Paulina Borsook is an American technology journalist and writer who has written for Wired, Mother Jones, and Suck.com. She is perhaps best known for her 2000 book Cyberselfish, a critique of the libertarian mindset of the digital technology community. As an artist-in-residence at Stanford University, in 2013 she began work on My Life as a Ghost, an art installation based on her experiences living with the traumatic brain injury she suffered due to a gunshot when she was 14 years old.
Paulina Borsook was born in Pasadena, California. In 1969, when she was 15, she ran away from home and stayed at Rochdale College in Toronto, Canada. She later attended UC Santa Barbara where she ran a radio show on KCSB. She graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in psycholinguistics and a minor in philosophy. She then attended graduate school at the University of Arizona before transferring to Columbia University where she earned her MFA.
Beginning in 1981, Borsook took a job at a Marin County, California software company. She later worked for the New York-based Data Communications publication in 1984 before returning to San Francisco in 1987.
Borsook has written extensively about the culture surrounding technology, including Silicon Valley, cypherpunks, bionomics, and technolibertarianism. Her first short story, "Virtual Romance", was nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She became a contributing writer at Wired in the 1990s and her short story about an email romance, "Love Over The Wires", was the first fiction published by the magazine. She has also written for Mother Jones and Suck.com, where she wrote under the name "Justine".
Borsook wrote the book Cyberselfish: A Critical Romp Through the Terribly Libertarian Culture of High Tech, which was published by PublicAffairs in 2000. The book was based on an essay that appeared in Mother Jones in 1996 and traces the origins of technolibertarianism. In the book, she characterizes the culture of the digital technology community as predominately libertarian, anti-government, and anti-regulation. Cyberselfish criticized the lack of philanthropy in digital technology circles and questioned how an industry birthed through government funding could be so vehemently anti-government. The book also includes Borsook's experiences as a woman at Wired magazine and in Silicon Valley. Open-source software advocate Eric S. Raymond criticized Borsook's take in an article he wrote for Salon in 2000.
My Life as a Ghost
As a 14-year-old, Borsook suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) after being shot in the head. In 2013, after attending a meeting of people with TBI, Borsook realized that some others with TBI had the same experiences of disconnection she had always felt, a "ghostly" feeling that "[s]omething gets dislocated in the sense of knowing that you belong to yourself and your life". From this epiphany, she conceived the project “My Life as a Ghost,” an art installation that combines video, audio, performance, and other media into a built environment to explore "[w]hat happens when the soul is blasted out of the body and is incompletely returned".
Borsook is divorced, and lives in Santa Cruz, California. She has advocated for the end of the light brown apple moth eradication programs of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA).
By Paulina Borsook
- Cyberselfish. a critical romp through the terribly libertarian culture of high tech, PublicAffairs, 2000, 1st ed., ISBN 1891620789, 276 p. (Translated into German: Schöne neue Cyberwelt. Mythen, Helden und Irrwege des Hightech, dtv, 2001, translator: Hubert Beck, ISBN 9783423242554)
- "Not home for the holidays". Salon. November 21, 2000.
- "Contact/bio". Paulinaborsook.com. Retrieved 24 August 2013.
- "Paulina Borsook: The grande dame of digital culture". The Independent. 31 July 2000.
- Borsook, Paulina (September–October 1993). "Love Over the Wires". Wired.
- Krempl, Stefan (August 8, 2001). "The religion of technolibertarianism". Telepolis.
- Borsook, Paulina (July–August 1996). "Cyberselfish". Mother Jones.
- Kamiya, Gary (January 20, 1997). "Smashing the state". Salon.
- Kakutani, Michiko (July 25, 2000). "Silicon Valley Views the Economy as a Rain Forest". The New York Times Book Review.
- Raymond, Eric (June 28, 2000). "Don’t tweak the geeks!". Salon.
- "Paulina Borsook to Eric Raymond: Don’t you Kakutani me!". Salon. June 30, 2000.
- Dakkak, Angelique (November 11, 2013). "Paulina Borsook shares thoughts on her "My Life as a Ghost" project". The Stanford Daily.
- Eichelberger, Eric (October 31, 2013). "Paulina Borsook: My Life as a Ghost". The Stanford Arts Institute.
- "Revenge of the chocolate zucchini bread". Salon. October 10, 2000.