Social Commerce

Reinventing Humans

Here is the course description for my ENGL 1102 course this spring.

Any suggestions?

In this course, we will examine the commercial viability, social implications, and ethical consequences of posthuman technology that appears in selected science-fiction series.

Our social and cultural critiques of this technology will serve as inspiration for our own inventions to change the way humans interact with each other and with the material world.

During the first half of the semester, students will pitch ideas and designs for a new invention, focused primarily on the advantages to science and business.

During the second half of the semester, students will integrate these inventions into a science-fiction narrative that interrogates the social and ethical consequences of these technological advancements.

In our final reflection on these inventions, we will consider the ways in which these technologies might become a reality.

Dollhouse image courtesy of Bright Lights Film Journal

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TechShares Symposium

On December 8th, my students will showcase their capstone projects on collaborative consumption, a rising movement in consumer culture that promotes community, sustainability, and economy, defined by Rachel Botsman in What’s Mine Is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption.

I asked students to bring collaborative consumption to Georgia Tech’s campus. The college campus is fertile ground for collaborative consumption, and it is a market that has yet to be tapped. Here are a few of their ideas:

  • Nexus Connections: a campus transportation system consisting of solar-powered carts with zipcar-style access (don’t miss the video!)
  • Buzz2Buzz: a campus network for buying, selling, and trading goods
  • Buzz Bikes: a bike-sharing program built from a repository of pre-owned bikes
  • Food for the Forgotten: a volunteer program that redistributes leftover food from GT dining to the homeless population
  • Tech Hubs: collaborative work spaces designed to facilitate group projects (see especially the Google Sketch-Up rendition)

A Community Exchange

In the basement of my apartment building, there is a square yellow folding table. It stands next to the door exiting to the parking lot. On this table are random objects:

  • a porcelain doll in a blue velvet dress
  • a small white ceramic teapot with a wicker handle
  • a miniature birdhouse
  • a black ceramic lamp shaped into a dancer

Since moving here a year ago, my eyes have been constantly drawn to the offerings on the table. Could it really be that these items were free for the taking?

There’s no sign with instructions. Nothing says free on it. The basement otherwise serves as a repository for resident storage–usually bicycles, grills, extra furniture.

But the table is different. The items are loose, random, and clearly unwanted. Occasionally there’d be something I was interested in, but didn’t take.

  • a small wicker basket
  • a wooden candlestick lamp
  • a round white laundry basket

Nothing spectacular. Until I saw a pair of charming wooden snack bowls. They were small and I could discreetly carry them upstairs. I decided to take them.

It was a little strange taking something for free without explicit permission, and I almost felt as though I’d be caught stealing. I ended up being very happy with the bowls. Later I took the remaining large wooden bowl. Then I took a white oblong lampshade. Then a blue teapot.

By now I have taken so many items that hardly any remain. I realized then that I need to replenish the table.

In completing the circle of exchange, by donating items in addition to accepting them, I have officially joined the silent exchange table that is the yellow table in my basement.