Amber Case is a National Geographic Emerging Explorer and the director of the Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI) Research and Development Center in Portland, Oregon. As the daughter of two broadcast engineers, Case learned early how to engage her curiosity for science, mathematics, and engineering. While attending Lewis & Clark College, she combined her engineering experience with studies in sociology and anthropology. This merger developed into a passion for understanding the symbiotic nature of humans and technology, which launched her career in cyborg anthropology.

As a cyborg anthropologist, Case explores the interface between humans and technology and how those interactions impact people and culture over time. A cyborg is an organism that has had external components added to it so that it can better adapt to changing conditions. According to Case, human interactions with technology, especially interactive devices like computers, tablets, and cell phones, make us all cyborgs. Anthropology is the science of the origin, development, and culture of human beings. Cultures are formed, in large part, by the tools and technologies they create. Throughout human history, tools have been important extensions of the physical self, and now, anthropologists like Case believe tools are extensions of the mental self as well.

The result is that humans are able to connect more easily and more quickly than ever before. Social networks, online gaming, and virtual interfaces are just a few examples of tools being used to extend the mental self. Case believes these human-technology interactions amplify humanness because they allow people to overcome the geographic and social barriers that would otherwise prevent them from connecting with one another. One practical application of Case’s work in cyborg anthropology is Geoloqi, the location-sharing company she co-founded. The Geoloqi system works to better integrate technology with real life by providing location-based information in real time.

Through her ongoing research, Case continues to support the philosophy of computer pioneer Mark Weiser, who said, "The best technology should be invisible, get out of your way, and let you live your life."


science of the origin, development, and culture of human beings.

computer programming

study and process of writing and operating texts (codes) in programming language. Also called coding.


learned behavior of people, including their languages, belief systems, social structures, institutions, and material goods.


the art and science of building, maintaining, moving, and demolishing structures.

study of human social behavior and its origins, development, organizations, and institutions.

the science of using tools and complex machines to make human life easier or more profitable.


This material is based in part upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. DRL-0840250. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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