase II trial is a randomized, double-masked, sham-controlled dose ranging study that will evaluate the efficacy and safety of the CNTF implant and will be conducted at the National Eye Institute (NEI) in Bethesda, Maryland."

I'm a Cyborg, but it's okay

Digital Chosunilbo (English Edition) : Daily News in English About Korea:
"Rain to Star in Park Chan-wook's Much-Awaited 'Cyborg'
K-pop star Rain (24) has accepted a starring role in director Park Chan-wook's next movie titled 'I'm a Cyborg, but It's Ok' produced by Moho Film. Scheduled to start shooting in March or April, 'I'm a Cyborg' is this year's much-awaited project by Park, who made his name worldwide by winning the Grand Prix at Cannes with 'Old Boy.' The new movie is about a girl who suffers from the delusion that she is a combat cyborg. Sectioned in a mental hospital, she falls in love with a boy who thinks he can steal people's souls with a machine he has created."

synthetic genomics, inc.

synthetic genomics, inc. - media
I missed the launching of this new company last June, founded and chaired by J. Craig Venter (also its CEO). Venter is the former president of Celera Genomics, which mapped the human genome.
"Synthetic Genomics, Inc. seeks to lead the world in its ability to design, synthesize and assemble specifically engineered cell level bio-factories. The ability to make extensive changes to the DNA of a chromosome, assemble it, and insert it into an organism is in its infancy, and the capability to assemble chromosome length strands of DNA will be key to the success of the company. "
The Globe and Mail (subscription required) reported on December 19 that Venter's company is attempting to create the "first human-made species" or "first synthetic life form - a microbe made from scratch."

Cyborg art @ Ontario Science Centre - Science Centre works shown the door Toronto cyborg artist/engineer Steve Mann has had one of his installations chosen for the "Grand Central" entryway of the Ontario Science Centre.
"FUNtain, an interactive fountain that uses a water pump and hollow pipes to generate music when visitors press their hands over the opening of each pipe.'As far as I know, it's the world's first and only water-based instrument,' Mann explained yesterday while inspecting the site where his fountain will be installed. 'There isn't a lot of inventiveness in art (these days) but art is about invention. Art, science and technology inform and influence each other.'"
This is an interesting choice: I wonder if it's anything like the 17th- and 18th-century musical automata that were powered by water, on which Descartes based his description of the human body as a fountain automata piloted by an immaterial spirit and moved through the workings of the nerves as hollow pipes through which the animal (animating) spirits flowed?

This is an image from Kaspar Schott's Mechanica hydraulico pneumatica. There's a different version of this type of automaton at Stanford: Between the Demonic and the Miraculous: Athanasius Kircher and the Baroque Culture of Machines by Michael Gorman.

I talk about this history of water automata and humans-as-machines in a forthcoming book, The Enlightenment Cyborg: A History of Communications and Control in the Human Machine, 1660–1830. What Mann is doing in his installation probably has very little to do with muscial automata: it sounds more like an interactive device, where people actively participate in making the music rather than the earlier musical fountains which were essentially "pre-programmed." But it's a fascinating choice for a cyborg to make as art. As long as we've imagined human bodies to be machines, we've also been intrigued by the conundrum of human creativity, which seems so spontaneous and filled with genius, versus programmed musical machines. The famous 18th-c. builder of automata, Jaques de Vaucanson, claimed that his mechanical flute player was actually superior to a human because it could play so many notes in quick succession. But many physicians took the trouble to explain that the human body, with an immaterial soul conducting the music, was the superior machine.