Greetings Mediaite readers, my name is Rob Spence — AKA Eyeborg — and I am the world’s first cyborg columnist. Fellow Canadian and Mediaite editor-at-large Rachel Sklar thought that I might have an interesting point of view on the media and asked me to write a column for Mediaite once a week.
Another Canadian once said that the medium is the message — well, I have managed to put both of those things into my eye socket. I am a one-eyed filmmaker who retrofit my prosthetic eye to be a wireless video camera. And why not? If you were a filmmaker with a hole in your head wouldn’t you do the same thing?
This video will give you an idea of what it is I have been up to, including some pretty good media coverage by various outlets:
(I love that Fox News introduces me as a crimefighter.)
In a sense my new eye IS the message. I’m not exactly sure what that message is yet but I’ll be exploring that here with my unique point of view and videos.
If I am claiming to be the world’s first cyborg columnist that begs the question: what is a cyborg, exactly? Well, it’s not as clear as you would think. One definition of a cyborg is a human who is augmented by technology. By that definition clothing, contact lenses, or an iPhone would make someone a cyborg. Others say that to really be a cyborg you have to cut into the body. Somehow, though, Pamela Andersen doesn’t feel like a cyborg. Perhaps fake boobs aren’t high tech enough. (She is, however, Canadian.) Dick Cheney on the other hand — Darth Vader himself — could be called a cyborg as he has a pacemaker implanted in his chest. Also, he just kind of seems like an evil robot.
My take: There has to be an element of pop culture come to life to truly make someone a cyborg. For example, Gordon Brown, the British Prime Minister also has a prosthetic eye (we one-eyed people know these things) but no one refers to him as a cyborg. Consider, though, that I made a prosthetic eye with a 5 dollar LED light in it so I could look like The Terminator, and geeks freaked out everywhere, often literally squealing with nerd delight. My cyborg status was cemented not because the technology of my LED eye is much more advanced than Gordon Brown’s eye, but because I am channeling the pop culture idea of a cyborg that includes Terminator and the Borg from Star Trek. If you are a true nerd you may also know Cable, the Marvel Comics cyborg hero with a glowing eye.
Having a camera eye fits this definition as well, of course, because of the similarity to that bionic man from 70s show The 6 Million Dollar Man. Bio-man Steve Austin had a camera eye that was implanted along with other cyber-cool bits and pieces after he crashed a spaceship.
I, unfortunately, am more like the 0 million dollar man. The camera eye is in its last stages of development and it works, but it needs a little more investment to get a robust field model. I blew a lot of time and money on getting the eye as far as it has come with the help of a young engineer by the name of Kosta Grammatis. We MacGyvered a lot of things to get an eye that works and now we need to custom manufacture a few items so that, for example,I don’t have to keep resealing the two part prosthetic with dental wax. Messy.
The idea was that I would have a documentary or sponsorship deal by now but what with the recession and everything….
Hark though! I found out that Bertrand Serlet, Senior Vice President of Software Engineering for Apple, was a one-eyed dude. Surely he would help pay for the last few hurdles to get a really good camera eye working! An iCamera? Eye-camera?
I tried in vain to email him for a while and then figured, why not reach out to him with some of the great press I have been getting? Brilliant, I thought! Check out my appeal to Bertrand in this tech crunch video.
Not so much. Betrand wasn’t too receptive when I heard from him later that day. He was very polite and supportive of my idea but asked me in an email to please stop referring to him and for me to take him off my website which I quickly did. I guess when you are an Apple executive you don’t necessarily want to be associated with a cyborg jackass. The fact is that a guy with a camera in his head freaks some people out. Including Rachel who asked me the first time I met her if I thought I would ever get a date again.
Maybe if I had used a less public medium Bertrand and I would be yukking it up in Silicon Valley right now filming each other with our awesome iCameras. Eyeborg is learning slowly but surely. Maybe its time to brush up on the McLuhan.
Rob Spence is a director and producer in Toronto, Canada whose work has appeared on Discovery, Vision, Space TV and the CBC (Canadian Broadcast Corporation), for which he made the controversial documentary, Let’s All Hate Toronto. Currently, he is in development on a documentary about how video and humanity intersect escpecially with regards to surveillance. That’s where the whole cyborg thing comes into it. Learn more about the Eyeborg here.
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]