What the heck is a Cyborg Anthropologist?
Amber Case is no ordinary tech nerd, she is an accomplished MIT researcher, founder, speaker and cyborg anthropologist. She joined us on this episode of Popping the Bubbl to talk about her trajectory and how she came to focus on the intersection of humans and technology through her extensive cross disciplinary approach.
Amber grew up in a technical family of broadcast engineers, her grandfather was the head of a university mathematics program and she was used to tinkering around electronics from a very young age. This comfort with computers led to her learn how to build websites at a very young age, the creation of a social group for video games and eventually the creation of an online forum. Even if she didn’t know it at the time, Amber was flexing her entrepreneurial muscle and building organizational structures that could easily be mistaken for company as she was building including all the diverse corporate functions needed to run a tech startup such as QA, design, organizational structure and management.
However, taking the techie nerd path also came with its share of awkwardness and social rejection that lasted until she was in college. She realized math and science were easy for her to understand, it was people she needed to study. Her experience with computers and UI made her want to understand society and how tools affect behavior, which led her to anthropology. But it was the draw of free pizza and a philosophy class that led her to discover Deborah Heath who taught a course in cyborg anthropology. Her coursework was a focus on networks of information, examining the blend between technology and humans. This led Amber down her path of Cyborg Anthropology and wanting to understand how people are shaped by the technology they use and how design can make interaction more sticky. After graduating she started giving talks including this Ted talk from 2010.
The theme continues into today where she explores the zeitgeist of what’s going on with humans and technology, the impact of social on our psyche, the ethics of data mining. The truth is technology has had a significant impact on humans, for better and worse. Did you know that the mere presence of smart phone in a room reduces available cognition and memory? Our mobile phones have become a black hole of attention, because just knowing that they are there significantly impacts our ability to think critically or solve problems on our own. Why think when we can just pick up our phones and google it?
Another interesting tidbit led us to examining people’s behavior on social media, and actually realizing that selfies are not just a form of narcissism and need for validation but could actually be pointing to someone’s depression especially if they are frequently posting in black and white. Today, Amber is helping to design technology that frees, not enslaves us through her company Calm Technology and book by the same name.
Amber also shared her own battle with depression, thank you Amber. It’s so important for others to know that they are not alone and in spite of someone’s success or rose world view on social media, not everything is what it seems. Thank you so much Amber for your courage in sharing your story and battles, you are an inspiration and shining star to us and so many who follow you.
If this episode hits a chord and you happen to be suffering from depression, please know you are not alone and there are resources out there that can help.
Suicide Prevention line -1-800-273-8255